By EMILY FISH & MAGGIE CALCUTT
This February break twenty-four Francophile falcons will be heading to Europe on FLHS’s biennial trip to France.
The cultural exchange trip is divided into two parts. For the first five nights, FLHS students will be staying with the families of French students attending Cours St. Charles, a lycée (similar to American high school, minus the freshman class) in Orléans. Many of the French students who are hosting stayed with FLHS students in past years. Now, these American students will put their four to six years of French education to use and speak the language with their host families.
“I’m scared that I won’t be able to understand anything that’s happening around me, but I’m excited to renew my friendships with the people that I met two years ago,” said junior Anna Keleher.
This fear is common as students prepare for their February excursion, but it is overcome by their excitement and enthusiasm.
“I want to see if I can actually speak French,” said junior Morgan Moore.
FLHS students also ventured to France in 2010.
The FLHS French curriculum may emphasize reading and writing skills more than conversational french, but the connection that students make with their host families is the most important aspect according to Edouard Smith, the FLHS French teacher who organizes the trip.
“It either works or it doesn’t,” said Smith. “It usually does.” Several students in years past formed long-lasting friendships and stayed in contact with their French host students, according to Smith.
Orléans is a 90 minute train ride from Paris. During their stay there, FLHS students will shadow their hosts at school and observe firsthand the differences between American and French education. Many of the French host students are in their senior year, or terminale, and will be preparing for the baccalauréat exam, commonly known as the bac. Though it is a national standardized test, the bac is not quite comparable to the SAT. Passing the bac is a graduation requirement, and students choose one of three forms of the exam to focus on: literature, economics and social studies, or science.
This unique chance to view French education is not the only new part of the trip. The second portion of the trip is spent in Paris, where students will visit renowned sights like the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Champs-Elysées.
“This year we’ve decided to move the Paris visit to the end,” said Smith. In past years, “The students were just too exhausted to appreciate it after traveling.”
The sightseeing this year also includes day trips to Versailles and Chartres, home of the famous Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, which is over 750 years old.
What does it take to coordinate all of this? “A lot of work!” said Smith, who organizes everything but the airfare and day trips, which are taken care of by the tour company. Smith obtains approval from the Board of Education and FLHS administration, matches FLHS students with host families, arranges hotel lodging in Paris, and much more. His efforts certainly will not go unappreciated, as FLHS students are eager to test out their language skills and learn about a different culture.
“I’m excited to meet people who have very different lives than us and see things that I’ve heard a lot about,” said Keleher.