Université de la Nouvelle Calédonie – Daniel Viglione – Summer 2016
In early November 2016 I had the opportunity to go on a three-week intensive language and cultural study program in New Caledonia. As a part of my trip I stayed at the Université de la Nouvelle Calédonie, whilst taking daily language and culture classes as well as regular trips to explore the unique island culture of New Caledonia.
Being my first visit to New Caledonia, I was unsure what to expect. I had previously visited France on an exchange during high school so I had gained some knowledge of European French culture, though this was very different to the nuanced island culture which I experienced. Upon arrival to the small island nation, the people were extremely welcoming and kind, noticing my apprehension they helped me in any way possible allowing me to speak as much French as I could.
After settling in and beginning classes I noticed that there was a much closer relationship between teachers and students than I had previously experienced. By having daily classes and lectures with these teachers we slowly came to know them as friends, which improved our language skills immensely. This trip also gave me an invaluable opportunity to experience university as a foreign student living on campus. Every week the group would do routine activities together like going to the supermarket, navigating the somewhat foreign foods, befriending the local delicatessen and bakery, and immersing ourselves in the local day to day culture.
Every week we would venture further out of Noumea visiting places such as the Parc de la Riviere Bleue, where we cycled through a rainstorm in a rain forest, then swimming in the freshwater river as the pouring rain fell. We also had the opportunity to reinvestigate our understanding of Eurocentric French culture, researching the impacts of colonialism on the indigenous culture of the island, seeing many similarities to Australian colonial history.
As a weekly part of our course we also participated in a “treasure hunt”, where we had to speak with local people and find culturally significant sites around Noumea in the various regions of the city. Running through the city and speaking to the locals as we tried to win the race was an amazing experience and allowed us to open up further to the New Caledonian culture and embrace our surroundings.
This was a truly once in a lifetime experience. The people I encountered and the friends that I made were some of the most genuinely kind and hospitable people I have ever met. This experience truly allowed me to reflect on my own university experience and on Australian culture, demonstrating the ever-changing nature of national culture and cultural identity.
Daniel Viglione – Bachelor of Design in Architecture