Mason’s Island Life
Mason is one of our Student Exchange Ambassadors here at SCCE, and is the first Australian student to experience exchange life on Reunion Island. Reunion Island is a French speaking country, located east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Mason shares his journey of his first two weeks there, and how he has adapted to this new way of life. These are his words:
‘It has already been nearly two weeks since I left my safe haven, Tasmania. Whilst in Reunion, I decided it would be a good idea to continue smiling lobe to lobe and nodding, even if I didn’t understand. In Reunion, you don’t need to find a reason to smile, the people and the relaxed island life makes it natural. However, I have previously mentioned that the first week of student exchange is challenging and this is true.
My first couple of days were filled with the taunt of worries. Now, when I reflect, I was just over exaggerating thoughts. I would consider this normal because I had no idea what to expect. I can barely communicate with anyone and I knew absolutely no one. I was a small fish in a big pond! It has gotten easier, so much easier!
Monday was my first full day at school. I was still worried because of the language barrier. It was difficult but with the assistance of student peers, I could communicate with mostly everyone. The lunch period is 1 hour and 30 minutes, I can leave the school grounds during this time. When classes commence, the school entrance gates are locked. If you have a free period or no class, you need to ask a teacher to unlock the gate to be able to go beyond the school boundary. On Mondays, I go to school from 8:30 to 17:30. The uncomfortable wooden seats makes your bottom ache after this duration of time. The teachers arrive after and leave before the students! Twice this week a teacher did arrive to class. Apparently, that is so French in education. My school is 20 years old and has 1,000 students. Having an Australian with blonde hair and no French vocabulary has proven to be a novelty.
Classmates gave me a list of snapchat usernames to add. Later that day, I was kind of spooked when I saw photos of myself on their story. Motocross is a big thing in Reunion Island, and a group of boys found out that I have a KTM 200. It was like instant respect, it was kind of crazy! They began treating me like royalty and they even brought me a soda as a ‘welcome to Reunion’ present!
In Reunion, a teenager of the age of 14 can get a motorbike road license. With this license, they are restricted to a 50cc motorbike. If you aren’t aware, 50cc is not very powerful and is about the same as a lawnmower! Having a motorbike is extremely popular! This means, the streets are filled with gutless rattles of youth rev heads. Last Sunday, Nadine, Karine, Michelle, Arthur, and myself went to Boucan Canot. It is a beached lined with restaurants and cafes. We had some lunch and then relaxed on the beach. In the time that we were here, we saw four whales. When a whale is spotted, locals and tourist flock to the coastline to catch a glimpse. When driving to Boucan Canot, I noticed that the lushes’ sea of green grass was met with a desert of dry dead grass. Nadine then explained that at this section of the island, it only rains during cyclones. Strange, because just 15 minutes away it rains regularly. It is only my second week and I am loving it!
School is not bad, it is just different. The photos that I have taken do not justify the characteristics and beauty of Reunion. Living on a tropical island is as good as it sounds!’