Bon voyage: WHS French students reflect on their recent trip to France


Credit: Courtesy of Jasmin Alizadeh

WHS French students arrive at Le Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct. “I think [the students] learned a lot about the architecture and the Roman influence in the south of France,” French teacher Sara Langelier said. “We also visited a couple of museums and got to learn about some artists like Chagall and Matisse. I think they also learned about French customs and small cultural differences.”

Selena Liu and Penelope Biddle

After departing from Boston Logan International Airport and arriving in Paris on Wednesday, April 12, Wayland High School French students headed straight to the coast to begin exploring the cities, learning about French culture and practicing their language skills.

In previous years, WHS French students were placed in a home with a French family to have a language immersion experience. However, this year, the WHS French teachers set the trip up as more of a tour around the city, allowing students to visit more destinations and stay in hotels during the nighttime.

“We started in the south of France in Nice, and then we spent three nights there, two nights in Montpellier and two nights in Avignon,” French teacher Sara Langelier said. “Then, we returned to Nice and visited a lot of towns along the way.”

The decision to remove the homestay aspect of the trip was a response to the lingering risks of COVID-19. Langelier, who began planning the trip last year when she was unsure of how bad the pandemic would be, felt that the best way to guarantee that COVID-19 would not impact the trip was to keep the students in one group and able to travel safely around the south of France.

“I didn’t know what the situation with COVID-19 was going to be like, so I was a little nervous to do the family stay,” Langlier said. “This trip was just a tour, but I feel like the students still experienced the cultural exchange piece that I really value.”

The group was composed of three chaperones: Langelier, guidance counselor Jennifer Sullivan and study hall teacher Janet Carmichael. The group also had a tour guide and a bus driver who remained with them the entire trip.

“The guide who was with us was named Christian and he spoke French the entire time even though he could speak also English,” sophomore Isa Fuentes said.

The group also met up with their pen pals, a group of freshmen from a high school in France whom the WHS French students had been corresponding with through email and social media apps before the trip. When they finally met in person, the two groups of students participated in activities to further immerse themselves in their target languages. Sophomore Isa Fuentes’ pen pals are two 15-year-old girls named Paola and Emma.

“I got to meet my pen pals that I’ve been emailing with back and forth,” Fuentes said. “They were really sweet and I got to know them and spent the whole day with them. We made friendship bracelets together and I miss them already.”

While Langelier plans to return to the homestay model for future trips, she believes that the pen pal meet up still gave students a chance to encounter French culture through interacting with other students their age.

“I decided to go to France because it’s such a beautiful country,” junior Jasmin Alizadeh said. “My parents thought it would be a really good experience as well, and I thought it’d be a great opportunity to practice the language with native speakers, since I’ve been learning French since seventh grade.”

Some students were on the hunt for the perfect souvenir to memorialize their trip. From loose leaf tea to soap to fragrances, students looked for something that would allow them to bring a bit of France back home with them. Whether it was just window shopping or finding the perfect gift, weaving through stores that lined the French streets gave students another chance to observe French culture.

“We went to this perfume shop in a town that we visited on our way to Montpellier and it was so beautiful,” Fuentes said. “We got to learn how to make perfumes, and we would also go shopping in the little boutiques in the alleyways. I would see clothes that I would never see in the United States.”

While some students went on the trip to immerse themselves in a new culture, go on a fun trip with their classmates or strengthen their language skills, others believe that the trip allowed them to learn about different aspects of the culture and country that they wouldn’t have otherwise learned inside of the classroom.

“I believe being in a country that speaks a different language other than English is really immersive and allows you to learn a lot about the culture,” Fuentes said. “It’s a common courtesy to speak with]a specific amount of politeness and the way French people naturally behave is so interesting to me. By going on this trip, I feel like I can truly learn how to apply those types of things into my life.”