"I came to the Château with a good A Level in French, but not very much confidence in speaking, especially when correctly forming full sentences of French on the spot. I was a bit nervous at first about living abroad and speaking another language constantly, but as soon as I arrived and saw how lovely and supportive the staff were, I knew I was going to have an amazing time.
Working in the kitchen was really good fun. Although there was a lot to do and we were always busy, the kitchen staff are like a family and we were constantly laughing and joking with each other. They were patient and encouraging with my French, even when it was an early morning shift and my brain hadn’t quite woken up yet! I started off mainly washing up and laying tables, however as I got more used to my surroundings and the way things worked I was able to help more with the cooking. By the end I was preparing starters and desserts by myself, as well as helping the chefs with some of the main courses. I especially enjoyed the summer when we prepared barbecues and were able to eat outside in the stunning grounds.
After a few weeks I noticed that my listening skills had improved as I was understanding more and more of the conversations around me, and within the first month, I saw improvements in my spoken French too, especially my accent. My confidence grew and I felt more comfortable improvising without worrying about any imperfections.
Not only is the Château a beautiful place to live, but it also has an incredible atmosphere. You are surrounded by people who are having a good time – the children are engaged and excited by their activities and lessons, and you can really see that the staff enjoy leading them. It was so easy to settle in when everyone was so smiley and approachable, and it was an environment in which everyone felt like a close friend.
As well as working we had some really fun staff activities, from bowling to music festivals, to cinema trips and to a weekend in Brighton. One of the things that makes the Château so special is their focus on bringing the staff together, so it wasn’t long before we became one big happy family.
Working at the Château was an incredibly valuable experience. Not only have I massively improved my French but I have also gained work experience abroad which looks amazing on my CV and will set me aside from other people. It has also made me a more confident, mature, and courageous person, as well as giving me friends for life. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Château de la Baudonnière and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for an exciting new experience."
Anna Gibson,Château de la Baudonnière, Normandy
"While studying French and German at university, I came to the Château and worked as an animateur for 8 months as part of my year abroad. I had a friend who’d done the same job a few years earlier and he had told me there was no better place to go to improve my French, and he wasn’t wrong. From the very beginning, everything was in French. From training for the job to socializing, you are totally immersed from day one which proved incredibly useful since the whole point of the job is to convince the kids you’re working with that you’re actually French.
I arrived at the Château after spending 6 months in Germany where I spoke absolutely no French so it was daunting at the start to say the least, but I was lucky enough to live with other animateurs (who were actually French) and who helped me so much, especially at the beginning. I quickly learnt that working as an animateur was no boring office job and I learnt vocab there that I’d never learn anywhere else since I’d go from doing a tour of Mont Saint Michel in the morning to rolling around in the mud on an assault course in the afternoon.
The whole experience definitely added some color to my CV too, I’ve now got qualifications in teaching orienteering and canoeing. And on a personal level, it is one of the most rewarding jobs there is. The impact that working at the Château had on my confidence in general and in speaking French was huge and the people I met while working there were really great.
Although it was one of the most challenging years of my life, in terms of both the language barrier and in doing a job I’d never done before, I improved my French dramatically, had some amazing experiences and learnt so much. Oh, and I came back which says a lot."
Laura Kernaghan, Château de la Baudonnière, Normandy