Team France, Signing Off.

What an experience these past two weeks have been! We cannot even begin to put into words the many wonderful things, people, and moments that shaped our time in Rennes and Paris. We wanted to take a moment to thank a few key people that made this experience possible. Thank you to M. Fevrier, Mme. Thomas, Mme. Bodin, and the entire Lycée staff, a huge thank you to Sophie Paris and Lulu Weathers for their hard work in putting together these unique experiences for all 11th graders, and a giant thank you to the amazing host sisters and families that took each student in and made them feel like family.

Here is a small video showing our gratitude:

Au revoir from Team France 2018!

Student Reflections

As we wrap up our time in France, you will hear from students as they reflect on the four core values: connectedness, leadership, empathy, and self-awareness.


Dani shares:

One of my favorite experiences during my stay at Rennes was being able to connect with my host sister through TV shows that we both liked. Every night after dinner, we would go up to her room to watch TV together and talk about other shows we both had already watched. This was definitely one of the highlights of my home stay because my first night at Rennes we were talking about movies and shows and it made me realize how very similar we are in many different ways.

Mary shares:

During my stay with my host family there were a lot of things that connected to the four core values that our class is focusing on. For example, I felt connected to empathized with my host sister when we were talking and she shared that she is worried about next year when her brother will be living in Chile for the year. She was caught between being happy for her brother and excited that he will get to have this experience, and nervous about being able to talk to him with the time zone difference, and live without him for a year. This is very similar to my own experience with my brothers since we all go/went to boarding school, and my brothers school is on the other side of the continent with a three hour time difference. I was able to use my own experience to try and comfort her and reassure her that even with the time difference she will be able to talk to her brother. Another core value that I saw a lot was self awareness. A lot of the french students we met were very aware of how fast they were talking. They were really good at making sure they slowed down so we could understand and participate in the conversation.

Chloe shares:

The two weeks of school in Rennes is a real immersion to me. I did not feel like a tourist; a traveler is perhaps more accurate to describe my role in this journey. During the break, we enjoyed our time with the students. The best part of being a traveler is the cultural exchange. The students here were very welcoming and it was never a problem finding someone to have lunch with. We would talk about the habits and traditions in our cultures, and a lot of times, we were amazed by how different they were. During classes, I communicated with students and in some ways, I felt as if I was at Porter’s. I would even interact with the teacher and point out a mistake in her class. This trip has been more than a language immersion program; by spending time with the local students and families, I feel like a traveler for the first time and never want to leave.

Jenny shares:

My host family is a bilingual family. Although everyone in the family’s level of English varies, they can all communicate in English just fine. Aliénor, the youngest child of the family, has just started taking Spanish this year, while also having English class everyday. Because Aliénor has just started Spanish, I can tell that the language can be difficult for her at times.

The first time I interacted with Aliénor was when she was explaining how to play some board games to me. She spoke with me and noticed that I didn’t completely registered everything, and so she slowed down and stopped after every two sentences to make sure that I understood her. I think because Aliénor can understand my frustration with learning a third language, she always tried to make sure that we are both were on the same page. To know that there’s someone in the family who also understands my frustration and why I always stumbled when I spoke French made me feel reassured that it was okay to make mistakes, because that’s how we learn.

Selina shares:

When reflecting on the four core values, empathy, leadership, connectedness, and self-awareness, I could see empathy being demonstrated in many of the interactions between my host family and myself. I’m not used to communicating in French and they are not used to speaking in English, so I think we can very well empathize with each other when challenged by the language barrier and have been able to show willingness and put in effort to foster this cross-cultural relationship. As a result, I could see connectedness in the harmony we have come to find as host family and host student, despite the many differences that make us two worlds apart. Self-awareness is evident for me almost constantly during my host stay experience. I’m always very well-aware of how I present myself and also, I’m always reminding myself to take on challenges and step out of my comfort zone. Finally, I think leadership is shown when I initiate conversations that are not as easy to talk about such as stereotypes, controversial topics…etc. Overall, I could see the four core values apply to many moments of my time here in France.

