“I thought cheerleaders would be super popular, but they are not,” says Coline, a French exchange student with long dark hair and studded boots. Just as they do every other year in early March, around sixteen students from a high school in a suburb in Versailles come to Concord Carlisle to live with host families for two weeks. All of the CC host students take French and through interviews have shown that they have great enthusiasm for both the French language and culture. The French students themselves have been enrolled in a bilingual French-English program for at least five years and speak comfortably in English. This is made apparent as they spend their Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in class with their host students at CC and seem to blend in with great ease. They spend their remaining Tuesdays and Thursdays on Field trips to the state house, Faneuil hall, aquarium, Museum of Science and Harvard Square.
The program started around 20 years ago, with the same school in France as now. It was originally created by Madame Albeck who retired four years ago. Madame Penaud and Madame Smith, the current advisers of the French exchange program, remark that this is a unique experience unlike that of a tourist; students “make personal connections and real friends that last a lifetime.” It is also a very educational experience. Students are able to “make language come alive, making language they learned in textbooks come alive.” In April CC students go to France for two weeks; on one of such trips Penaud recalls a student’s surprise upon going in a boutique in France and recognizing a song she had heard in class at CC. Penaud loves that students realize songs shown in class are “not just arbitrary songs,” but actually are very popular in France. Emma Schmidt’14 remarks that after listening to her student speak French with “real” French accents, she is now able to pronounce “soleil,” a word she previously found very difficult. Monica Lyons’14 and Schmidt both feel that their French accents have already improved.
Not only is this an eye opening experience for CC students, but French students are opened to a whole new world. They experience a new school system and a different lifestyle, and see what an American family does day to day. Adele, an exchange student, is surprised at the close relationship between students and teachers; both Adele and Camille were also amazed by the school’s musical, A Chorus Line. “I didn’t think it would be so spectacular,” Camille remarks. While they both agree that this whole trip has been amazing, some drawbacks include the early call time and the lack of freedom they have as exchange students. “We can’t go wherever we want, there is only one bus, and we can’t walk anywhere by ourselves.” Lyons and Schmidt also admit that there are some drawbacks to the experience. They both find it is stressful to balance their work, and are afraid to ask for extensions for essays. They also both take part in the musical and find it hard to juggle rehearsal time.
This French exchange program has already gone so well, and will surely continue to be available for future students who are interested. This program is a very unique opportunity for students at both ends of the program and is saturated with memorable experiences unachievable anywhere else. “Thank you to welcome us!” say Adele and Camille to me, as they run off with their host students to go home and possibly watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.