Twinning in action- a month in Saintes
My month in Saintes
Firstly I must stress that the opportunity of going to Saintes and working there in the first place would not have been possible without the help and dedication of Caroline Rippier, Bridget and Jim Brennan and Jacques Blanc, members of the Saintes Salisbury Twinning Association on both sides of the channel. I am very grateful for all their help, as well as the assistance given to me by many other kind people in Saintes.
The wheels of the search for some experience of working in France for the summer were put in motion in March 2012, when at the suggestion of my parents, who are members of the Xanten-Salisbury association I emailed Caroline, with a general enquiry about the opportunities that the Salisbury branch of the Saintes twinning association offered. I explained that I was a student, studying French and Russian at the University of Manchester and that I was very keen to find a 'stage' or a job opportunity in our French twin city - explaining that I had already worked as an aupair, so would therefore be quite interested in something a bit different. Caroline replied the next day and was immediately making enquiries on my behalf, as well as sending out my CV. A couple of months later, whilst back from university, I met up with Caroline in Salisbury for a pot of tea and a chance to talk about the arrangements being made. She was very interested in my reasons for going to France and my motivations more generally for learning the language; it was lovely to have a talk about it all. I was then put in touch with Bridget Brennan who was able to speak to people on a local level in Saintes, finding out what I would be able to do there.
In the end, I had the opportunity to work both in the tourist office as a stagiare and as a live-in volunteer at the Festival de Saintes [of classical and baroque music], working in receiving the public and in the festival restaurant and bar. I enjoyed the experience of working in the tourist office as at times I was put under pressure and I enjoyed the challenge of using my French in a more professional capacity, including answering the phone and doing some translation. I also had the opportunity to discover some of the local history and heritage. Working at the festival was also a brilliant experience which was thoroughly enjoyable. The relaxed atmosphere of the festival in general, as well as the presence of the pleasant clientèle and talented musicians made working there a very interesting and culturally rich experience. Bridget also managed to set up a sort of exchange with another family with a girl of around my age, so that I was able to stay in Saintes free of charge. We are hoping to receive one of the daughters from this family in the summer. The Brennans also very kindly left me the use of their flat in the centre for the first week of my stay.
Jacques Blanc, the secretary of the twinning association in Saintes very kindly agreed to collect me from the airport and also put a lot of time into speaking to the tourist office and drawing up a work contract when my university failed to help me. He was also very accomodating when I had just arrived, showing me around and enabling me to get my bearings.
All in all this was a wonderful experience in a beautiful city, which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone looking to improve their French and gain a greater insight into the language and the culture. Thank you very much to the Salisbury-Saintes Twinning association for making this visit possible!
Sophie Vandyck , Student.(formerly a South Wilts Grammar School pupil)