We’ve always approached learning French in our own, unique way.
We knew we wanted native-speaker instructors. And not just any native speakers. We have always worked with experienced teachers, with a proven curriculum and lots of local knowledge.
And, we wanted a lot of instruction. In class and out, five mornings a week. Location was important, for a lot of reasons. We chose Chamonix because it’s beautiful and exciting and nestled below some of the world’s most spectacular mountains.
Because it’s summer and we’re in the mountains, we also want to be outside, hiking. It’s who we are: adventurous, energetic people who love the idea of learning a gorgeous language and then heading up into the mountains for an afternoon of fresh air and fitness, friendships and fun.
Where do you want to learn French? And once your lessons are done, how do you want to spend your days? If you’re like us, you’ll pack up your hiking boots and your English-French dictionary and head for the Alps. Allons-y!
I loved the French classes. Both teachers were amazing and super helpful. I loved the scavenger hunts we did with them.
- Lily Johnston, Darien, Connecticut
Learning, adventure and friendship in the French Alps—what could be better?
Day 1: Trip Start
We’ll meet in Geneva and travel to Chamonix at the base of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe. The Mont Blanc Valley, with its jagged mountain peaks, carved glacial streams and quintessential European towns, will be our home for the next three weeks. We will spend these three weeks in a gîte–a typical French inn used by mountaineers and families on holidays.
Days 2-5: Language Class, Hikes & Exploration in Chamonix
On our first full day in the Chamonix Valley, we will walk to school, meet our French teachers, take a placement test and explore the lush valley on a day hike. In the mornings, we will attend French class, seeking to improve our French in a fun, supportive environment. Through short skits, interviewing local residents in Chamonix’s main plaza and other hands-on activities, we will improve our speaking and listening comprehension. In the afternoons, we will explore the many trails in the Mont Blanc Valley. We’ll start with shorter hikes including Le Chapeau, the Mer de Glace overlook or Chalet de La Floria. These hikes are meant to help us acclimate, get to know one another and challenge us physically while providing fantastic viewpoints of the surrounding mountains, glaciers and valley. Through the week, our teachers will accompany us on various cultural excursions including a visit to the St. Bernard Farm and the High Mountain Emergency Rescue Center. At night, we’ll return to our gîte and cook dinners with local ingredients.
Days 6-8: Camp & Hike in Argentiere
In the nearby Alpine village of Argentiere, we will spend the weekend camping and hiking; surrounded by wildflowers, rolling meadows, jagged peaks and pastures full of grazing cows. Over two days, we will challenge ourselves with demanding hikes to rewarding viewpoints like the Point de Vue next to the Argentiere Glacier–a true highlight.
Days 9-12: Language Class, Hikes & Exploration in Chamonix
In class, we will expand upon lessons learned in the first week, continuing to improve our French through interactive activities both in and out of the classroom. With our teachers, we’ll visit the town of Annecy, dubbed ‘the Venice of the Alps.’ Annecy is larger than Chamonix and sits on the shores of France’s second largest lake. Our teachers will challenge us with a guided scavenger hunt through a local market and teach us about the culture in the Haute-Savoie Region. Afternoon hikes will continue to challenge our group as we trek to different areas in the Mont Blanc Valley like Chalet de Cerro. Our French will improve throughout the week with cultural excursions, like a visit to a local zoo, a bakery or cheese shop.
Days 13-15: Camp & Hike in Vallorcine
Near the Swiss border, we’ll take a train to Vallorcine at the northern end of the valley to spend our final weekend hiking in the Alps. From our campground, we will hike along trails to waterfalls, lakes and beautiful mountain huts. We will hike high in the mountains for astounding views of the Mont Blanc massif.
Days 16-20: Language Class, Chamonix & the Aiguille du Midi
During our final days in Chamonix, we’ll celebrate our French language skills on the Aiguille du Midi, the world’s highest cable car. We’ll watch mountaineers summit Mont Blanc and catch a view of the entire valley. We’ll descend halfway on the cable car and then hike the Grand Balcon Sud to Montenvers. We’ll explore an ice cave and hike down to the Chamonix Valley. At trip end, we’ll enjoy a final dinner in Chamonix to celebrate three weeks of fun, accomplishment and friendship.
15 nights in a private section of a gîte, a typical French inn used by vacationing European families. We will have regular access to showers and bathrooms.
4 nights of frontcountry camping with access to showers and bathrooms.
Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.
We travel light at Overland.
- Internal Frame Backpack
50-70 liters or 3,000-4,300 cubic inches (if you plan to do longer backpacking trips in the future, consider purchasing a pack that is towards the higher end of this range). Before purchasing a backpack, find your backpack size by measuring your torso length and your hips (instructions are available here). We recommend getting fitted at a store and trying on multiple packs.
