During the summer, twelve students from the San Lorenzo Valley French class had the opportunity to go to France and stay with a family. During the last two weeks, 21 students from a French school in Paris, France stayed with students from SLV as apart of a foreign exchange program. During their trip they experienced what it’s like to live in such a beautiful place. They visited places such as San Francisco, the gorgeous beaches of Santa Cruz and colleges such as Stanford and Berkeley.
This exchange program started about ten years ago by Dennis Cavaille who was teaching French at the time. The program was then taken over by our current French teacher, Madame Sylvie Bezine who was the planner
of this years exchange. She met the French students’ teacher through a friend that lives in Paris and corresponded with her to make the whole thing possible. In an interview, Madame Bezine she said, “I wanted to give students the chance to practice their French while also becoming more familiar with French Culture. It really helps students learn the language better- seeing it in use.”
As far as cultures go, French and English differ greatly. We interviewed some of the French students (their English is impeccable) about their country; more specifically, their countries schools. “The school here is much bigger with a lot more sports. We don’t have a swimming pool at our school, we only have a gym.” One student, Camille Coutin points out. “There are also a lot more classes offered. We don’t have art or ceramics classes.” She adds. Another student, Gautier Lauby says, “French schools are more strict than in SLV. No talking, no phone, no iPod or mp3, no standing up at any time in class. We just have to work, listen, and answer when the professor ask you something.”
Aside from these differences, French students also must prepare for an exam at the end of their studies. This exam determines if they’re college ready and is on everything that they’ve learned throughout their high school experience. It takes place over the course of a few days and requires rigorous studying.
Another thing that makes our school different from the schools in France is our homecoming game and dance, which the French exchange students were lucky enough to attend. Football teams are very rare in France, which made the game that much more special. “I found it really cool!” one student, Gregoire Gambino says enthusiastically. Another student, Charlotte Jeannenot, adds, “The football game was interesting to watch because I had never seen one before. And the dance was pretty cool, I’ve always wanted to go to an American dance!”
Apart from our school, they visited many other beautiful spots in Santa Cruz County. “Santa Cruz is a really cute city. You’re next to the beach, which is awesome! And if you are lucky you can see dolphins and whales! It’s so wonderful! You can also do many sports like surfing, paddle boarding, rowing, or kayaking. I find that really cool and very different.” Gautier stated when we asked him what he thought of his trip so far. Charlotte then said, “Santa Cruz is a very nice city, but very different as Paris. The advantage is that there is the beach and we can go there during the summer which is very cool!”
They only came to school two days, during which they enjoyed meeting SLV students and sitting in on various classes. For most of their stay however, they did a variety of activities and trips such as visiting San Francisco, stand up paddling in Santa Cruz, visiting Berkley and Stanford and exploring different parts of Santa Cruz such as Natural Bridges. After a trip filled with fun, exploration, culture, and friendship, the French students returned to Paris on October 27th.
-Celia Hare and April Martin-Hansen