A group of 14 Australian students from James Cook University have been spending time with locals in Efate.
Accompanied by their French Language lecturer, Florence Boulard, students have been encouraged to discover Vanuatu beyond its traditional tourist attractions.
"Given the predominance of the French language amongst Australia’s East-side neighbours, the French language classroom is an ideal vehicle that can assist in making the next generation of Australians better neighbours towards the Pacific Islands," Ms Boulard said.
The students' visit to Port-Vila is part of a university research project which focuses on some of the less visible East-side neighbours of Australia: New- Caledonia, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia.
“Australian educators are ideally placed, due to their geographical position, to educate the next generation about a region of the world that would otherwise be invisible to many Australians and people from across the world. The Pacific is more than just a big blue patch of water. French language educators in Australia have a critical role to play because our future with the Pacific islands, including Vanuatu, is inevitably interwoven," she said.
Nadia, a first year university French language student at JCU, Townsville campus said she had started learning French in February this year at university.
"Prior to starting my studies at James Cook University I often associated French with France but now my views have changed. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to come to Vanuatu. I have learnt so much about how people live here. It is a beautiful culture and I am impressed by how many languages people speak. It has also been a great opportunity to improve my French speaking skills," she said.
The students have received a $2500 scholarship from the Australian Government as part of the New Colombo Plan.
They will be leaving Vanuatu on Wednesday to go to New-Caledonia where they will continue to become more internationally-minded towards our Pacific Island Nations.
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