Fontainebleau : the True Home of Kings

Just a stone’s throw from the capital, Fontainebleau is a favourite weekend destination for Parisians looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city and to breathe in that fresh countryside air. If you have already visited #Fontainebleau this will come as no surprise, nestled in the centre of a tranquil forest it’s hard to believe that you’re only an hour from Paris. It is also home to #Kinderexchange HQ and when we’re not busy organising exchanges we enjoy discovering the hidden treasures and exploring the rich history and culture of our town.

castle of fontainebleau

Fontainebleau’s history boasts as many exciting tales as a BBC period drama, many of which revolve around the beautiful palace in the town centre. A former hunting lodge transformed into a one of the largest French royal châteaux, the Château de Fontainebleau served as the home to the kings and queens of France and witnessed many momentous historical events over the ages, even hosting Pope Pius VII (be it for an involuntary visit) during the French Revolution. These days the Palace of Fontainebleau is open to the public, including its throne room, allowing you to immerse yourself in the extravagant and meticulous decoration and furnishings of the French monarchs. In every direction stretches innumerable gardens, courtyards and parkland, providing the perfect setting for enjoying a picnic or for basking in the splendour of French renaissance architecture.

Surrounded by forest, it’s easy to understand why Fontainebleau became « The True Home of Kings ». (Napoleon in Saint Helena)

Whilst the building has medieval origins, French Monarchs were later compelled to develop the site in order to benefit from the abundance of game in the surrounding forests. Although the eight centuries of sovereign residence in Fontainebleau have long since come to an end, the forest still plays host to a thriving population of game and other wildlife and the tradition of hunting is still practiced. In addition, the forest plays an important role in the history of mountaineering and is now known the world over for walking, horse riding, climbing, and mountain biking.

forest of fontainebleau

In order to make the most of the diversity of foliage and the extraordinary rock formations which comprise the unique landscapes of the forest, many walkers take to the « sentiers denecourts ». These walking paths, traced in the 19th century, were initially created to allow visitors to explore the massif. Now maintained by volunteers, these routes are signposted by blue marks on the rocks and trees along the route and guide visitors through areas of remarkable beauty throughout the forest. Although these footpaths are reserved for walkers, a myriad of trails and paths throughout the forest provide a source of adventure for mountain bikers and horse riders alike.

Choosing to view the forest from an entirely new perspective, climbers flock to #Fontainebleau from the world over to test their strength on the boulders of the forest and to make their mark in climbing history. Whilst Fontainebleau is celebrated among the climbing community for its powerful and technical style of climbing, it is also renowned for its accessibility and you certainly don’t need to be Tarzan to enjoy climbing here! Climbing circuits and painted onto the rocks and range from absolute beginner (marked in yellow) to world-class athlete, and offer an alternative way of exploring the forest.

To find out more about our charming town, you can visit Fontainebleau’s Tourist Information Website.

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange

Recipe for a great exchange: the host family

For a young person, embarking on an exchange abroad can be like launching yourself into unknown territory and they may not quite know what to expect. During their time abroad, the host family is responsible for ensuring their wellbeing and good behaviour; and may act as a support network for the young person. As a host family this may seem daunting, so we’ve created a brief overview of the qualities of a great host family. We’re sure you fit the bill!

Include the student in family activities

Whether it be a birthday, a film night, or just a family meal; the key to making a student feel at home is by including them in family activities, however insignificant these activities may seem. Something as simple as a family dinner can help the student to develop a routine and adjust to their new environment as dinner table discussions and debates are a great way to break the ice and get them involved in conversations.

Knowing when not to include your student in family activities is also important: for example, a family meeting where you discuss personal and familial issues probably isn’t appropriate.

Treat the student as your own child

As a child staying under your roof, you should expect the same of your exchange student as you would of your own children; this means that they should be abiding by your house rules and curfews. However, it is essential that you are upfront about your expectations and it may be worth talking to your student about this before their arrival. Accordingly, encourage your student to make themselves at home during their stay and let them know that they can come to you with any worries or problems.

Encourage your student to share their culture

Whilst your student’s main goal is to experience and learn about your culture; help them to open up and feel like part of the family by asking questions and showing an interest in their own customs and home life. If your student is feeling homesick, why not ask them to tell you about their family or to teach you a traditional recipe to help them to feel more at home?

Be patient

Trying to communicate in another language can be frustrating and adapting to a new culture, perplexing. Give your student time to adjust and be patient and encouraging when they are communicating in their target language; trying not to interject unless absolutely necessary.

Be yourselves

For an exchange student, part of the cultural enrichment comes from experiencing daily life in another family. A great host family doesn’t need to be the model family where everyone agrees all of the time. Although we’d advise avoiding raging family arguments whilst you’re hosting a student, your family’s individual quirks and amicable debates will help your student to feel at home so let your personalities shine through!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange

How to explore Paris

We’ve talked about where to explore in Paris, but what about how? Part of the magic of exploring this city comes from traveling from one beautiful landmark to another, and how you travel makes a big difference to your experience! There are many ways to get from A to B in the city of lights, but here are a few of our favourites.
Batobus for Kinder Exchange






Set sail!