Lilli shares:

Throughout this trip, I have demonstrated all of the four core values and upheld all of hem up until the end. I demonstrated a sense of connectedness by becoming closer with my host sister and her family. In the process I also became closer with other people in my class and learned the importance of staying in the moment and trying to form new relationships with people I meet. Being in a busy city, both Paris in Rennes, I learned to navigate myself around the streets and gained a better sense of direction, especially after getting lost once in Rennes waiting for my host sister to finish class. After having to navigate myself around, I became much more self aware, not only of my location, but also my belongings as Paris is a city with those who could pickpocket me. Finally, I demonstrated the fourth core value, empathy, by understanding the difficulty of having another person living in one’s house. Whenever I saw or felt that my host family was a bit overwhelmed with another person living in their house, I tried to help them as much as I could’ve. I empathized with my host sister when she had many priorities in school but also had to be present with me by not being too much of a burden and being independent when it came to finding my way around Rennes.

Annabel shares:

Staying with Mathilde’s family in rennes was my second experience living with a host family in a foreign country. Due to this, I have to admit that I went in with some expectations. I am pleased to say that my experience living with mathilde and her family was amazing in both similar and different ways from my first time staying with a host family. I felt that despite a language barrier due to my limited french and the family’s limited english, we had to communicate and connect in other ways sometimes. Eating crepes for dinner with mathilde and her mother on my last night in rennes probably wasn’t the most exciting or interesting thing we did, but it was a moment where I felt a connection with a different family and culture. Throughout multiple experiences like this in Rennes, I was able to appreciate these little moments in a new way.

Gabby shares:

I have demonstrated leadership by being alone with friends in the city and figuring our way around. I took initiative with figuring out directions and navigation myself through the busy streets! I made sure that I was on time for everything and I made sure to set a good example to represent our school.

I have demonstrated connectedness by connecting with my host sister and other girls who are at the Lycée. One day we went with Dani, Thais and Simrat for lunch at Thais’ house and then Laser Tag afterwards. It was just us exploring Rennes and I felt as though we all became closer.

I have demonstrated Empathy by understanding how it is to have another person in the house. I had hosted two girls from RDFZ in Beijing and I can understand how it feels to want to make sure that their always happy while also balancing school work. Camille, my host sister, apologized for feeling as though she didn’t spend as much time with me as possible, but I empathized with her by being understanding of her situation!

I have demonstrated Self-Awareness by being careful in a very busy city. I always reminded others to look both ways while crossing the street and reminding those to not forget items in places. Having had my phone stolen while traveling two years back, I have grown very Self-Aware in foreign countries.

 


So many memories made in Rennes.

Student Reflections

As we wrap up our time in France, you will hear from students as they reflect on the four core values: connectedness, leadership, empathy, and self-awareness.


Roanna shares:  

I think that empathy was really exhibited through my interactions with my host family. One of the many examples of this was that when we communicated with each other and I didn’t understand a word that they were trying to say, they would always rephrase the sentence while also slowing down their speed. Moreover, even though they had never hosted a correspondent before, it was clear that they tried their best to empathize with me: I was always able to shower first, they asked me about my day, and cooked many Brittany/Rennes specialties for me to try. I think that it was all of those little things that built on top of each other to make my stay with them so wonderful.

Connectedness was also a core value that played an important role in my stay in Rennes. I was extremely excited to discover the unique culture of Brittany (and how it differed from France), and, to my delight, my host family and Enola (my correspondent) were also eager to learn about the American and Chinese culture as well. A perfect example of this was when they brought me to a ‘Chinese’ restaurant. They had no idea what actual Chinese food was, so they constantly asked me questions like “Do you eat this?” or “ How do you use chopsticks.” At the same time, I also got to understand what French people’s preconceptions about Chinese culture was (i.e. a lot of fried food). I think that give-and-takes like this that we had really helped cross cultural barriers and connect us: I learned way more in my two week stay in Rennes that I could ever learn just by searching on the internet.

