By Kaitlin Lee and Christina Vaughn, AHS Student and AHS French Teacher
During an extended spring break in April 2019, 18 Arcadia High juniors and seniors explored the beautiful country of France. Each student lived with a French host family for the first week in the quiet country town of Trévoux. Then, they visited Paris for five days with their teacher chaperones in luxurious apartment-hotel rooms. In France, the students learned extensively about culture, art, language, and history while forming unforgettable memories and inseparable friendships.
Madame Vaughan, a French teacher at AHS since 2005, organizes this immersion exchange trip every year. She connected with the school in Trévoux when she did a Fulbright Teachers Exchange there in 2008-2009. “Year after year, I watch students blossom… transform into independent confident young adults after participating in this life-changing opportunity. While some parents and students are hesitant to make this courageous step outside their comfort zone of the safety of what is ‘known,’ the benefits far exceed the challenges! Every student who travels (and every parent) will exclaim with enthusiasm that it was the most amazing experience they have had in their young lives.” Madame Vaughan feels very privileged to be able to take her students on this transformational journey that helps prepare students for university and their future!
In Trévoux (about 30 kilometers (17 miles) from Lyon), our students were hosted by French students who had come to visit Arcadia for two weeks in February. Many Trévoux students hosted the same student that had hosted them. During the week, American students shadowed their French hosts in their high school, Lycée du Val-de-Saône, where they had amazing opportunities to learn more French, meet French students, and see how different our school systems are.
“It was intimidating at first because the French students were more outgoing than us here at Arcadia,” stated senior Coco Chen. “When the French students visited us, a few students came up to chat [with us]. It seemed like even the interested American students kept to themselves out of politeness. In France, many students came up to us to greet us and asked us questions. It’s just a different form of hospitality, but overall I was pleasantly surprised by their openness.”
Then, on the weekend, the Americans were able to hang out with their host families, going to places like Lyon or the medieval city of Pérouges. Despite their brief stay, the Americans formed incredible bonds with their French families. They were all sad to leave their new “families” at the end of the week.
Fortunately, Paris proved to be an equally amazing experience. The American “French” students visited: restaurants with delicious French cuisine such as Léon de Bruxelles and Bouillon Chartier; beautiful museums including the Musée Rodin, Musée d´Orsay, and the Louvre; historical mansions of lords and kings dating back to the 16th century; the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris (10 days before the recent fire); and they even climbed up the 669 steps (and a quick elevator ride) to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
“It felt unreal in the moment,” noted senior Tammy Sung. “But after coming back and seeing what happened to Notre Dame, I couldn’t help but be grateful that I was able to see something so beautiful and realize that these things don’t always last forever.”
At the end of the trip, the American students were exhausted, but overwhelmingly happy and satisfied, and many pleaded to stay longer and “lose their passports.” All agreed that their ability to speak and comprehend French improved greatly, as did their friendships with fellow travelers and their appreciation for culture and art.
All in all, the trip to France was an outstanding success. Now, the American students have returned safely to Arcadia and have quickly caught up with the workload they had missed while in France. Their souls, however, will never truly leave France, and the memories formed there will never be forgotten.