Many students dream of traveling abroad, but for the French students of Bethel High School, that dream is becoming a reality as they make preparations for the upcoming French exchange program. Alisa Trachtenberg, world language teacher at BHS, is organizing a trip to France and hosting program, in which both Bethel High Students and twenty-eight students from St. Affrique, France will experience the cultures, language, and lifestyle of a new country.
From May 1 to May 12, the French exchange students will experience the American teenage way of life, when they shadow students of BHS, live with their host families, and go on to experience the sights that New England has to offer. Students will get to interact with other members of the high school, and participate in afterschool activities as any other teen would.
While this seems uneventful, some of the amenities that are taken for granted in the United States are found to be unusual in the eyes of a French teen. Ms. Trachtenberg states that, “it’s the little things,” that students find to be the most exciting when experiencing the American culture, such as a trip to Stew Leonard’s, where the idea of free samples seems remarkable. In exchange, Bethel High students will travel to France next November for two weeks to live with similar host families.
Ms. Trachtenberg explains that, “The trip has been officially approved by the Board of Education so if we have enough people who sign up, then we will be going.” She further clarifies that this trip is a great opportunity because students will have to communicate in French. “If you go on a typical trip that’s exclusive tourism, your interaction with locals is very limited.” Trachtenberg says with this trip, “you’re going to have a daily obligation to communicate.”
The trip will consist of shadowing students of St. Affrique High School, and many half-day and full-day excursions around France, ending with a four day stay in Paris. Infamous sights such as the famous Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, and so much more will be viewed through the eyes of Bethel students.
While hosting and going abroad can be a fun and exciting idea, there are still a few things one should know before agreeing to such a large commitment. “For hosting, the kids who come may be nervous. It could be their first time away from home, and they could be scared. It’s a lot more tiring speaking a language that is not their own, which is why it’s important to be patient with someone,” Trachtenberg advises.
Furthermore, the same rules apply when one goes abroad. Trachtenberg states it is important to be courteous in another person’s home, and to, “be resourceful and to use what one already knows in new ways.”
Overall, Ms. Trachtenberg says that one of the biggest goals of the entire experience is to learn about, “other cultures, similarities and differences between lifestyles, cultures, products, practices and perspectives. Some may even make lifetime relationships.” She sums the entire trip to be, “an unforgettable experience that will stay with them for a lifetime.”
If you are interesting in hosting a French exchange student this May, please contact Alisa Tractenberg by e-mail at [email protected] as soon as possible. There will be an informational meeting in March.