Imagine yourself in a different country, with a different language, different friends, a different school, and even different weather patterns. While these differences may seem intimidating to most, some are willing to take a leap of faith to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to a foreign country.
For the first time in five years, Jesuit hosted exchange students from Toulouse, France, a city with a population of nearly half a million people. From February 19th to March 4th this year, a group of French students ranging from ages 15-17 came to stay with their respective Jesuit hosts. Coordinated by Mrs. Richard, Mr. Rich Perry, Ms. Maggard, and other faculty, the French students not only experienced American customs but also experienced service, social justice, and the Jesuit classroom.
Although the French students came to Jesuit for two weeks, the Jesuit host students’ trip to France was cancelled, due to a safety concern regarding the Paris shootings last year. While certainly disappointed at the verdict, Junior Timothy Bedard stated that he thought Diego, his French exchange student, “was a little bit introverted at times, especially in the beginning.” Bedard grew to enjoy spending time with Diego by showing him Dallas and the overall culture. Timothy generally thought the program went well and did not see any major problems. Diego also wrote back to Timothy and thanked him for the experience, stating (this is translated into English) “I really enjoyed the experience of living in America and going to school at Jesuit.”
Junior Jack Matthews, another host student, thought that the program “went smoothly overall” and could be improved by more events that involve the French students as a group. Harrison Ward, likewise a Junior host student, also supported this statement as he “would like the time to be extended so that there could be more opportunities to interact socially.” Harrison also noted that his student really “allowed himself to become immersed, in order to capitalize on this experience, all while enjoying the experience immensely.”
Matthews’ exchange student, Hugo Pretti, along with other French exchange students found some interesting differences between Jesuit and their school. Hugo noted, in a message to Jack, that Jesuit provides “more freedom to the students” and “smaller classrooms for students” than in France. Typically, according to Hugo, class sizes in France range from 25-40 students which can make it hard for both the teacher and students to focus during lectures. In fact, Hugo preferred the small Jesuit classrooms over the French ones as he could “focus better in class” at Jesuit, despite the language barrier.
Overall, the French exchange program went smoothly and provided a worthwhile experience to both hosts and students alike. With the success of the first year of the French exchange program, it is likely for it to return next year and maybe take Jesuit students to France too. With the help of the organizers of this exchange program, such as Mrs. Richard, the exchange program hopefully will never stop as it provides lots of benefits to students both here and in France.