The FWSU Story: Two weeks of cultural exchange with students from La Rochelle, France

For the past two weeks, seven students from a special American Studies program at Fénélon school in La Rochelle, France, have been living with host families in our community and attending classes with BFA correspondents. The purpose of their visit was to deepen their understanding of American culture and broaden their mastery of English.

It didn’t take long for these exceptional students to integrate themselves into BFA culture, participating in classes, taking notes, doing assignments, even taking assessments! They also joined in extra-curriculars: playing ultimate, singing at the coffee house, and helping with concessions. Our students enjoyed talking to them in English and French, and everyone developed a deeper appreciation for each other’s language and culture. “It was so cool to be able to meet them. It is such a good experience to meet people from all over the world and now I have friends all over the world,” said BFA sophomore Laurel Samson. “I think it’s cool to learn about other cultures. It can be really similar but also really different.”

The Fénélon students shared some of their impressions of an American high school. “I love how free it is. In France, the teachers are really strict and make you pay attention to the lesson. Here, if you are not paying attention, the teachers think of it as your problem. I also like that you are free to eat where you want,” said Samuel. Alexandre shared, “I like the school, I like the fact that everybody knows everybody. There are fewer students so students can advance more quickly in their subjects. Also, I met very nice American students.”

Alexandra observed, “I met some really lovely people and I am so happy to meet them. It is not at all like France, but I like it. Here, I really connected with the teachers. I like that the classes are the same every day, it is not as tiring. At home our schedule is hectic.” Her favorite foods were mac and cheese and breakfast sandwiches. Marie and Alix both said that they really enjoyed being here and meeting so many nice people and they wished that they could stay longer. After their return to France, their chaperone and director of the program, Claire Kerhuel-Castel, wrote, “Thanks again for a wonderful visit. The students were gushing about it in the van all the way back! How nonjudgmental people were, what a great school spirit, the plans they had to see each other again…”

Connecting with the UN global goal #17: Partnerships for the goals, we hope that this exchange will be the beginning of a partnership with Fénélon and that our schools will continue to build relationships between students and teachers to promote language learning and cultural understanding, and we look forward to planning more opportunities for exchange in the near future.

In Boston
Riding a school bus to Montpelier (there are no yellow school buses in France!)
Visiting the Vermont State House
Meeting Rep. Murphy with the AP gov class

Alana Toracca is a French Teacher at BFA High School.

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