During the spring vacation, 17 middle school students from 7th and 8th grade traveled to America to discover a new culture and practice their English skills. During the first two weeks of the trip, they were welcomed at Bement, a small private school in Historic Deerfield, Massachussetts where they lived with host families and participated in the school’s daily life. They were able to discover a new culture…up close! As Louis says: “In the USA, everything is different: the food, the lifestyle, the way people behave, and the teaching methods at school.”
Living with their host families, our students discovered new habits and customs: eating dinner much earlier than in France, tasting “chicken wings” and “marshmallow fluff,” and learning to share and live in close quarters with new people. Some of our students were even introduced to life on a farm! They fed the animals, gathered fresh eggs in the chicken coop in the morning before school…so many new experiences!
Soline was surprised by the different eating habits: “My family introduced me to lobster, which I didn’t like very much. I find that they eat a lot of strange things, like goldfish.” (Goldfish are small fish-shaped crackers most of our students enjoyed very much!)
During the day, our students went to class with their correspondents and fully immersed themselves in the life of the school: participating in lessons, doing homework during study hall, attending assembly, eating at the cafeteria, and playing baseball, softball, lacrosse… Everything about the school day is different for our French students.
“The teachers are very nice and very funny, and we can talk to them and laugh but when it’s time to work, the students are quiet and do their work. It’s a form of respect on the part of the students,” says Basile. Our students are also impressed by the cafeteria, were students help to serve and clean up and have assigned seating: “The cafeteria is what impressed me most during our trip I think. Each table seats ten students from all different grades and one teacher. We have to ask to leave the table if we need to get up, and we help clean up the table by bringing our plates and things to the counter” says Hannah.
On the weekends, our students stay with their host family, visiting local places like Boston or Cape Cod, or meeting up with friends for a movie outing. One weekend, Bement organizes a “Spring Fling” where our students happily participate in all sorts of fun games and win prizes.
After these two weeks, our students bid a tearful goodbye to their new friends and left to spend four days exploring New York City. Lodged at a hotel near Times Square, our students discovered New York pizza, skyscrapers and the sounds and sights of a city that never sleeps. It was a full schedule: we walked through Central Park, visited the Museum of Natural History, took a boat ride around the Statue of Liberty, went to the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, and we even saw Spiderman fly in a Broadway musical!
Our students returned to France with stars in their eyes…but also a better understanding of American culture and a new proficiency in English! Next departure date: 2015!