For the past four years, Collegiate has been facilitating an eighth grade exchange program in which Collegiate students host students from Saint Denis International School in Loches, France for one month, and, in turn, Saint Denis students host a group of Collegiate students over spring break.
Participants host a student in their home for either two weeks or a month, starting in February. Sara B. (‘21) describes the hosting experience as “one of my favorite things I’ve ever done.” She added, “I got to meet a new girl who I now am great friends with while also practicing my French.”
At school, the French students followed their host Collegiate students around to their classes. In French class, the students played basketball, kickball, and games related to French holidays, such as La Saint-Valentin. The Collegiate students immersed the Saint Denis students in American culture by watching American movies with them, taking them to their favorite restaurants, and a bowling night. The students also went with their hosts to their sports and activities. Leah K. (‘21) remembers stopping at a local elementary school with her French student Roxane to take pictures next to a school bus. The Saint Denis students also participated in trips to Washington D.C, Jamestown, and University of Virginia.
While enjoying these various excursions, students from both schools also benefitted greatly from the immersion experience. Matthew R. (‘21) remembers working through problems with his student, Martin. He remembers, “his English had dramatically improved by the end of the exchange. We worked through the language barrier by using what I like to call ‘franglais,’ or a mix between French and English.” Other students, such as Collegiate’s Sara B., had an easier time communicating in English. Middle School French teacher Monica Johnston, who accompanied the group to France, adds that “it is challenging for students to speak only in French.”
On March 2nd, 2017, the entire Collegiate group boarded their eight hour flight to Paris for their ten-day trip to France. They spent the first six days in Loches, staying with their host families. They explored Loches and went on outings to places such as a confiserie, or candy maker, and Chenonceau, a castle about an hour outside of Loches. They spent Monday and Tuesday attending Saint Denis. The school system surprised many of the students. Lauren B. (‘21) remarked, “the teachers are really strict at Saint Denis,” and the students don’t chat in class. Sara B. remembers the grading system being different, being from “0 to 20, 20 being a perfect score.” The students also noticed that many students walk or take public transportation to school in Loches.
After saying their goodbyes to their hosts and new friends, the Collegiate students took a bus to Paris, where they stayed for the remainder of the trip. They visited famous sites such as The Louvre, the Champs Élysées, and Musée d’Orsay, Arc De Triomphe, Notre Dame, and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. Another highlight in Paris was the food; Leah K. remembers eating “ice cream from a store called Amorino, where the ice cream is served in a flower shape topped with a macaron.” Other delicious eats included crêpes, pastries, and steak.
The eighth grade trip is one of the many French immersion programs offered by Collegiate, and some students take their experiences from the trip with them to Upper School. As detailed in a post by Weldon Bradshaw on Collegiate’s website, Upper School students have made the trip to France for extended stays as well as hosting Saint Denis students.
Dr. Linda Rouse, an Upper School English teacher, grew up hosting students from many countries around the globe, which inspired her to host French students. “By the time I was 18, we [had] hosted students from Australia, Sweden, Chile, Argentina, Denmark, Switzerland, France, South Africa, and Japan,” she remembers. Their family has hosted a student through the eighth grade program as well as Baptiste Roussel, who came for January and March of 2016.
Baptiste, a Match writer, enjoyed his experience at Collegiate so much that he joined the junior class for six weeks this past fall. While Baptiste was at Collegiate, Dr. Rouse’s son, Jensen Richardson (’19), spent the first semester of his sophomore year at Saint Denis. His decision to spend such a large portion of his sophomore year abroad was inspired by his experience on the eighth grade exchange trip in spring of 2015.
The Rouse/Richardson family is now hosting Pierre Pee Dit Grabet, who has also enjoyed his experience at Collegiate. Pierre also participated in the eighth grade exchange when he came to Collegiate for a month two years ago. To Pierre, the most surprising differences between Collegiate and Saint Denis concern technology and sports. He has noticed the constant use of technology in the classroom at Collegiate, compared to the rare use of these devices at Saint Denis. Pierre adds, “at the beginning it was hard to use my phone” during the school day, as it’s not allowed at his school. He also appreciates the opportunity to play sports with his classmates, something that is not as much of a priority at Saint Denis. He is a member of the lacrosse and swim teams this year. The eighth grade French exchange program has proved to be a meaningful and fun immersion experience for all involved. Sara B. summarized her experience with, “I am so glad I was able to go on the French trip and meet new people. It was an incredible and eye-opening experience.”
Photos courtesy of Leah Kaplan.