The Freedom Preparatory Academy at La Giraudière

Cultural Experience in France – A school trip abroad

Are you looking for the opportunity to authentically experience French culture in France, to improve your French skills and to actively participate in local village life? If that is exactly what you are looking for, you should come to La Giraudière in Brossac. This is what a group of students from the Freedom Preparatory Academy, which is located in Utah (The United States of America), has just experienced for 1 week.

“Our mission is to develop leaders and lifelong learners who reflect upon and appreciate accomplishments made in the past, live mindfully in the present, and fearlessly anticipate triumphs yet to come”.

This is the objective, which the Freedom Preparatory Academy would like to achieve for their students by the time they graduate. It was one of the reasons why 11 students (aged between 12 and 18) decided to spend 2 weeks abroad in France. 1 of these 2 weeks they stayed  at La Giraudière, in the lovely village of Brossac, which is situated in the southwestern part of France.

School trip abroad France

The Freedom Preparatory Academy at La Giraudière

What is La Giraudière and what makes this place so unique?

La Giraudière is a typical stone built master’s house (maison de maitre). When Paul Rice, the present project director, discovered La Giraudière in 1995 it was unhabited, derilict and on the brink of demolition. He convinced his brothers and a friend to help finance the resurrection of La Giraudière with the idea of creating a small hamlet which would be open to all. In 1997 the project La Giraudière was born. However, it took 10 years of hard work before it became the La Giraudière we know today. La Giraudière’s goal is to provide an affordable place in France where people of all ages, all nationalities and all backgrounds can come and learn about France, its language, its culture and its lifestyle.

Why La Giraudière?

With the school’s mission in mind and with a strong focus on teaching foreign languages to be able to interact with various nationalities, La Giraudière is the perfect place to experience a completely new culture. The group was accompanied by 2 teachers as well as by parents, who offered their help voluntarily. One of the teachers, Kim Flewallen, has already been a volunteer at La Giraudière back in 2008. She discovered the place’s charm and value, which she now wanted to share with her students.

What did the cultural experience look like?

The group’s cultural experience at La Giraudière started on the 3rd of April with a lovely first day in Brossac and plenty of time to explore the region and to get to know the local people in the village. The next day everyone had to get up early to drive to La Rochelle  to visit the French Frigate Hermione that presents a very important symbol for the relationship and friendship between France and the United States of America.The following days were dominated by several trips to many different places around France, like Aubeterre, Barbezieux, Villebois-Lavette, Bourdeilles, Brantomes and Ile de Ré.

A highlight for the group was a cooking course with Stephanie, an accomplished French chef, showing them how to prepare an authentic, three course French meal. In order to be well prepared for the course the group went to a traditional French market in the morning to buy all the ingredients they needed. Everyone was enjoying the delicious food and they were having a wonderful time with some of the locals having joined them for dinner.

French cooking class students from the USA

Students experiencing French culture at La Giraudière

The last day at La Giraudière was designed for a very special project. The students were transplanting small French oak trees to create a woodland in the park grounds at La Giraudière. The reason behind this was that the French government has been tearing down the established woodlands and replacing them with quick growing pine trees. The problem with this policy is that it does not take into account the countless birds that lose their homes. The woodland, which the students have now constructed, will create homes for the birds. The birds will help keep the insects under control which allows the local community to use fewer pesticides.

In the afternoon 3 French teachers came to La Giraudière to help the students to improve their language skills. The group was divided into 3 groups – Beginners, Intermediates and advanced learners – to ensure that every student is being taught according to his/her level.

French Lessons in Brossac

Language training at La Giraudière

All in all, everyone in this group was making use of the brilliant opportunity to deeply immerse oneself in French culture including cooking and language courses, interacting with the local community and trips to the most beautiful and impressive areas of the country. This one week at La Giraudière was an important step for the students in order to achieve their school’s mission to become self-confident and reliable grown-ups with the ability to take over responsibility for themselves and for others as well as to be able to understand cross-cultural communication.

Should you be interested in organising a school trip or university excursion to France, which offers you an authentic and unique cultural experience, La Giraudière in Brossac is the place where you will find what you are looking for.

Three very well known newspapers in France have each published an article about the French – American cultural exchange which have been summarised in a press page.

“Many thanks to Julia, a volunteer from Germany for producing this page. You can read more about Julia at German Volunteer in France