Melfort resident shares stories of exchange to France


Melfort resident Camille Audette is becoming a world traveler.

The 19-year-old returned from a nearly year long Rotary Exchange in June and headed off to Australia last week.

"(The Rotary Exchange to France) was incredible. It was a time of learning and growing. A time of challenges and tough experiences but a lot of worthwhile experiences," said Audette.

"School was very difficult. Their school went from eight in the morning until four or five o'clock in the afternoon. So, just the time there was a struggle for me. I was really tired in classes."

Audette gave a presentation to the Melfort Rotary Club on Oct. 7 about her experiences in the exchange program.

With the French language, Audette found it difficult since she has a French name and a lot of people expected her to be able to speak French.

"They would say, oh, you're Camille Audette and they would go off and speak French and I had no clue what they were saying.

"It was a long, hard haul in the beginning to learn the language but by four months, I could communicate enough to get somewhere I needed to go. By six or seven months, I started getting really comfortable in conversation and eight months I was fluent and thinking in French," said Audette.

"Well, thinking came a little earlier but everything just came in French and I was losing some of my English, which was kind of difficult to get back when I came home."

Audette lived in Metz which is located in the Lorraine region of north east France.

The thing she will miss the most about her time in France are her two host families.

"I just absolutely adored them," said Audette.

She will also miss the cultural aspect in France of how everyone always has time to have a coffee.

"You run into anyone, it's 'Do you want a coffee? Of course.' It's not 'No, I have to go.' It's always, 'let's sit down for coffee'. I liked that," said Audette.

During her exchange, Audette had a chance to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was a concentration camp during World War II.

"One of the rooms I went into had mountains and mountains of peoples hair. And, there were mountains of baby clothes that you'd see. I just couldn't help but cry," said Audette.

While at Auschwitz, she met a gentleman who had lived in the concentration camp.

"There's one room in Auschwitz, you walk into the room and there's a time line all through. It shows, in the time line, every train that came in of the deported people," she said.

The lists showed the number of people on the train, the people who were sent to the gas chambers and theose who went to work.

"You would see these names (where) thousands of people would arrive on the trains and 30 were left," said Audette.

"(The gentleman who was in Auschwitz) actually stood there and said, this is my train and he pointed to the date and the number that were on it. He said, 'This is mine, this is the one I arrived in and I was one of those 30 people' and it was so hard."

Audette is spending six months in Australia as part of Youth With a Mission (YWAM), a Christian organization.