What better way to learn than to be surrounded by culture and inspiration!

On February 13th, sixteen UNE French students went on an excursion to the Art Gallery of New South Wales to attend the exhibition Matisse: Life & Spirit, masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Dr Victoria Souliman, Lecturer and Convenor of French studies at UNE, welcomed students with a short introduction about the exhibition and its artistic subject, Henri Matisse. The students were then able to explore the exhibition with the AGNSW French audio guide. Since an average person spends about 4 seconds looking at an artwork, students were encouraged to practise “slow looking”.

The process of absorbing culturally significant art with a French audio guide created the perfect immersion for the students. “With excursions like this, students really get to use what they have learnt in our online programs outside of the virtual classroom,” said Dr Souliman while describing the benefits of learning language in the field. “Not only did the experience give them a slice of French culture, but they also experienced it in French. An excursion where they immerse themselves in the culture and language really gives students a chance to express themselves and fully understand what they’ve learned.” Dr Souliman also designed an activity sheet especially for the students to encourage them to be more attentive to details and help them further appreciate Matisse’s oeuvre.

The most exciting part about this learning experience is that it was so well received by the students. Megan Latham, a UNE French student, described how she “really enjoyed the teacher’s expertise and enthusiasm”. Megan originally said this in French of course. Carole Boucherie, an enthusiastic student, described the exhibition as an excellent opportunity saying that it was also “fantastic to meet our teacher and the other students in the flesh. Hopefully, next time we will not have to wear those pesky masks!” Steven McIntosh, another of the attending students, took the initiative to document and take wonderful photos of the excursion; take a look below to see some of his wonderful snaps.

Not only are excursions such as this an excellent learning opportunity, but they also build a close sense of community between students. This has been particularly important during a time when students haven’t been able to interact in a traditional classroom setting. “I was amazed to see students who had attended different units and had never seen each other exchanging in French and giving each other feedback on the units they had enrolled in as part of their degree,” said Dr Souliman.

UNE Associate Professor Valentina Gosetti also joined with her two-year-old son, the youngest art lover to date. The visit was then followed by an informal gathering at the Art Gallery Café  which provided yet another opportunity to speak French, discuss the students experiences in the exhibit, and simply catch-up.

After such a successful outing there are already plans for more excursions and learning experiences, such as the upcoming French Film Festival in Sydney. This next UNE French excursion will see up to 20 students attending a screening of Farewell, Mr Haffmann at the festival in April.

Farewell, Mr Haffmann, tells the story of Jeweller Joseph Haffmann who tries to escape Vichy France. Set during the Second World War, the film directly resonates with the content of FREN302. To find out more about this opportunity take a look at UNE French’s social media page here.