For me, self-awareness and leadership went hand-in-hand. Initially, I remember being a little nervous and apprehensive about this trip: I didn’t know if my correspondent would enjoy or want to spend time with a person that couldn’t communicate as well to her as she could to me. As a result, I was prepared to be the quiet introvert that I am. However, I was shocked at how I just threw myself into this experience. Even though at times they did speak too fast for me to understand, I always tried to participate in conversations Enola had with her friends. Moreover, I would always actively participate in the immersion by either eating food that I have never tried before or having conversations with my host father who didn’t speak a word of english. I think that my enthusiasm caused my host family to follow my lead by also interacting with me more and trying harder to make my trip fruitful–which it was. It really shows that you don’t know what you are capable of until you put yourself in a position you have never done before.

Au revoir, Rennes. Bonjour, Paris!

Today we took an early morning TGV from Rennes to Paris. We said goodbye to new friends and a place we had started to call home. There were lots of emotions, and some tears, as we left our new friends and started our next adventure.

 


After our very quick TGV from Rennes to Paris, we arrived in Gare Montparnasse and began the journey to our hotel. We successfully navigated the bus and arrived with our sixteen large and heavy suitcases to our hotel. Success!

Students had a working lunch where they got to go into the local neighborhood and eat in groups but also had to plan their exploration day for Saturday. After lunch, we continued as a group to the Louvre where we got to spend some time seeing just a few of the many wonderful pieces of art that are available there. Our next stop was the Bateaux Mouches where we took a tour on the Seine and got to see the Eiffel tour light up at night- a must see for anyone in Paris!

Excursion to Mont Saint Michel and Cancale

Today, Monsieur Fevrier brought the group to visit an oyster farm in Cancale where students learned about the oyster harvesting processes and got to try oysters at the end of their tour of the facility. Later in the day, the group went to visit Mont Saint-Michel where M. Fevrier gave them a private tour of the Benedictine Abbey. We learned about the abbey’s history and enjoy the beautiful sights. After a long and rainy day, the sun finally broke through the clouds and we got see the beautiful mount as we walked to our shuttle bus back home. Tomorrow they are off to Paris for two days before returning Farmington!

Student Reflections

Each day, students will share some aspect of their time in France. Today, we will hear from Annabel H. and Selina C. as they reflect on their experience so far.


Annabel shares:

Yesterday we were able to take a day trip to Normandy and explore Utah and Omaha beach. It was an incredible and moving experience in many ways. One thing that interested me in particular was the way France and the United States interacted at Omaha beach. Since it is territory that the US leases from France, it was fascinating to see the two cultures and nations mix together. It was subtle things, like english being written before french throughout the memorial. However, it was also more obvious in the lack of french flags at the graveyard. One of our core values resonated with me throughout the day: connectedness. The interactions between the French and Americans evident on both beaches, the museum and the graveyard were a physical symbol of the relationship, but the testimonies of American soldiers and the French people they helped liberate were even more compelling. They detailed accounts from different perspectives, yet both ultimately spoke to how emotion transcends barriers of language of country.


Selina shares:

Today was our last day of going to classes with the French students, it was a bit sad to say goodbye to the friends we’ve gotten close with over the past week. Although we’ve been part of their classes for only four days, everyday we got to meet new people and became friends with them after exchanging stories about our own background. We even made promises to stay in contact and visit each other in the future! This cultural exchange has been really memorable and eye-opening for me!

Student Reflections

Each day, students will share some aspect of their time in France. Today, we will hear from Roanna Z. Lydia G. and Carlyn K. as they reflect on their experience at the Normandy landing beaches.


