Monthly Archives: January 2019

Saturday Vibes!

All the students are enjoying free time with their host families this weekend! What an amazing opportunity to explore Rennes, its culture, and the surrounding areas with such wonderful local guides! Here are a few of their activities:

Zoe: This weekend I am going with my host family to St. Malo just north of Rennes. My host family has a house there and we will be staying Saturday night and returning to Rennes Sunday night. St. Malo is a town right by the sea bordered by granite walls which used to hold a kind of rest stop for pirates. For dinner tonight we had raclette, which is delicious melted cheese over boiled potatoes with charcuterie. It’s a little like fondue but much better. Tomorrow we are celebrating my host sister’s birthday by eating galettes and going to the beach and doing a bit of shopping.

Zoe and Juliette at the Saturday market — Place des Lices

en mangeant la raclette!

Susan: The first day of the weekend was great! I went to tennis practice with my host sister and then I went to a supermarket to get gardening tools with her parents. I met more of her friends at the tennis practice today. When we got home, we started to watch a French movie together. I’m looking forward to going to the beach tomorrow with them!!

Susan and her host sister!

le café: Chérie Chéri à Rennes

Tanya: Today we went to Saint Malo. It was windy and raining yet was still beautiful. We walked around town and stopped for lunch. I ordered a galette, which is a specialty of Brittany. After that we did some shopping, and my host parents bought me this beautiful pair of earrings. After that, we went to visit my host sister’s aunt, uncle, and cousin. Then we came home, watched a movie, and ate dinner.

Saint Malo

Les belles filles au bord de la mer!

la famille!

Saint Malo

Darian: I spent my Saturday with my host family in Rennes. In the morning my host mother and I went to one of France’s largest produce markets. The market was absolutely amazing and I learned that most people in France do not buy their food from super markets. I loved the market because you were able to talk to the people who made the food and you could be sure that the food you were buying was of good quality. One think that especially struck me was that at the stand for eggs that my host mother and I visited, the seller had pictures of his farm and his chickens. This struck me because in the US many companies say they are organic or cage free and then have scandals that they were lying. After the market my host mother and I went to a cafe and I learned that many young people will go to the market and then go to a cafe, converse, drink, smoke, and eat cheese and bread.

Reflections on Rennes

After several days in Rennes, the students have started to note some similarities and differences between life here and life back at MPS.

Tania: Shopping in Rennes is very different from the United States. One of the main differences is tax free. Foreigners are not required to pay taxes on merchandise in the European Union, which means that if you shop for more than €175.00, you can get about 8% of your money back. We have also noticed that there are more local small shops than big chains. The clothes/jewelry etc in these types of stores are local or handmade, and not imported like in many stores in the U.S. There are not a lot of shopping malls in Rennes, and the ones that exist are very small. By talking to many French students, we realized that shopping is a regular activity. Many students go shopping after school with friends.

Laura-Joëlle & Tanya: Compare/Contrast French and American High School

Throughout our time in Rennes, we noticed some differences between Lycée Saint Martin, the high school of our host students, and Porter’s. Here in the table, we highlighted some key distinctions:

Porter’s Lycée Saint Martin
Secular Catholic influence
Students smoke
45-50 minute lunch blocks 2 hour lunch blocks
School ends at 3:20 PM School ends at 6:00 PM
Decorations (posters, etc.) in the classrooms No classroom decorations
Snacking during class is tolerated No eating or drinking during class
Teachers have their own classrooms Teachers don’t have their own classrooms but instead move to different rooms each period
Classes are project- and discussion-based (led by students) Classes are lecture-based (teacher explains concept at board, and students take notes)
Students wear comfortable clothes for school Students dress up for school
Girls carry mainly backpacks for class Most girls use a purse or handbag for their books

Zoe: Besides the fact that French food in general is delicious, it is interesting to experience the different nutrition that the french eat every day. During the meals we have had here at the Lycée and during our homestays, we have seen how French meals are much more balanced than those in America, with lots of vegetables and a healthy source of protein (and of course some bread and cheese). In America, we have much fattier foods sometimes with no vegetables or good source of vitamins and normally way too much protein. French food is much more plentiful in so many ways. For example, one night I had a green salad to start with some olive oil and then beefsteak tomatoes stuffed with turkey sausage and roasted with some parmesan on top. I have loved eating the food here because even in the dining hall we eat very healthy and very delicious food. I can’t wait to try more!


Day 4: Lycée Saint Martin

MPS students attended two English classes this morning with Mme Rhioui. They engaged in discussions with french students about the pros and cons of CCTV’s in both high schools and big cities. They thought of many wonderful ideas and were able to help the French students expand their vocabulary and prepare for their upcoming written exam.

