Hello :) I am Kamali Saravanappriyan, twenty-three years old. Doing Masters in Agricultural Biotechnology at GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar, India. I had been selected for DEFIAA 2020.
What is DEFIAA?
Developing french Indian exchanges in Agrofood and Agronomy. This program allows Indian students to visit France for two months and French students in India for one month based on MoU signed between the DEFIAA consortium and our university. The major aim of this program is to facilitate exposure in agriculture, food processing, and socio-cultural aspects.
How I got selected for DEFIAA 2020?
Based on Curriculum Vitae submitted by each student, Indian DEFIAA coordinators had selected 18 students. After the selection, I had started preparation for my departure. To be honest, I did not have a passport. It was hectic for me to get it within a short time. Have your passport ready for any moment. Other than this the visa procedure, insurance work were simple. About the expenditure, we had to only pay for flight tickets, visa, and insurance.
Extroverting Integration week
When I was on my way to France I had some cliches about the country on my mind like etiquette and other unknown factors. But after meeting Mr. Jean-christophe YGRIE and Mr. Christophe GROELL I felt assuaged because they were affable persons made us feel so comfortable. At Lycee Beaulieu Lavacant at Auch we were waited by Mr. Thierry BIZEUL and Ms. Chantal DESPRATS even it was late in the evening and together we had our first French meal.
The three days of integration week involved french lessons, songs, people, food, dance. Everything was new and lovable.
On the day of congratulation all the coordinators, French students selected for DEFIAA 2020 gathered and had a great evening. The thing which amazing and lovable on that day was every single person was dancing, singing playing irrespective of their age, a designation which is not very common in India. That day made us get to know and blend with respective coordinators before getting apart.
Idyllic time at Perigueux - the land of 'foie gras', rugby and friendship
Me and Samridhi Mehta had been placed at Lycee Agricole du Perigord. I cannot further write without noticing the level of physical and mental comfort offered by the faculty at the school. And also from the very moment of arrival, we had been engaged with activities like wetland conservation at Saint Estephe lake, the study of flora, fauna, quality of water at Manoir river, visiting various farms of truffle, duck, cheese, ham, beef, dairy and fruit orchards. Most of the farms focused on the concept of land to table which is productive. During our visit to the food processing laboratory at school, I was overwhelmed by the fact that every institute in France is mostly self-sustaining both by finance and energy. Sadly, not common in India.
For me, the most exciting visit was to the wine industry at Bergerac. We understood crop production, processing, packing, marketing, and challenges involved in it. Tasting different types of wines and importantly very famous Monbazillac was rousing.
It is something appreciable that the management is drifting its farm from chemical to organic agriculture. To this note, most french citizens have a concern about the environment and are going green.
About the french students, they all had the desire to become either farmers or entrepreneurs and as a youth, I guess it is something that would uplift the nation's economy. at first, they were all timid to open up but with the time we had developed a friendship and shared time during evening hours which was relaxing.
Cultural visits at Perigueux
Perigueux is not only the land of foie gras, but it is also the city of art and history possessing an important historic heritage, Saint-Front cathedral which was astonishing with its tomb structures, the temple of Vesone, arena garden, the statue of the source. View of this medieval and Renaissance city of Perigueux was marvelous and visiting Saturday market during the blissful morning and tasting gastronomy felt out of the world.
The list goes on like the monolithic church of Saint Emilion, Pey Berland church, Garonne River, Victory square at Bordeaux, Monbazillac castle, street market at St. Astier, Henry IV castle, cinema hall (watched Hindi movie), radio interview and traditional ball at Sarliac village. The unforgettable one was camping at Arcachon with the Galmiche family, where we went to walk on the cold water of the Atlantic ocean and roll on 113 meters dunes of 'dune du Pilat'.
The enjoyment was not because of the amazing place, but it was mainly because of the professors and the family members who never got tired of taking care of us. Extraordinary times were one which we spent with families during weekends. It felt very much our own home. At school they organized us a farewell party, everyone gathered for our send-off. We had to move to another school even it was hard for us. But a new adventure was waiting at Auch.
The very moment we entered the city of Auch, I was taken by the ravishing Roman architecture made of travertine adorned by the majestic Saint Marie cathedral with River Gers flowing on. The whole Gascogn was impeccable beauty with Pyrenees mountain and Agriculture lands.
Our stay at Beaulieu Lavacant was new learning every day. It was either academic or social. Daily activities included seed selection, ketchup making, chemistry lessons, visit wheat cultivation field, agroforestry, meat processing, garlic post-harvest operations, farm machinery, cooking classes, and gymnastics. During language classes, we had the opportunity to exchange our views about the socio-culture aspects of each other's country. An impressive thing was, a lot of students engaged themselves in thought-provoking activities like women empowerment events, manga club, theatre shows.
The thrilling activity we had done was skiing in the Pyrenees mountains, though I failed to learn well. I enjoyed the breathtaking views.
Hospitality at Beaulieu Lavacant is unforgettable. As Hindu, we refused to eat beef, so the chef always offered an alternative item. Never left us empty stomach.
Cultural visits in and around Auch
It was early weeks of spring and weather was dynamic as they call it "les giboulée de mars". And we had visited Saint Maire cathedral which has rose stained glass windows, monumental stairs leading to River Gers, the statue of D'Artagnan, city market of Auch, the smallest fortified village of Larressingle, UNESCO heritage site - Cathedral at Condom, New Caledonian cultural events, shopping at Toulouse which is called 'La ville Rose' - the pink city, Occitanie cross, city hall in Toulouse, Cathedral of Saint Stephen, Rocamadour with Charolette's family, Chapelle de le Castagnere, the castle of Lavardens, night out with students to Auch city.
During the last week of our stay, the school was shut down due to the corona outbreak. We were taken by Mrs. Chantal Desprats to her home. During this high time, she and her family feel fine and not to panic. We cooked, baked, watched movies and remained safe during those days. I and my family members are grateful for there hospitality. Even team Perigueux was in touch with us to know our whereabouts and safety. Our flight to India was on March 20 via Germany, due to Germany's lockdown it got canceled and the coordinators from both sides suggested us to take the next day flight via Abu Dhabi on March 17. It was a tearful departure from there. On March 18, all of us had reached New Delhi safely. Then followed the quarantine time.
A great memory to be cherished for a lifetime
I am glad, that I embraced this opportunity, it is helping me to widen my horizon in all aspects. Merci beaucoup, all the people who made me undergo this program. Special thanks to Mr. Patric Pourcel and Mrs. Chantal Desprats.