In the past rivers determined the locations of some of the world’s major cities as they were used to transport commerce, this includes Paris which is built around the river Seine. Traveling through Paris by river is a magical experience, giving breath-taking new perspectives of the most iconic landmarks whilst also revealing some of the city’s hidden treasures.

There are numerous companies that offer boat trips on the Seine, but one of our favourites is Batobus. Batobus drops anchor in nine locations across the city, and thanks to their hop-on hop-off policy, you are free explore to each area of the city at your leisure before setting sail to your next destination. They offer a range of day pass and annual pass offers, making them amazing value for money too!

« A Paris à vélo on dépasse les autos »

You may have heard talk of the journée sans voiture where Parisians left their car keys at home and made of the most of the chance to discover the town on their bicycles. The Car-Free day may only be an annual event, but that’s certainly not to stop you from pedalling through Paris the whole year round! The options are endless, with bike rental available in park areas such Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes providing adventure on wheels for the whole family; whereas the savvy cyclists might want to make the most of the Velib’bike hire scheme to explore Paris via its cycle paths. 

Take to the pavement

What is wonderful about Paris is that every street in this major European city has its own community feel. This is something that you can really appreciate when exploring on foot. Although it may not be feasible to reach all of your destinations this way (Paris is quite big after-all!), by hitting the pavements and seeing where your feet take you, you can quite easily find yourself off-piste of the tourist trail, immersing yourself the unique personality of each arrondissement and basking in the majesty of the architecture.

 When in Paris…

…do as the Parisians do! Somehow the Paris metro is iconic, maybe it’s the Art Nouveau signage that does it. But if there’s one way to really feel like a Parisian, it’s taking the metro. Paris has a super speedy and easy-to-use metro system: tickets are generally bought in 10 packs from the station machines and each ticket is worth one journey within Paris, no matter what the length of that journey may be. If you find the metro map to be puzzling and beyond comprehension, you can plan your metro trip in advance and then play the part of a Parisian public transport veteran on the day.

 Happy exploring!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange

Recipe for a great exchange: the student

If it’s the first time that you’re embarking on an exchange, it can be difficult to know how to approach it. To help you to ensure that your time abroad is nothing short of spectacular, we’ve come up with the perfect recipe for making the most of your exchange.

Throw yourself into the culture, head first
When in Rome, do as the Romans do – this works even better if you’re heading to Rome! An exchange in a host family is culturally enriching experience as you will participate in day-to-day family life in another culture. Allow yourself to be fully immersed in the culture by saying yes to new experiences and stepping a little outside of your comfort zone. Whether it be food, a local tradition, or a family member’s hobby – you’re bound to learn something new and meet some interesting people along the way.

french exchange programShare your culture
‘Exchange’ means giving one thing and receiving another; so whilst it’s important to immerse yourself in your host families culture, remember that they’d love to learn about your culture too! Try cooking a meal, watching a classic film, teaching them a traditional song, or explaining idioms of your culture to help your family get to know more about you.

Communicate in your target language
This may need a little self discipline! When away from home, communicating in a target language can be frustrating and it’s all to easy to slip into your mother tongue at the earliest opportunity. However, the more you speak your target language, the more you learn and the easier communicating will become. Although you may make a few mistakes, use every blunder as a way to learn something new by asking your host family and friends to correct you.

Don’t be an island
Arriving in a host family that you’ve never met before can be overwhelming and your instinct may be to hide away in your room – especially if you’re feeling homesick! By spending time with your host family outside of organised activities, you’ll begin to feel at home in your new environment and will become part of the family. Not only does this help to stave off any feelings of homesickness, but through interacting with the family you’ll learn more about the culture and language, and will form lifelong friendships!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange.

Finding the perfect gift for your host family

You’re fairly confident that you’re on track and organised for your exchange abroad. Plane tickets? Check! French phrase book? Check! Gift for your host family? Eh?

Finding a gift for your host family is an important part of your exchange preparation. This gift doesn’t need to be particularly snazzy or expensive (in fact, it’s better if it isn’t) but should help you to break the ice and share elements of your culture, whilst also serving as a token of your gratitude.

That’s a lot to ask from one gift, without mentioning that it needs to be fairly portable too! Luckily after a few years of practice we’ve learned a thing or two about buying presents for host families, so here are a few idea to keep in mind:

perfect gift for your host family

Conversation starters
Anything that gets the conversation flowing is generally the sign of a good gift. Bringing traditional food from your country is a great way to break the ice: there’s nothing better than a block of English cheddar cheese; a jar of marmite; a box of tea; or a tin of Heinz baked beans to get the a good debate going around the dinner table. Just don’t forget to think about how well your food will travel before packing it into your suitcase!

Something that represents your culture
What is your town or country known for? This could be something that’s produced in the area; a town tradition; or a photo book of your city – the more original the better! Whatever it is, it will give you the opportunity to describe elements of your culture to your host family and they’ll get the chance to learn more about you! Hint: A good way to find a gift that represents your hometown is to think about what you’d buy as a souvenir for a friend if you were visiting the area.

