Friday, March 20, 2009
French students spend two weeks at CCHS
On February 7, CCHS students, parents and siblings huddled in the cold with anticipation as 16 French students descended from a bus at CCHS. Along with an assortment of luggage came a barrage of French chattering: “As-tu ton sac?”
“Où est Sarah?”
“A lundi alors.”
As we heard these words that we clumsily produce in our classroom roll off their tongues, we realized that it was here. The two weeks of our French exchange program were beginning.
It was during the second week of the exchange, February break, that the French students really became part of their host family. Among other activities, they went shopping, watched movies, and visited local Concord historical sites. Many families took their students to New York City, and others even vacationed as far as Florida or New Mexico. While most French students were excited to see their friends and speak in French again at the farewell banquet the evening before they went home, everyone was sad to see such an enriching experience come to an end. At the dinner, each French student said a few carefully chosen English words about how much they enjoyed the trip, and was given a CCHS mug as a souvenir. Before we knew it, it was Saturday afternoon and time to go. Many tears were shed as the French students boarded the same yellow bus on which they had come, this time headed back to France.
It is not easy to leave your country for one that does not speak your language and live as a member of a family you hardly know, nor is it easy to invite someone who is essentially a complete stranger to live in your home as a member of your family. Nevertheless, my corres, Marion Jacquin, could not have been more enjoyable. At dinner on the first night she chattered away, answering any questions she was asked and telling stories about her trip, even though she was not speaking her mother tongue and it was nearly 2 a.m. in France.
Marion quickly became a member of the family; she helped with the laundry, walked the dog, went grocery shopping with us, helped me study for French tests, and watched movies with my family and with my friends. Marion reflects positively on this experience, saying, “I had some amazing two weeks in Concord and I can’t wait to have two more with the students in April! I met so many great people (including a Blue Man), I saw some wonderful places, and I think that Concord is a very interesting place which I had the chance to visit. The people here are very welcoming and took good care of us. I am very happy to have discovered a new country and made new friends.”
From what I’ve heard, all participating CCHS and French students had an equally fantastic experience.
Many of the laughs that Marion and I shared during her visit came from language barriers. One evening she was showing me some pictures of her friends and classmates at school, and we came across a girl that she particularly dislikes. She was describing this classmate to me, and said, “I ate this girl!” I broke into hysterics, and it took several minutes for me to calm down enough to tell Marion that I believed the word that she was looking for was “hate.” Another particularly amusing incident was when Marion confused the words “balls” and “bowels.” That being said, Marion and all of the students from France were very strong in English and improved greatly over the course of their stay. In their school, not only do they speak in English in English class, they also take English Conversation, a class in which they practice their oral skills and fluency, and also take half of their history lessons in English.
This exchange highlighted some cultural differences between life in America and in France. Every morning before school, while I would frantically grab a piece of toast or an apple as I ran to catch the school bus (another novel American image), Marion would spend at least 15 minutes leisurely eating yogurt, cereal, orange juice, some fruit and a bagel. At school the French students were astonished to discover that we were allowed to get up in the middle of class to sharpen our pencils (and the fact that we were allowed to do our work in pencil and not ballpoint pens was mind-boggling), and were even more intrigued when they saw the electric pencil sharpener. Changing classrooms for different subjects was also new to the French students. Despite these differences, we realized the fundamental similarities between the French and American students. We all like spending time with friends, watching TV, mocking our parents and our teachers, sleeping in and listening to music. After such a positive experience with our French friends here in Concord, we can’t wait for April in Paris! ∆
© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito