Expanding Understanding in France and Bethel

Victoria Santos, Journalism Student

The fascinating thing about the world is every place is so different. Every culture has its own habits and traveling the world becomes a learning experience. For two weeks in early May, several French exchange students visited Bethel in order to experience American’s distinctive culture.

BHS’s French exchange students came from a little village very far from all the excitement of Paris. Their habits and culture are much different from those we have in the U.S. When asked what Helene Germain thought was different between America and France, she immediately said: “Everything!”

“Our school is very different from the school here.” Helene adds. Helene was one of the nearly 25 French exchange students Bethel families hosted in May. “We have no computers in the classroom, no eating, no drinking, we don’t pledge, we also have no sports in school.”

French students were particularly impressed with the freedom Bethel Students have in the classrooms. In France, students are expected to sit in a classroom, listen to a lecture, copy down notes and leave at the bell. There are also no policemen in school, unlike Bethel High where a school resources officer is always on hand. Like most European countries, there are no school sports; instead, kids go out to different sports clubs to play outside of school grounds, training a couple times a week usually at night.

“The legal driving age in France is eighteen years old, which is also their legal drinking age,” says Helene. “They don’t have permits, so once you are 18, you take the driving test and if you pass you get your license.”

Although the French exchange students loved America, one thing they missed was their French food. “American food is very greasy,” says Helene.

Next year, some Bethel High students will be visiting France to have their own experience of meeting other people and learning French culture. It will be a timing of learning to understand different people in the hopes of becoming more open minded.