French exchange students discover US culture


Credit: Courtesy of Sara Langelier

WHS students with their exchange students. 20 students from France arrived in the US last week as part of the exchange program. “[The experience] was very good. There are a lot of things that you have in America that we don’t have in France. It’s very different,” French exchange student Maxime Giraud said.

Kevin Wang, Kyle Chen, and Christos Belibasakis

Students from France arrived at WHS as part of the French exchange student program from Oct. 18 to Oct. 24. The one-week program brought 20 students over to the United States. The exchange marked the completion of the program after WHS students traveled to France last spring and stayed with their respective guests.

The actual exchange was the final result of teachers’ and students’ extensive planning.

“At the end of [my] sophomore year, the French teachers [started] advertising a trip to France,” said senior Ella LaClaire, one of the students who participated in the program. “Leading up to the trip, we had a couple of meetings just to prepare ourselves. We had to write a letter describing ourselves, and they matched us to French exchange students. [The students] also wrote us letters. [Last spring,] we took a flight [to France] and met them for the first time.”

According to LaClaire, there wasn’t much organization leading up to the French students’ arrival. As a result, much of the planning fell upon the host students.

“It wasn’t really coordinated what we were supposed to do with them, but the first day they were here, they arrived in the afternoon,” LaClaire said. “The American students coordinated, and most of us went out to dinner.”

While the French students were in Wayland, they participated in many different activities with their host students, including going to school during the week and taking multiple trips to Boston.

“The [day after the French students’ arrival], they shadowed us in school and followed us around to our different classes,” LaClaire said. “They also stayed in French classes so they could talk with other people from other classes.  [After school], we all drove into Boston, and we walked around Newbury Street. On Thursday, we did a tour of Harvard and we walked around the Harvard Art Museum, and on Friday, the French students went into Boston. We also tried to show them around different places in Wayland [throughout the week].”

Much of the French students’ experiences in the United States were educational. However, individual hosts also brought their students to other places and events, such as the Boston Celtics game against the Orlando Magic on Oct. 22, in order to give their students a taste of American culture.

“We went to Boston many times,” French exchange student Andrei Sbircea said. “We visited the Prudential Tower, the Boston Library and we also went to some malls. We also went whale watching on a boat. It was impressive.”

While the French students learned a lot about America through their visit, their hosts also learned a lot about French culture.

“We learned so much about France, even the little things, just so many cultural quirks that even the language teachers don’t get exposure to every day,” LaClaire said. “You can ask [the French students] anything about France, and if you try to do the research online, you won’t get the same responses. They [also] helped us update our French a little bit.”

Overall, the week-long exchange seemed to be a satisfying conclusion for the program, with lasting takeaways for both the French students and their WHS hosts.

“[The experience] was very good,” French exchange student Maxime Giraud said. “There are a lot of things that you have in America that we don’t have in France. It’s very different.”