Carlyn shares:

Today was different than most. We had the opportunity to visit Normandy, the beaches, the D-Day museum, and the cemetery of the Americans who died fighting in France. For some this was a very personal day. We have all studied World War II in school and heard stories from friends and family. But to stand on that ground was a whole new experience. At the cemetery we were literally back on U.S. soil, but there was a figurative meaning to this too. I felt more connected to my country than ever. Watching the flag being lowered today meant so much more.


Roanna shares:

Today was an eye-opening experience for me. While I do remember learning about D-Day and World War II during Western Civ. my freshman year, it was a completely different experience to be at the actual site where the American soldiers landed. I found it really interesting visiting the museum that held some of the actual weaponry used during the war and an hour-by-hour account of the first day soldiers experienced on the beaches, but the most profound moment for me was standing on the cemetery. Even though I am Chinese and not American, I don’t think that the experience was any less moving. I don’t really think that nationality had anything to do with it, it was mainly the fact that tens of thousands of soldiers not that many years older than I am willingly sacrificed themselves for such a selfless cause that made the experience so touching. Standing there, with the rows and rows of gravestones that reached far beyond what I could see, I just don’t think I have any words that can describe the extent of the emotion that I felt. The stark contrast between the white markers and the green, complimented by the pouring rain, created an extremely beautiful but heartbreaking picture.

The American Cemetery


Lydia shares:

Throughout our trip to France, we have been navigating cultural and linguistic barriers in order to learn more about ourselves and others around the world. We remark on our differences and experience life from another perspective. However, at our visit to Normandy today, we were reminded of all the similarities between these two countries and their people. While we read stories of American soldiers sacrificing their lives to liberate others, dying thousands of miles from home for the liberation of people they would never know, we saw French people laying flowers on the tombstones of unidentified soldiers lost in battle. They understood and grieved these losses just as much as Americans did. France suffered greatly in the war; as did Germany, as did Italy, Russia, England, Japan, Poland, everyone. As I realized this, for the first time that day I ignored my soaked feet and forgot my surroundings. I simply, like everyone else who visits this place, stood amongst the fallen, unable to express my thanks.

Photo credit: Lydia G.

Normandy Landing Beaches

Today, we got on a bus at 7:30am with our eyes set on Normandy. It was a dark morning, as they always are, since the sun does not rise until about 8:50am. We drove North trying to make sense of the countryside in the darkness. As the sun began to show we saw ourselves surrounded by beautiful green valleys and farms to our left and to our right. We were about an hour away from our destination, and we were very eager to get there. As we approached the beach, M. Fevrier began telling us about the history of D-Day and the significance of what exactly was accomplished on this day. He shared that everyone in France was touched by the World Wars. Everyone new someone that died in the war. The liberation of France by Allied forces is a part of history that, as M. Fevrier told us, we have an obligation to remember. We’ve all learned about World War II in history class at some point or another. However, being on the landing beaches where history was made is another experience all together.

Utah Beach

We started off the day by going to Utah Beach which is the most western point that the Allies seized on June 6th, 1944. We stopped and went to the Utah Beach Landing Museum where students had the opportunity to explore individually. They learned that this beach was a late addition to Operation Overload by General Eisenhower and was critical to the successful liberation of occupied France. This beach was also the first place where American troops landed. After our time in the museum, we went to see the beach. We spent time there taking it all in and really tried to make sense of exactly what took place on the sand we stood on.

Omaha Beach

After this powerful moment, we headed off to lunch where we continued our conversations and talked about everything on our minds. Our last stop of the day was the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Here we got to truly see and understand the toll that World War II had. More than 10,000 American soldiers are buried here, and their graves are each individually marked. We spent time walking through the cemetery grounds and got to see the infamous Omaha Beach. As our time at the cemetery came to a close, we had the opportunity to see the flag-lowering ceremony at 4:00pm sharp. It was powerful and emotional to watch as we stood in the rain and listened the the trumpet playing in the background.

Needless to say that today’s experience will stay with us forever. There is so much to unpack and to talk about, and we look forward to sharing it with everyone.