VECSI - Une petite histoire

VECSI is an Irish non-for-profit linguistic and cultural organisation established in Ireland in 1982 and based in Cork. We work exclusively with France in the beautiful and historic regions of Biarritz and Bordeaux. We provides supervised, structured course-based and homestay programmes throughout the year. The VECSI programme ensures that language-learning continues beyond the classroom through the immersive experience of living with a French family, which is invaluable in consolidating your language-skills, confidence and understanding of French culture. Not only do VECSI students greatly improve their language skills, they also develop a deep affection for France and French culture, making friends and contacts for life.

Over the years, hundreds of students have benefitted from a wide variety of VECSI linguistic and culture programmes, student exchanges (in the 80s and early 90s), in partnership with many cultural organisations such as the Conseil Général de la Vienne, Ireland Fund of France, Alliance Française de Cork, Graffiti, Corcadorca and UCC Dramat.

VECSI (Visites, Echanges Culturels et Sportifs Internationaux) was originally founded in France in 1957 under the Ministère de la Jeunesse et des Sports and introduced its programme to Ireland in the early-1980s.

Nora Callanan was appointed Director and under her leadership VECSI offered one of the most successful early Franco-Irish exchange programmes for second-level, with students travelling for total immersion homestays with French families in the Poitou-Charentes region in France.

Nora Callanan’s passion for Irish theatre led her to introduce TIE (Theatre In Education) programme with Irish theatre companies such as Corcadorca, Graffiti, Team Theatre Co. (Dublin), UCC Dramat, taking Irish theatre into the French classroom as part of the French educational curriculum. Academic exchanges and cultural visits were also organised by VECSI throughout the 90s, and continue right through to today.

In the early 2000s, VECSI developed our now very popular TY and summer immersion courses with homestays for Pre-Leaving Cert in Biarritz and Bordeaux.

Our partners in France are reputable and well established, with many years of experience in this field. VECSI’s aim is to provide Irish-based second-level students with a unique opportunity to improve their language skills through a structured immersion programme within the secure setting of an established organisation or collège/lycée (TY), living with a host family, meeting new friends in a European environment while enjoying the outstanding sporting activities that Biarritz – a surfing paradise – has to offer!

This all proves immeasurable in improving your oral and aural proficiency, while upskilling in grammar and vocabulary, embodied in the relaxed and fun ambiance of Biarritz.



New – Two-week Easter-Break option for TY, as well as year-round programmes for University Students, Adult & Professional Packages

Choose your own dates – Places limited, early booking advised!

Click here for more information.

“Thanks to VECSI intensive course, my grammar has much improved, I now find it so much easier to understand spoken French. I really liked my French host family, food was delicious – without a doubt I can recommend this VECSI séjour to my friends.

Sarah Yates, Newtown School, Waterford

Meet the Vecsi Team

Nora Callanan

Nora Callanan


Nora Callanan, with an established career in Public Relations, was first introduced to VECSI while on a cultural visit to France. When VECSI was formally established in Ireland as a not-for-profit organization, Nora was appointed Director. Over the years, together with the team, she has fostered and developed vibrant language and cultural programmes for second and third-level students.

With her keen interest in theatre, cinema and the arts. Nora Callanan initiated a TIE(Theatre In Education) Programme, taking Irish Theatre into the French classroom. In recognition for this project, Nora was awarded Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French Government.

A true Francophile, Nora held the position of President of Alliance Française de Cork until 2017. During this time, she contributed enormously to the promotion of the French language and culture in her native Cork, the development of the AF and in particular the Cork French Film Festival, of which she was Director for 12 years, which attained national acclaim under her stewardship.

In recognition, she was awarded Officier dans l’Ordre National du Mérite by the French Government. The Board of VECSI are indeed fortunate to have Nora Callanan at the helm.

Dr Sylvie Lancino

Dr Sylvie Lancino


Dr. Sylvie Lancino is a public health specialist based in Paris. She has been involved with VECSI since her teenage years, as her father Guy Casteuble, the then Vice President of VECSI France, was responsible for introducing the organization to Ireland.

As a practising medical specialist with a deep interest in Human Rights, Education and Social Justice issues, Sylvie has volunteered on numerous occasions with Médicins Sans Frontières. International in outlook, and a long-standing hibernophile, Sylvie is a dedicated and proactive board member since 1999, bringing to VECSI her invaluable knowledge and experience both as a French public health specialist and educationalist.

Emily Callanan

Emily Callanan


Emily is a second level French teacher with over 20 years’ experience teaching Higher-Level Leaving Certificate French. Emily’s love of French began when she participated in her first French exchange at the age of 12, organised by VECSI. She subsequently spent an Erasmus year at Université de Bordeaux III and completed a Masters Degree at the Université de Caen. Emily has extensive experience coordinating language and home stay programmes between Irish and French second level schools.

Emily has accompanied VECSI student and Theatre in Education (TIE) tours to lycées in the Poitou Charentes region of France. As a teacher, Emily believes that the best way to enhance oral and aural comprehension skills and gain confidence, proficiency and fluency in French is to immerse oneself in French culture on a language programme in France.

Through her specific experience as a teacher within the Irish Education system as well as her third-level studies in France, Emily brings essential know-how to the VECSI

Hélène Pichon

Hélène Pichon


Hélène Pichon is Franco-Swisse and holds a Political Science degree from the Sorbonne Paris IV in partnership with London School of Economics (LSE). 

During her diplomatic career, Hélène has traveled extensively, notably to the Lebanon, Geneva, Bahrein and Ireland. She came to Ireland in 2006 to take up a position as Director of Alliance Française de Cork. During her time in Cork, Hélène coordinated a series of international conferences in association with University College Cork bringing together high-profile academics, educationalists and diplomats.

She then returned to Paris, where she now holds the position of Director of International Institutions at CEPS (Centre d’Etude et de Prospective Stratégique). Hélène is a highly valued board member of VECSI since 2010. She plays a key role in our partnership with France. Hélène was instrumental in developing VECSI’s Ski-langue Winter Programme in the French Alps. As a former teacher and language-school Director, Hélène’s expert, first-hand knowledge of the Irish and French Educational system is invaluable to VECSI team.