Albuquerque-Lanester exchange

Last March, 10 students and 2 teachers from our sister school in Albuquerque – Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico – spent 2 weeks with their correspondents in our school. At the end of their stay, we asked them to write about their experience :

«  Every place you look, there is an opportunity to capture the beautiful scenery of French lands. From nature to buildings, the grounds are impeccably clean and healthy, demonstrating that France is a leader in environmental protection. Although there have been consistently nebulous skies and a generous supply of rain, this is the prettiest country I have ever been to. The endless amount of pictures that can be taken are largely due to the care of the people when it comes to protecting species. It all begins with the unique architecture of the buildings, which I have not seen in any other country. Next, the quantity of lush and flowering green plants is breathtaking. This can be seen everywhere, including the islands. The oceans and beaches, although cold, are sparkling and foamy blue. Thus, the French landscapes and scenery are one of the many parts that contributed to our visit becoming an amazing and unforgettable trip. Certainly, all of the Americans could never have enough of the beauty of French lands, and we would all visit this wonderful place again. Thank you for taking care of your country. It’s just really cool knowing that you’re in a place that has been inhabited for millenia. » Josh and Anna

« A major difference between French and American cultures is that French students have more freedom than we do. At school they are given more opportunities to make their own decisions. In the morning, students can sleep in if they don’t have class, and they can also leave school between classes. After school they can go home or wherever they desire. This gives a unique opportunity to the students of Jean Macé to have a more connected relationship with their friends and families because of the freedom they have. Because of their low homework load, they have more free time than we do. Students are also given the opportunity to go home to their families for lunch, an option which does not exist at Albuquerque Academy. It is also common for students to take the bus to various cities without worry. We would love to have these privileges ! » Skylar and Libby

« Food is definitely one of the best parts of visiting France. Every single bakery we have been to has a huge selection of pastries and bread, and they all look delicious. (But I do miss American food, especially spicy foods). Bread is a major part of meals here. It is not a meal if you don’t « break bread » with someone. A difference between France and America is that Americans snack frequently between less important or unofficial meals, while the French do not snack as much and have much more formal meals. Dinner is always in multiple courses, which makes the food seem much more important and allows you to take the time to talk to the people around the table. » Ryan and Taylor

« During our time in France we have met many amazing people. To begin with, our correspondants have shown us nothing but love and familial acceptance. These students have helped us develop our French language ability and adapt to the French daily culture. The correspondants have shown us open arms to their homes and families as well as their daily routines.The people of France carry a great consideration for the wellbeing of others. For example, when a car sees that you need to cross the street, they will stop immediately. Also, when someone sees that the French to English language barrier is present, they will take their time to be slow and considerate with their words. Even students who didn’t have to build a relationship with us chose to do so. In class, they have shared knowledge and materials, and outside of school, they have accepted us into their friend groups. They let us eat with them, hang out with them, and play games and sports. » Conor and Kassidy

« In the following paper, we will discuss the cultural dissimilarities that take place in the bathroom. Coming to France with a readiness to use the toilet, I was shocked to see the differences in such an essential appliance. Most notably, the « salle de bains » and the « toilettes » are in two separate rooms. Yes, you heard right : Two. Separate. Rooms.As Americans, we find this to be inconvenient and a disservice to the citizens of France. Let me paint a picture for you : You are in America. You have just used the toilet and you want to take a shower, and conveniently, your pants are already at your ankles. Congratulations ! You can now easily finish undressing and hop in the shower, without even having to go to a separate room. To you, this may seem like a fantasy, a utopia, but for us Americans, it is a reality.Now of course, this would not be a well-rounded discussion if we did not mention toilet paper. The most apparent difference of French toilet paper is its color. While Americans stick to classic, crisp white toilet paper, the French are a bit more creative in this domain, sporting rolls with stylish pink and green colors. Americans also enjoy a more lush, multi-ply paper when they use the restroom. » Imaan and Emily

« As a teacher, I see Lycée Jean Macé a little differently than our students do. I stay with the families of some of the teachers and attend their classes as well. During this exchange, I have visited classes with M. Allain, Mme Calvar, M. Diler, Mme LeFaouder, M. LeBozec, Mme Samson and M. Chandavoine.Some of the differences I see here include the size of the classes (they are much bigger here than in our school), the way teachers teach their subjects, and relations between teachers and students. Big classes mean that students receive individual attention only if they speak out ; shy kids (or those who haven’t done their homework) can easily be lost. Because our classes are smaller – about 16-18 students – we have more opportunity to interact, which might be good or bad, depending on your point of view. While individual teachers do things differently, it seems that kids in France do much less group work than they do in the US, where classrooms can be very noisy when students are discussing or debating. Students here also take a lot of tests, which happens often in American public schools, but not at our high school (which is private). American pupils, in contrast, write more papers in their English and history classes. By the time our students are in high school, they are expected to analyze longer and more complex texts, much like students here do in their French and philosophy classes. All the visiting American teens have said they are amazed by the length of some of the classes here. Two hours is a very long time ! But on the other hand, they say that their French correspondants have less homework than is common in the US, so they are able to relax and spend time with their families on weeknights. Finally, the ways teachers and students interact is much more formal and limited in France than it is in America. In my classes in Albuquerque, my students often hear stories about my own life, and if I notice a student looks sad or upset, I will take her aside and ask how things are going. Here, by contrast, teachers are more reserved, and students have more privacy. » Mrs Bethe

Thanks !

JF Allain (texte et photo)

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