Afterwards, the students had a visit from Mme David, a retired English teacher and longtime friend of the Lycée. We had a very interesting discussion about women in France and women in the US. She told us about her life, including many exchange trips she organized with a group in Minnesota and her work in France.

We are sending out lots of love (picture above from Paris) but now from back in Rennes! The students will have a busy weekend with their host families. Check back soon to see what they are up to and to read some of their reflections from the trip so far.


We had an amazing day in Paris today!! We left Rennes on a 7:30am train and returned at 9:30pm. We had a full day of sights, snacks, some shopping, and fun!! M Février prepared the perfect tour/ plan for us, which took us all over the city! We actually walked over 10 miles!

The students have shared the highlights of their experiences below:

Darian: Paris was absolutely amazing! The city is exquisite and full of culture old and new. My favorite part of the day was either visiting the Eiffel Tower or L’Arc de Triomphe. I loved the Eiffel Tower because since I was young I’ve  wanted to learn French and visit France, especially with friends. I loved the L’Arc de Triomphe because I learned that under the monument are the unknown soldiers from WWI. Every night they light a fire under the monument to never forget the heroes who gave their lives for France.

Joi: Our day trip to Paris was full of beauty and wonder. We walked a total of ten miles all while learning about the city’s history, examining its amazing buildings, and admiring its meaningful traditions. What I enjoyed the most was looking at the details of all of the French architecture. From the very old Cathédrale de Notre-Dame, to the simple yet beautiful apartments facing the Seine River, to the grand and golden Palais de Justice, each building was filled with its own unique story and purpose. I loved how Monsieur Février, when describing where we were, never left out a single detail. Towards the end of the day. I even became able to notice the trends in French architecture through the designs of each building as well as recognize how they changed over time. Even when walking the Champs-Elysées, it often took me a minute to recognize the American stores we visit all the time due to them being built in gorgeous French styles. I would say I probably stopped every couple of minutes to take a picture. Despite the chilly weather, it was wonderful to be able to turn down any corner in the city and see something new and beautiful.
Zoe: Going to Paris was such as incredible experience for me not only because of the obvious beauty but because it was so much more breathtaking than anything in America. I have always wanted to live in New York because I love big cities with lost of history and things to do and Paris has all of that but of a much larger magnitude. The city in general has a charm that cannot be found in the states: the people are fashionable and cosmopolitan, the tourists respectful, and the buildings full of history. Seeing the massive cathedrals, Le Louvre, the Eiffel tour, and other landmarks was such a surreal experience and I am so grateful to have been able to do it all.
Laura Joelle: Here’s a blurb for Paris just explaining what we did:
Today we left for Paris at 7:30 AM (~1.5 hr train ride from Rennes to Paris), went to Sacre Coeur, ate a small meal at a café nearby, went to see the Eiffel Tower, took a boat ride on the Seines, saw Notre Dame, had lunch around 2:00 PM, walked outside the Louvre, saw Monet’s water lillies at the Musée de l’Orangerie, shopped on the Champs Élyssées, and saw the Arc de Triomphe. My favorite part of the trip was facetiming my parents at the Eiffel Tower!
Tania: Today, we went to Paris. We had a very hectic schedule, which would ensure that we would take advantage of our time in the city. I personally love Paris. It is my favorite city in the whole world. I was so happy I had the opportunity to spend some time sightseeing and learning about the city.
Susan: We took a trip to Paris today. Even though it was cold the whole day, Paris still looked stunning in winter. My favorite part of today were Musée de l’Orangerie and the free time we had at Champs-Élysées. The museum is not as big as the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay, but it has a very good collection of French arts. We also had a good time taking some pictures with the group, looking for food and stores, and just enjoying the city. Paris was amazing today!!

Kami: Today was Paris and probably the best day yet. With zoe Joi darian and Laura Joëlle, there was about the same amount of laughter as there was walking.  We didn’t do much shopping but plenty with our eyes. I’m getting really close to the girls and I’m noticing how effortlessly I can speak and hear French. It’s so fun being in a bilingual group. I.t has been a dream for so long to go to Paris, and today I accomplished it. I miss home a bit but being is so wonderful and so beautiful!!

Day 2 at the Lycée

Today, MPS students enjoyed a morning full of immersion classes! Students broke off into groups to observe and participate in a variety of classes at the lycée. They attended math, history, English, and French classes during the first two blocks of the day. During the third block, they all joined together to attend an English literature class. The students had an assignment of writing a Gothic style story, including particular elements and character descriptions. MPS students were able to help them with grammar, vocabulary, and creative ideas! To round out the morning, the group spent some time with M Février preparing for our trip to Paris tomorrow.

Literature class!

Like at MPS, Wednesdays are half days, so the students participated in a variety of activities with each other and their host sisters. Keep reading to learn what our students were up to!

