Cultural differences can interfere with social interactions between two individuals, but the French Summer Exchange Program is a way to break that barrier. According to Mrs. Cummings, the WPHS French teacher, “If you are adventurous, like to travel and try new things, well guess what? Those kids coming from France are the same way. That’s usually why the kids get along so well.” The program consists of a 3 week period, on average, where students from Woodland Park High School can match with a sister school in France and stay with a student of that school. The student can then do one of two things: host and travel in the same summer, which would be a total of about 6 weeks, or split the trip over two summers and do each individually. This once in a lifetime opportunity has been in the running for 8 years, with about 7-10 students exchanging each summer. Although the French have just departed for the school year, that time of the year is coming up where seeds begin to be planted regarding this trip. Before jumping out of your seat and rushing to an informational meeting, here are some words of wisdom from the experts on the subject.
The first subject matter we asked Patrice Schierle, a sophomore who hosted during the summer of 2018, to comment on, was how Patrice’s bond grew with her French partner from first reaching out on social media, to spending part of her summer vacation with her. “When I first started talking to Julie, it was really awkward because we didn’t know what to talk about, but we got closer through social media. When Julie came to America, it felt like we had been friends for years. As she left to go back to France, I felt like I was saying goodbye to my sister.” Not only will this arrangement leave you with a lifelong knowledge of World language, but relationships that were once out of the question.
Fortunately for Woodland Park High School students, the current school that we’re paired up with in France is only a short distance away from attractions in different regions. We asked Mrs. Cummings if students often journey into surrounding areas of France while there and her response was this: “Absolutely, I don’t know of any student that hasn’t gone to Switzerland while they’re in France. We’ve also had kids go to Germany, because that’s about a two and a half hour drive.” In most all situations, host families will be more than happy to cover costs for hotel rooms, entry fees, and food expenses, so that’s one less worry on the list of the traveler.
For all of you wondering what level of French you have to be enrolled in to embark on this experience, ponder no more. Any student varying from French one to four can choose to further their language and “study abroad” if you will. For French four students, it’s a great end to your high school career and solidifies your knowledge of French language and culture. For French beginners, it sets a base and first-hand experience to grow off of in future years.
All in all, if travel and adventure speak to you, and you’re enrolled in French through WPHS, you’ve found what you’ve been looking for. The Summer program has been very successful and has even given students the opportunity to exchange multiple times, so take that as a sign to jump the gun and start inquiring about this connection to France.