It has to be said, the French aren’t very good at organising things. On what am I basing this generalisation? Last week!

Éléa brought us some lovely Bordeaux goodies

Éléa brought us some lovely Bordeaux goodies

We had a stagiaire (work experience student) with us last week. Éléa came up from Bordeaux with her mum to spend five days finding out what it’s like running an élévage de lamas. Éléa, like all pupils in troisième, the last year at college, has to spend a week en stage. And it’s always round about the middle of February. Of all times to have it, this has to be the worst. For one thing, the weather is awful, which makes any outdoor stages miserable. For another, more crucially, many seasonal businesses are still shut – the camp sites, smaller hotels and B&Bs, and fine-weather activities. This means there are fewer places for the deluge of youngsters to find something to do. And that’s not easy. Éléa had contacted animal sanctuaries, a variety of farms and élévages, including thirty llama farms, like ours. Only I and one other farm replied. That had to be soul destroying for poor Éléa. To be honest, I did gently try to dissuade her since this being the quietest and most dismal time of year, there really is very little to do around the farm. And what there is generally isn’t much fun when the north wind is whistling and the rain or snow is falling. But Éléa was clearly very keen so I agreed to host her. Luckily she brought the sunshine with her and it was a fine week, although very cold in the mornings.

This time next year Rors will be looking for something to do for a week. I think we’d better start now in case he gets the kind of response rate Éléa did.

Surely the best time to have the stage would be late September. The stage has to be organised well in advance – all the official forms had to be filled three months before Éléa came – so the kids could sort out their stage at the end of the previous summer term. In September the weather is good so the kids wanting to do outdoors work aren’t frozen or soaked to death while they do it. Elévages have more going on, most likely some young animals still, and generally there’s all the extra starting-to-get-ready for winter jobs.  Tourist attractions will still be open and there’s more choice for the students. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realise that, surely? However, it seems that schools have been doing the stage in February for umpty years and it’s just too much to expect a change, even for the most rational of reasons.

The second badly organised event last week was the journée portes ouvertes (open day) at Limoges Uni that Benj went to. He’s back to his studies in September so thought he’d pop down to get reading lists and speak to profs and make sure he’s all prepared. He’d hoped the health insurance bodies would be there with info, but no. He thought Crous, the organisation that deals with grants and accommodation would be open, seeing as it has a permanent office on campus, but no. And surely the admin office would be open to answer any general questions? Nope. He came out rather disillusioned. Caiti was the same after her visit to the jpo at the uni in Paris she was interested in a few years ago. She was anxious to find out about accommodation in the City of Light, but the Crous office there was shut too and we were helpfully told to come back during the week!

Come on, les mecs, put your thinking caps on. It really doesn’t take much thought to realise all these support services should be present and actually open on what are, after all, called ‘open days’! And again, like the stages they’re at the wrong time of year. Kids only have till the end of March to get their applications in for a place at uni, the jpos don’t start till January, so that doesn’t leave much time. The event is always on a Saturday and there are more universities in France than there are Saturdays during the open door season so there are plenty of jpo clashes. Instead of being able to visit all the universities or other educational institutes a youngster is interested in, they have to pick and choose. Plus the bad weather can get in the way. Caiti had wanted to go to Grenoble but we had to cancel our proposed trip since it was around minus 18 Celsius that particular weekend, snowy and frosty, so not the best weather to travelling to the alps in! These events need to be held during October, ideally during the half-term holidays, and into November i.e. pre-winter and before the application procedure opens.

So, two big occasions for youngsters that could be so very much better organised with a tiny bit of effort and sense.