CHS welcomes foreign exchange students from France


Photo Courtesy of Maria Shapiro

Foreign exchange students enjoy a day in the city.

By Sara Heimlich, Public Relations Manager

From Nov. 4 through Nov. 14, CHS students enrolled in French classes have the opportunity to get involved in an exchange program and host students from Lycée Célonie (Célonie High School) in Aix-en-Provence, France.

“The purpose of the exchange is to experience cultural similarities and differences first hand, to improve students’ spoken French, and to have the opportunity to establish an international friendship,” said CHS French teacher Lois Laclef, who organized the program.

Students were eligible to participate if they were enrolled in an upper level French class at CHS.

The French exchange students shadow their assigned CHS student for two school days. For the other days, they toured DC and learned about American culture.

“It was very hard keeping them all together on the subway,” said sophomore Maria Shapiro, who organized a group of seven of the French students to take to New York City. “I was glad I did it because [traveling to NYC] is something that’s easy for us but we won’t get to see it every day.”

French exchange student Eddie Armand was among the seven, although he had been to New York in the past.

“Times Square has been the most exciting because it’s beautiful,” Armand said. “I was not nervous [to come to America]. My level of English has [gotten] better.”

CHS students were surprised by their similarities to their French counterparts. They found that the teenagers in Europe had experiences much like their own.

“It surprised me that the French kids, or at least my girl, is a lot like me,” said senior Camila Crema, who is hosting a student. “There are not as many differences as I expected.”

Sophomore Diego Mora agrees. Mora, to give his student a prime American experience, took him to the mall. The French student was impressed by the mall’s large food court and the fact that it had “real” restaurants instead of just fast food.

“The kids, other than speaking another language, are really very similar to any American kids you would find at Churchill,” said Mora, who’s also hosting a student. “Sometimes it might be hard to see with the language barrier, but they have the same senses of humor and views on things, and they like to have fun and party and go out. They do things just like a lot of us do.”

The program has proved to be both a challenge and eye-opening experience for students. Students got an alternative point of view of America through the eyes of their exchange student.

“There is a language barrier if she doesn’t understand something in English and I don’t know how to say it in French,” Crema said. “However, it improved my French and I got an outsider’s view of America and Americans.”

As it aimed to be, the exchange program has been a learning experience. Being immersed into a language can improve the skills of the speaker.

“I’ve been learning a lot and through interacting with my kid, speaking the language has actually become noticeably easier,” Mora said.

Depending on the subject, teachers could choose whether or not to include the French students in their classes. For example, history classes could more easily include French students in the lesson while math classes could have a tougher time.

CHS students involved in the program will then take a week-long trip to France in March, and stay with the families of the students who stayed with them.

“Enjoying meals with a French family, challenging oneself to communicate in French with native speakers, and experiencing life in a French high school first hand, these are the experiences that will become memories that last a lifetime,” Laclef said.

Laclef got the idea for the program from another teacher who implemented a similar program at another school in MCPS.

The exchange students came to CHS’ football game last Friday. Many noticed their star-spangled patriotism as they stood up and shushed each other during the national anthem and cheered for the team throughout the game, even representing CHS with their t-shirts.

“They didn’t even know what was happening but I swear the French kids were the loudest ones at the game,” said Shapiro.