- Navy Overland T-Shirt (1)
We will send every student an Overland T-shirt prior to the trip. Please wear this T-shirt to trip start.
- T-Shirt (2)
- Synthetic T-Shirt (3)
- Synthetic Shorts (3)
- Pants (1)
Suitable for day hikes, travel or walks through towns and cities.
- Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom (1)
- Casual Dress Outfit (1)
Appropriate for dining out with your group. Do not bring an extra pair of shoes for this outfit.
- Underwear (5)
- Athletic Socks (3)
- Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (4)
- Gloves or Mittens (1)
- Winter Hat (1)
- Hat with Visor (optional)
- Swimsuit (optional)
If we swim, many students will wear shorts (and a sports bra for girls).
- Pajamas (optional)
Students sometimes prefer to sleep in shorts and a T-shirt instead of pajamas.
- Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
- Insulated Fleece or Down Vest (1)
- Raincoat (1)
Waterproof material (e.g., Gore-Tex, or similar) is required. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Waterproof Rain Pants (1)
- Waterproof Pack Cover
If your backpack does not come with a cover, we recommend buying a cover one size larger than your pack.
- Day Pack
Basic two-shoulder backpack large enough to hold your lunch, two water bottles, snacks, extra layers and rain jacket. Use your day pack as a carry-on for your flight and for daily activities or hikes. A standard school backpack is usually fine (no satchels or shoulder bags).
- Synthetic Sleeping Bag
A lightweight, compact synthetic sleeping bag rated to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less. A synthetic sleeping bag is required for this trip; down is not appropriate as it does not insulate if wet. Your sleeping bag should compress into a stuff sack no larger than 20" in length.
- Sleeping Pad
¾-length or full-length closed cell foam (thin and firm) or self-inflating.
- Bowl, Mug & Utensils
6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top, insulated plastic mug, spoon, fork and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils (a Tupperware dish and regular utensils are fine).
Please bring an extra battery/batteries.
- Water Bottle
One 1-liter bottle. A Camelbak or similar water carrier is acceptable.
- Adjustable Trekking Poles (optional)
To add stability, reduce strain on the knees and improve balance while crossing unstable surfaces.
- Waterproof Hiking Boots
Hiking boots that are low to high cut, depending on your desired ankle support. Choose comfortable boots and make sure to break them in before the start of your trip.
Comfortable shoes with good traction.
- Sandals (optional)
Flip flops or Crocs work well.
- Synthetic Camping Towel
A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
- Travel Size Toiletries
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Insect Repellent
- Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (5)
To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
- Large Trash Bags (2)
To waterproof your gear.
- Package of Moleskin or Molefoam
To protect your feet from blisters.
- Travel-sized French-English Dictionary
- Notebook & Pen
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera.
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
Please bring a passport that is valid until at least six months after your trip end date.
- Passport Photocopies
Make at least four photocopies of your passport and visa (if applicable). Leave one copy with your family and put photocopies in both your checked luggage and carry-on luggage for the flight, separate from your original documents.
- Spending Money & Miscellaneous Expenses
Each student should bring a debit card, an ATM card or a prepaid Visa card to cover spending money and miscellaneous expenses. Spending Money: While all meals and activities are included in the trip fee, we recommend $25/week for spending money (for example: for souvenirs or an occasional drink or snack beyond what is provided to the group as a whole). Miscellaneous Expenses: Most Overland students will incur some expenses while traveling (for example: an equipment repair or baggage fees at trip end). Please add $100 to the debit/ATM/Visa card (in addition to spending money), to cover these expenses.
Things to know
- We travel light at Overland; please only bring the items on this list.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring your smart phone (or any other electronics).
Please visit the FAQ tab for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
- Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
- Pack everything in your backpack or day pack. Do not bring additional luggage.
- Linens and pillows are provided at most group accommodations. Students may choose to use their sleeping bag for additional warmth if necessary.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
Please schedule expensive items—phones, cameras, bicycles, etc.—on your homeowners insurance policy.
Questions? Call us: 413.458.9672.
- Is the language level appropriate for my child’s language experience?
We require that your child arrives with at least one year of classroom instruction in French or equivalent experience (time spent studying abroad). Overland groups are divided into smaller language classes upon arrival. Classes focus on speaking and listening comprehension and accommodate varying levels of language abilities.
- Is this a language immersion program?
No. All of Overland's language programs require dedication to learning a language and appreciating a new culture. Although there is not a language pledge, classes are conducted exclusively in French, and your child will speak French outside of class for approximately two hours per day.
- What are the teachers like?
