French Exchange Program

By, Katelyn Tsai

Standing outside on a chilly Thursday night, Winsor host families waited eagerly for a white coach bus to arrive. Girls huddled together as they held balloons and bouquets of flowers. When the bus finally rumbled around the street corner, everyone – inside and outside the bus – began to smile. Winsor students squealed and shook welcome posters excitedly. After months of email correspondence, the French exchange students were finally here.

DSC00730_group picture farewell Winsor

In April, seventeen girls from Collège Privé du Sacré Coeur, a French school in Aix-en-Provence, stayed with their American “sisters” from Winsor for twelve days. During the week, they had a tour of the school, shadowed classes, attended extracurricular activities such as salsa dancing, laser cutting and African drumming, and took field trips to popular tourist attractions like the Peabody Essex Museum, the New England Aquarium and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Upon arriving, the girls from Sacré Coeur observed many differences between the U.S. and France. One girl noted, “In France, we don’t have assemblies at school, and there are many students in classes. We have thirty students per class.” Most girls were impressed with the newness of the Lubin-O’Donnell Center (LOC) and with how large Winsor is in general. One girl recounted that when she and another girl saw the tall buildings in Boston, they gasped at their size. Another girl exclaimed that Winsor is “more beautiful” than her school. Additionally, she explained that Sacré Coeur does not have sports teams. Interestingly, the teachers at Sacré Coeur are “stricter” and don’t allow students to laugh or use laptops, phones, or iPads during class. Through their comments about our schools, the girls from Sacré Coeur shared their impressions of Winsor that we either do not notice or do not appreciate on a daily basis.

Despite their jet lag, the girls from Sacré Coeur pushed themselves to experience American culture to the fullest. With their host sisters, they hunted for candy at the French exchange welcome party, watched movies in local theaters, shopped at nearby malls, went on Duck Tours and attended the dance marathon at Belmont Hill. And throughout the trip, they took notes on American music, food, television, and other aspects of American life. After leaving Boston, the girls from Sacré Coeur visited New York City for five days.

The Winsor girls will visit their host sisters and their families in France shortly after school ends. From June 10-21, they will attend French classes and go on field trips in towns in Provence. Then, they will take the TGV, a high-speed train, to Paris, where they will spend three days sightseeing. Some interesting excursions will be to the mental hospital that Van Gogh attended in Arles, an amphitheater in Nîmes, and the Eiffel Tower, the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Louvre Museum in Paris. The Winsor girls are just as nervous and excited about being immersed in a different school and family life and about using their language skills as the girls from Sacré Coeur were before they arrived. Lydia B. ’19 exclaimed, “I’m really excited to reconnect with my exchange student, to meet her family, and to improve my French.” She added, smiling, “Also, to eat some croissants.” Fiona D. ’19 declared, “After having my exchange sister with me, I know that so many things that we do here are very different than what they do every day in France. I know that France is such a beautiful country and I’m really excited to experience the culture there and see everything that we will go see!” Everyone – both the girls from Winsor and Sacré Coeur– is ecstatic to be reunited this summer after having had such an incredible twelve days together in April.