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The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

French exchange program success is brie-ond belief

Not only did the French Exchange provide an introduction to a new
culture but also a new community among students on the trip.
Not only did the French Exchange provide an introduction to a new culture but also a new community among students on the trip.

This year was the first year since February, 2020 that the French Exchange Program took place. Our teacher last year, Madame Gurry, one of the chaperones for the trip, introduced us to the program and encouraged everyone in the class to apply.

Having personal connections with France that had inspired us to take French for each of the last three years, we both applied. And luckily we were both selected, along with 25 other students. We were assigned ‘correspondents,’ similar to pen pals, from a school in Angers, France. It was then that we were first introduced to the way French schools truly work and got an inside scoop on daily life in France.

Throughout the French Exchange, we would learn much more about French schools, improve our French language skills and deepen our understanding of French culture. From boat rides, bus rides, dinners and castles came a part of the experience that we did not expect; a strong connection to the culture, to the different places we visited and, most importantly, to each other.

Hannah: I found out about the French Exchange program last year, my sophomore year, and remember how excited I was for the list of selected students to be announced. The selection process was random, so it felt surreal to be chosen. Both people who had been in my French classes for the last three years and people I had never crossed paths with were part of the program, so it was exciting to meet new people and get closer to those I already knew.

We got in touch with our correspondents over the summer, but the real planning began this past fall. When the French kids and teachers came to Brookline in October, we made sure to plan activities for them, from watching the sunset at Skyline Park, to group bowling and even a game of soccer. By the time February came, we’d had X block meetings, group bonding events and we’d hosted several crepe sales.

When our correspondents came to Brookline, I was surprised by how easily my family adjusted. Having another person at the table, in the house and in our lives was very interesting. It was challenging to make connections around a language barrier, but it was exciting to show my correspondent, Lily, American foods she’d never tried before, like peanut butter and burritos. Although Lily’s English was not amazing, she was still able to connect with my family and feel at home in Brookline. In the end, we all got through the two weeks and had a wonderful time.

Suvi: One of the most memorable parts of the trip was getting to stay with a host family and thus immerse myself in the French lifestyle. At first, the thought of staying in a strange house with people I had never met before made me a little nervous. But that feeling quickly went away as soon as we shared our first “bisous,” the famous French greeting of a quick kiss on each cheek, at the front gates of the school where our host families picked us up.

Our first night in France was all about getting to know each other. I’ll never forget the two-hour long dinner I had that night with my host family. With a delicious meal cooked generously by my host father, we sat on the couch with my correspondent Faustine, her sister and her dad. They had a lot of questions for me about almost everything: life in America, my family’s origins, school and my plans for the future. At one point, Faustine headed off to take a shower and I just kept talking with my host dad and sister, telling them all about Brookline and getting to know their family’s story.

On the first weekend we were there, we all had a “weekend en famille” (family weekend) during which our host families were welcome to take us anywhere they wanted to show us around France. My host family took me to Saint-Malo, a walled-in oceanside city in the Northwestern part of France just two hours away from Angers. The next day we headed to Futuroscope, a super fun amusement park in Poitiers, which was an absolute blast. I felt so cared for and welcomed by my host family – they were definitely a key part in making this trip such an unforgettable experience.

Hannah: When we got to France, we were all shocked at how different being hosted was compared to hosting. Whereas in October we were the ones making the plans, packing the lunches, and explaining our lives, in Angers we were able to take a less active role and focus more on the experience and enjoyment.

The castles were one of the most beautiful parts of our trip. For the week we were in Angers, we went to four castles. My favorite one was Chenonceau, a castle that stretches over the Cher River with beautiful and manicured grounds. King Henry II gave it to Diane de Poitiers. When you walk inside the castle you can see the room that she had designed for herself, with her crest and initials on a tile by the foot of her bed. While many castles in France and elsewhere are associated with Kings or Dukes or Barons, the male rulers, this castle is known for being the product of the hard work of past Queens and Princesses.

At the end of the week, we had seen immeasurable numbers of historical artifacts and learned endless amounts about the history of rulers in France. But we ended the week with a trip to a boulangerie, or bakery. There we were introduced to tried and true methods of making baguettes, brioche and other breads, with the unforgettable baker Philipe, who let us taste the different products. This was my favorite outing in Angers, especially after all the grandeur of the castles and museums. It rounded out the trip by helping us see and experience a part of daily life, not only for the baker but for his customers who would (unfortunately) eat the bread we made.

Suvi: The highlight of the trip will forever and always be the group that went. I truly believe that nothing will ever beat the bonding that happened, and I honestly can’t imagine being surrounded by a better group of people. Being overseas, but especially being in France, and getting to experience the fruits of French culture together made our group close like nothing else. For that, I am infinitely grateful.

Riding on the bus for hours on end may sound boring, but with the right group of people, even the 3-hour trips seemed too short. We would play games like Mafia, listen to music and talk as we passed through French suburbs. We would ride along the seaside and pass fields upon fields of the greenest grass I’ve ever seen. We even produced a song, called “Mon Maison,” creating a studio in the back of the bus where we recorded everyone’s verses and edited the video together – I still listen to that regularly to put a smile on my face. The craziest part is that I knew most of these people before the trip happened, but only in passing; I had never really talked to a lot of them before. If I could go back in time and tell my past self that all of these incredible people would become some of my best friends, I would never have believed it.

There was nothing like walking back into the high school after getting back from the trip and feeling the excitement of seeing these people who have now become so incredibly important to me. Sharing these amazing memories has truly been one of the best gifts I could’ve ever received, and something I will cherish forever. This trip was truly one of the most remarkable experiences of my life, and none of it would’ve been the same without all the wonderful people I got to know throughout the program. I am eternally grateful for everyone and everything that made it so special.

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