Something for the whole family
Instead of worrying about finding an individual gift for each family member, why not get something that the whole family can share? Games are a great family activity and create a lively, competitive atmosphere that will help you to relax into your new home. There are tonnes of games available that can be played in multilingual environments, such as Bananagrams and Dobble (after a trilingual game of Bananagrams, we can confirm that it withstood the multilingual test, and it definitely added to the fun!). Not much space in your suitcase? Why not take a souvenir deck of cards from your hometown?

Get crafty
Nothing says gratitude like a DIY gift: homemade presents are not only unique but show that you’ve put in some thought and effort. Websites such as Pinterest are full of ideas for you to bake, knit, sew and craft your way to gift success! If you enjoy crafts, this is also a great way to share one of your hobbies with your host family!

Don’t over think it
Remember the gift isn’t everything and doesn’t need to be extravagant. The best gifts we’ve received have been simple, such as a paper cutting bookmark from China; spices from India; or photos of the area from France. Whatever the gift, your host family will appreciate the gesture and will be delighted to have a momento of your visit!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange

The Benefits of Becoming a Host Family

Opening the door of your home to an exchange student can be one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences of your life. Your family would have an extraordinary opportunity to experience different cultures first hand and to create lifelong relationships with people and families around the world. Here are just a few reasons to become a host family.

host familySharing your own culture – As a guide for an international student eager to learn about your culture, your family will showcase all the things that make it unique. In return, you will find you appreciate your culture that much more and will be reminded of all the great things it has to offer to the world. Introducing your new family member to the cuisine, music and people of your country will undoubtedly make their stay an unforgettable experience that will follow them for the rest of their life.

Learning about a new culture – This process is a two way street and while you’re promoting your own culture you would have a wonderful chance to learn about new, exciting countries, people and traditions. Expand your family’s horizons and connect them to the world without even having to leave your home.

Making lifelong friendships – After the student’s visit has come to an end, many host families and students stay in touch. Host families often travel to visit their student in his/her country where they continue to bond and strengthen their relationship. Students also come back and revisit which further deepens your connection. Friendships established through these exchange programs help promote mutual cultural understanding by bringing different nationalities together.

Practicing a new language – This experience can be beneficial for both a host family and a student in terms of learning or perfecting a foreign language. Your family will be exposed to a new language in a relaxed setting of your own home which would in return make learning it much more fun and exciting.

Having fun – All of our host families emphasize how fun their experiences were! They share stories filled with laughter and good times spent with their guests. They all agree that the experience was well worth it and very exciting.

These are just some of the many benefits of being a host family. Every exchange will be different and special in its own way and will bring something new to your family. One thing is certain, it will enrich you while broadening your horizons and will leave you with life-long memories and true friendships.

To learn more about our exchange program and to sign up please visit or give us a call at +33 6 60 65 50 89

Written by Marko Manojlovic for Kinder Exchange

How to become bilingual ?

Knowledge of a second language has become increasingly important for both personal and professional growth. Whether you are working for a multinational company or simply enjoy traveling and long to immerse yourself in different cultures, being bilingual offers a breadth of advantages. Celebrities like Bradley Cooper and Johny Depp, both speak French, and Leonardo di Caprio is fluent in German. Similarly, Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow perfected their Spanish skills as students living with local families of South America and Spain. If your dream is to be bilingual like these stars, read on – you are in the right place!

Different ways to learn a new language :
Bilingual schools are becoming an inaccessible dream to many parents as they become increasingly selective and costly. As a result, many parents have been forced to improvise, seeking out creative alternatives for ensuring their children learn a second language. Fortunately, many user-friendly apps and online language courses such as Rosetta Stone or « Ingles sin Bareras » offer effective means for learning a new language. Additionally, some parents have found success in recruiting a bilingual nanny or au pair while others have turned to summer camps or afterschool lessons.

bilingualLiving with A foreign partner
Multinational households can ensure their children are raised bilingual by implementing the « One Parent One Language » (OPOL) method. This practice calls for each parent to speak solely their native tongue when conversing with their child, providing a solid base for the child’s continuous learning and understanding of both languages. It’s important to note that OPOL must be implemented in the household early in the child’s development to avoid confusion. To learn more about this method, visit the Multilingual Children Association.

Learn with a reciprocal language exchange program
One of the most successful methods for learning a second language is full language immersions through a reciprocal language exchange program. These programs offer the chance for your child to live abroad and communicate daily with local, native speakers. Living abroad with a local host family allows participants to discover different cultures, traditions and people. The reciprocal nature of these program also offers parents an enriching experience as they open their doors to a child from a different background, country and culture. The experience has proven to broaden horizons for both families and instills in children valuable skills needed for adapting to new and unfamiliar experiences with ease. Participation in language exchange programs can begin at any age and children over the age of 11 can travel on most airlines unaccompanied.
Kinder Exchange facilitates language exchange programs with unparalleled ease and convenience. If you and your family are interested in learning new languages and connecting with individuals from across the globe, simply follow the instructions to take the first step in what is sure to be an adventure of a lifetime.

Written by Marko Manojlovic for Kinder Exchange