The chance of traversing the Pacific Ocean and traveling to a new country to experience a different culture with a group of friends is nothing but a dream for most. Recently, a group of students came from a school named Briacé in Nantes, France to the United States where they stayed in American homes and attended American school for two weeks. Bonita Vista welcomes French exchange students annually during winter while Briacé welcomes American exchange students during fall “to discover and explore the connections between [American] culture and the French culture,” according to Madame Dillingham, Bonita Vista’s AP French teacher who organizes the exchange.
When they first arrived in the United States, exchange student Clemence Menard noticed that “the roads were bigger and there were more stop lights” as compared to the roundabouts and small roads that occupied France. The French exchange students received a warm welcome from their hosts. “They were extremely hospitable and even said ‘hello’ in a nice way. They were brilliant,” stated exchange student Elyse Bruant.
The two weeks they spent in San Diego culturally shocked the exchange students. Affectionately called “Frenchies” by their hosts, the exchange students found the fact that American students go to different classrooms for each period unusual because they stayed in the same classrooms throughout the whole day in Briacé. Menard observed that “the classes are cool and zen” compared to her classes in France because American students were allowed to eat, talk, and move around during class time. In addition, taking seven classes was a breeze compared to the 13 classes that French students take in their school. Only 700 students attended Briacé so it was truly odd for the Frenchies to attend Bonita Vista that has over 2,000 students enrolled in the campus.
Apart from experiencing the schooling in the United States, the Frenchies also partook in various “American” activities in San Diego and Los Angeles because one of the exchange program’s main purposes is for “both French and American students to experience the products, practices, and perspectives of the French and American cultures.” Sea World, San Diego Zoo, Santa Monica Pier, UCLA, and Hollywood are some of the places that the Frenchies ventured along to with their hosts. Although a rare storm caused peril for the L.A. trip, the exchange students were still able to enjoy their time walking through the Walk of Fame and looking at the beautiful sights. “We watched a lot of American films in France and Los Angeles was not as extravagant as I imagined because of the films,” stated Menard. The Frenchies also went laser tagging and ate at various restaurants that were unique to America. On her last day in the U.S. Menard’s correspondent, Kianna Brevig, even gave her a tour of Wal-Mart where she bought assorted types of chocolates for her family and friends in France.
Teary goodbyes were exchanged when it was time for the Frenchies to leave the U.S. and they departed with two words directed to everyone that made them feel welcome. “Merci beaucoup!”