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Lost in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Mauritius, La Réunion is a part of France, a bit different from the usual cliches associated with tropical islands. Of course, you can enjoy the white (and sometimes black) sand beaches and swim in the turquoise water of the lagoon, protected by the coral reef, as you have always dreamed of… But La Réunion is much more than that! It offers to visit its circuses (Ma fate , Cilaos, Salazie), its peaks and ramparts which represent 40% of its territory, its mountains, its wild coast and its inhabitants. Here, nature is extraordinary by the richness of its landscapes and in an area of 2500 km2 (about half the size of PEI) ,La Réunion offers the diversity of a continent. In each pitch rugged terrain, the island is changing. On La Réunion , most cities are named after saints as to show that it is a paradise ... a paradise of diversity as well as a paradise for hikers, walkers or sporting people during the weekend). La Réunion is aptly named from French Gathering: it is the crucible of a mosaic people of diverse origins. The first inhabitants were French, Malagasy and Indo-Portuguese. Later came the slaves of East Africa and Madagascar. They were followed , after the abolition of slavery in 1848 , by Indian and Chinese workers. Quickly, multiethnic unions have become the rule, favoring a singular but plural culture ... We can better understand the touristic growing enthusiasm for this "perfumed island caressed by the sun ", wrote Baudelaire. It has over 500 km of hiking trails for green tourism extravaganza . The variety of landscape is quite impressive. You can pass from the lush tropical rainforest to a moonscape devoid of vegetation. The active volcano of La Fournaise is also essential with an average of 2-3 eruptions per year. In 2007, to preserve this richness and biodiversity , a national park was created in the heart of the island, it has been recognized "Natural World Heritage of Unesco " in 2010. To explore the landscapes of La Réunion other than hiking, and if you like thrills, you can then hang-gliding , paragliding , climbing , canoeing, elastic jumping , etc ... La Réunion also features in St Leu a great spot for surfing, where is held every year besides a stage of world championship surfing. You can also go windsurfing , fishing, big game , as well as scuba diving. La Réunion , as its name suggests, is also a mosaic of all races living in harmony and bringing to the island an unusual cultural and culinary richness. Over the same walk, you will discover a pagoda, a mosque, a Tamil temple or a church. Mixed marriages are common and this interbreeding is what created the Creole culture in La Réunion.
La Réunion families live for many the same way as those in metropolitan France. Marriage is as in France the dominant family model, three-quarters of families are couples. Most have children, one or two, a quarter is composed by single parent families. French families are close-knit units. Meals are important and taken together. Teenagers are very much supervised in their schoolwork and outings. The student will be required to keep his or her room tidy and participate in everyday life. In most families both parents work. The help from the children is therefore very welcomed by the mother, who usually cooks. As any member of the family, we suggest the student offers to help in the kitchen. The host mother will be pleased to hear some culinary advice and might even ask the student to cook something from its country. This program is a genuine exchange! Dinner is also the time to share the day with the other members of the family. The host family will consider the student a member of the family and hopes to experience a great cultural exchange. The host family will be happy to introduce the student to family traditions that are the same as in metropolitan France such as Easter, Christmas, Epiphany ... But La Réunion population is primarily plural and mixed with multiple origins. Cultural differences can be real depending on the family you are living with. People of La Réunion participate in some great festivals of other communities. In January, the Tamil parties held their walks on fire, Pandialés in all Tamil temples. In February the Chinese New Year is celebrated, in April is held the Tamil new year. In May, these are the water feasts, giving rise to many water activities. In June you can as everywhere in France enjoy "la fête de la musique" which sees multiply, wherever everyone wants, bands that are intended only to amuse passersby. Finally, on December 20, you and your family, can participate in the celebration of the abolition of slavery, La Réunion’s celebration of freedom. As you can see, life In La Réunion will have French accents but in a cultural context that is unique to this jewel of the French islands.
The school year in La Réunion is not different from France. It is the same school system. The only difference is that summer holidays are in December- January. It is divided into three terms. About every seven weeks, there is a two- week break. The French high school, “le lycée”, is three years long. The first year, “la seconde” (10th grade), offers a general programme with French, maths, history, geography, sciences and physical education, along with a few options for about 30 hours per week. The second and third year, “la première” (11th grade) and “la terminale” (12th grade), are specialized in one field of study (literature, social studies or science) and leads to the famous final exam: “le Baccalauréat”. Lunch is taken at “la cantine”. The lunch break lasts at least one hour, but very often two hours. A school day starts around 8am and can finish as late as 6pm. There is usually one afternoon off per week (most of the time on Wednesdays). In France, the students may have classes on Saturday mornings. No uniforms are required, not even in private schools. The French educational system is highly oriented towards structured learning, with emphasis on traditional teaching techniques designed to help students attain required standards and pass exams. It is known to be hard but it is very rewarding as it gives the students the tools to develop critical thinking. French State Education and therefore in La Réunion is well-organized and well-funded. A class normally consists of 30–35 pupils. The teachers expect the exchange student to do his or her best, but will take into account the fact that it of course can be difficult to study in a foreign language. With hard work and effort, all students will surely succeed. La Réunion’ schools do not offer many extracurricular activities but the cities offer all kinds of clubs and activities. 4 of 33 schools in La Réunion are private.
La Réunion is part of STS France and it allows all students to attend a preparation course as an excellent starting point for the exchange in France. The course takes place on the beautiful campus of a private school, about an hour west of Paris. This is a great way to visit Paris and a bit of France before heading off to the Southern hemisphere!