Overland partners with a language school in Chamonix with professional French teachers who create lesson plans to engage our groups. The teachers speak French as their primary language. Overland leaders will sit in on some classes, but the professional teachers are responsible for classroom language instruction. Teachers will typically join the group for activities outside the classroom several times throughout the program.
- Does my child need to have previous international or group travel experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child—with your help—to select a trip that is appropriate for his or her interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific program and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready—and excited—to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.
- What is the weather like on Language & Hiking France?
The weather on Language & Hiking France varies. Sometimes it is sunny and warm, other times it is rainy and cold; typical summer temperatures in the Chamonix Valley range from the 60s to 80s during the day and cooler temperatures at night.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for my child's trip?
You will need to arrange transportation for your child to and from Geneva International Airport (GVA). We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a trip.
- Please tell me about the currency on this trip.
France uses the Euro (€). Some US banks may be able to order Euros. Students can also exchange money in airports throughout the US, or leaders can help students withdraw Euros using a debit card or exchange US dollars upon arrival in France.
- Please tell me about safety at Overland.
Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. We work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for over 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
- Does my child need to have previous experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child–with your help–to select a trip that is appropriate for their interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific trip and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready–and excited–to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.
- Please tell me about Overland's admissions process.
When we receive your application, if your first choice is available, we will: (1) call you to acknowledge our receipt of your application, (2) send you an email with a link to our Admissions Review Forms, and (3) charge a deposit of $795 to your credit card to hold your place in the trip pending a favorable admissions review. If your first choice is not available, we will call you to discuss your second choice, third choice or other options. For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
- What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?
To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers. Your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency. If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send an expensive smartphone. Instead, an inexpensive prepaid cell phone will do. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.
Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).
We are committed to providing extraordinary support to you and your child. To that end, the Overland office is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week during the summer. Outside of office hours, our answering service provides emergency coverage. Our leaders in the field are in touch with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or other medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with their child.
- Can my child get school credit for the language program?
You should check with your child’s school about whether or not Overland’s language programs fulfill their requirements. The approximate number of hours of language instruction are listed in the sidebar.
- Can I send mail to my child during a trip?
Getting a letter, card or postcard while on an Overland trip is always exciting. Please keep in mind that sending mail to your child on an Overland trip is different than sending mail to a traditional camp because your child will be on the move. Our experience has been that mail often does not arrive on time, and, sometimes, even when it does, post offices, campgrounds and other mail stops do not reliably deliver mail to our groups. For these reasons:
1. Please do not send anything valuable – please send letters, cards or postcards only. If mail is late, lost or misdirected, Overland’s leaders and staff are not able to return to the post office (or other mail stop) to collect it.
2. Please use the US Postal Service first-class mail only; do not use UPS, FedEx or DHL (many of our mail stops accept US Postal Service mail only).
3. Please do not send overnight letters: many overnighted letters arrive before or after we arrive and are then sent back. For this same reason, please do not send mail that requires a signature upon delivery.
4. Please allow one week for postal delivery to U.S. mail stops.
5. Please allow two weeks for postal delivery to international mail stops.
Improve your French, hike in the Chamonix Valley and experience French culture.
Students going on Language & Hiking France should prepare for:
- Full days of outdoor activities led by two caring Overland leaders
- Day hikes to viewpoints and mountaintops
- 12 days of French class for 4 hours each day
- A fun, supportive and wholesome Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for the Hiking
On Language & Hiking France, you should be prepared for day hikes in the Alps on well-established trails through a variety of landscapes including forests and alpine environments. The terrain in the Alps can be challenging at times—there are some long, steep, rocky sections and occasionally some hiking on snow. A few days of hiking may be at elevations higher than 8,000 feet. In the month before your trip, you should break-in your hiking boots (wear them a lot!) and complete the pre-trip training (see below). Once on your trip, you'll find that enthusiasm and a positive attitude will help to make the trip a success for you... and for everyone in your group.
- 4 weeks before your trip: take three 30-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 3 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots.
- 2 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 10% of your body weight.
- 1 week before your trip: take two 2-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 10% of your body weight.
Preparing for Class
Overland's language programs require dedication to learning a language and enthusiasm about experiencing a new culture. Your classes will be conducted exclusively in French and you will speak French outside of class for approximately two hours per day. Your group will be divided into smaller language classes upon arrival; the classes will focus on speaking and listening comprehension in order to accommodate a range of skill levels. We recommend you arrive with at least one year of classroom instruction, or the equivalent experience (time spent studying abroad, for example), in French.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland trips are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be enthusiastic, positive, helpful and supportive of your trip mates and your leaders. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. Arriving ready for a challenge—and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland trip.