Space to Explore (and goats) 

Musings from a student mentor on an Erasmus+ trip to Normandy

by Hannah Chapman


Where we stayed

The Eco-gite L’Orangerie we stayed at was fantastic and provided a really positive communal space that supported a large group, it also has amazing facilities, including a large almost industrial kitchen area, a boules court and plenty of outdoor space with a BBQ and benches.

The couple who owned it were really friendly and invited us to milk their cows and take some milk so it was a really beautiful experience.

The Eco Chateau training placement was fantastic. A beautiful space with much potential.


Learner Skills and Local Ingredients

A big part of the trip was about thinking and using fresh and local ingredients which made learners more aware of French culture and farming, especially within Normandy.

Learners took away a range of new skills including butchery, filleting and deboning fish, and preparing seafood. Learners developed their knife skills and learnt new techniques of cooking and baking. The training in the kitchen by Mo the tutor was clear, concise and patient and learners were given lots of group as well as 1:1 guidance were necessary.

As we were a smaller group learners found it very easy to build bonds and positive relationships within the group and took this into their working environment in the kitchen.

I also think that learners developed a greater understanding of how to work as a team and support each other throughout a range of different tasks. And also to support each other emotionally if any member of the group was feeling low or stressed at any point.


Personal & Professional Development of being a mentor

I have learnt to step back a bit more in certain circumstances allowing individuals who feel like they don’t need as much guidance to work more independently.

I have learnt a lot of positive ways to communicate within a smaller group of learners which can sometimes be more intense. Trying to be conscious of how I can use language to help shape or turn a situation into a positive one and lift people’s moods.

I have learnt to practice being patient and understanding to other people’s needs and I have developed my listening skills and made myself emotionally available for learners who have wanted to share or talk about an issues they have.

Overall an amazing experience!


For more information on our courses and Erasmus please contact:

The Big Fig Catering team


Big Fig info: The Big Fig is a social enterprise catering company creating delicious food using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, catering for events, parties and business meetings. And even better – The Big Fig uses profits to support unemployed people to gain skills and qualifications to build a future career in catering.


Erasmus+ team at The Platform



The Platform/ Erasmus+ info: We coordinate work placements to France, Italy, Germany and Holland for learning groups of 12+  in the areas of catering, horticulture, construction and ‘social enterprise’.

Erasmus+ UK National Agency:  


Images by Hannah Chapman