Joi: Today started off by observing some actual classes. Darian and I visited the History of Geography, French, and English. We learned the rules of Lycée Saint- Martin yesterday (no drinking, eating, or using your phone in class), yet I was a bit surprised when I actually saw them being respected. The differences between schools in America and France are small but very impactful on the students’ performance. Since Wednesday’s are half days, my host student and I had lunch at home. Like all of the meals so far, it was delicious. However, my favorite was tonight’s dinner. We ate Galettes and for dessert, Crêpes, and it was very delicious. Galettes are similar to crêpes but unsweetened and with ham, cheese, eggs, tomatoes, onions and mushrooms. They are a specialty of Brittany, the region of France where Rennes is located. My host family (and all of the people of Rennes) that I’ve met so far are very proud of this dish. They truly enjoy sharing their culture with others. My favorite part of the day is after dinner, when my entire host family gathers to watch French tv. Although it is usually a little hard for me to understand, my host parents are happy to explain the jokes, news, and whatever other entertainment is on at the time. They also love to ask me questions comparing my American culture to theirs. It ends up being a very interesting and pretty funny conversation. I feel very welcomed here, and I can’t wait to learn more.

TaniaToday was our first day of classes at Lycée Saint Martin. We divided ourselves into groups of two, and went to different classes. Susan and I started with French class, where students analyzed the play “Romeo and Juliet”. I noticed how the teacher took notes on a word document projected on the board, which students would then copy on their notebooks. The class felt very teacher-led and not student-led like Porter’s. Susan and I then went to Geography class. Finally, the whole France Intermission group met up again at English class, where we helped students write a story based on various gothic novels they had been reading. School on Wednesdays finishes at 12:00 p.m. After school, I had lunch and shopped in town with Susan, Zoe, and our host students. Sales started today, so we had lots of fun!

Zoe: Today I was able to attend three classes at Lycée Saint Martin; Math, English (language), and English Literature. It was very interesting to see the difference between the style of classes as opposed to Miss Porter’s and how the students were mostly independent and the teacher taught them lecture-style. After the classes the IM France group and M. Fevrier discussed our upcoming trip to Paris! We learned which landmarks we would visit as well as the proper etiquette for both the city and the trip over (In France commuters are mostly silent on trains and metros). Since Wednesday is a half day just like Porter’s, we had the rest of the day to spend time with our host students. My host student, Juliette, and I went to lunch with Tania and Susan and afterwards did a bit of shopping. I decided to buy a new sweater and a large scarf because all of the students at the Lycée and other people in Rennes dress very well so I wanted to have a few other nice clothes. Overall our first day of classes was engaging and delightful.

Tanya: Today was our first day of class immersions. I visited 2 English classes and History class. In the first English class the teacher and some of the students asked us questions about ourselves and America the whole time. The second English class we helped people write their papers. Since Wednesday is a half day I am able to now spend the rest of the day with my host sister and her meet her grandma later.


Bonne nuit, la belle Rennes! Et demain, on va à Paris!

Rennes: Day 1

Rennes’ City Hall

Cathedral at Place St Anne

This afternoon, we had a lovely walking tour of Rennes — led by M Février. Our students got to discover different parts of the city, learn about the customary architecture, and take in some of the region’s rich history! It was a bit cloudy but in the 40’s — so a really nice to day be out getting some fresh air.

Enjoy some of our students’ first impressions of the trip below:

TaniaAt first, I was very nervous to meet my host family. France is a different culture with different customs, and I was afraid I would mess something up. I shouldn’t have worried, since my host family has been extremely welcoming since I arrived to France. They have been very courteous, and attentive to my needs, and keep asking if everything is ok.

SusanMy host family has been very welcoming since I arrived at the house. They kept checking on me to make sure that I had everything I need and I am feeling well. They were also very curious about both the American and the Chinese culture. My host sister and I already made plans to hang out and go shopping in Rennes tomorrow. I am very excited for the rest of the time here!!

Laura-JoëlleRennes is very pretty; I especially love how the city is modern but retains visible aspects of its rich history, such the beautiful renovated medieval façades of the buildings in the city center. I was surprised that the population of Rennes is about 220,000, yet the city is so urban, unlike my hometown of Durham, NC with a population of 260,000 and a relatively small urban downtown. In my perspective, the urban feel of the city makes it seem a lot larger and busier. Also, today I had a ham and cheese “galette”–a staple food of Brittany that is like a savory crêpe–for the first time, and it was very delicious! Rennes is a beautiful little city. It has tons of small restaurants and boutiques that I am looking forward to visiting. I am very excited for tomorrow, since I am going shopping with my host sister and some of her friends.

Kami: I love Rennes! It’s so pretty and my host student and her friends are awesome. I have tons of conversation with her and her mother and I can tell that my French is improving. My host sister and her sister play cards and other games. Having crepes for dinner and as a snack is an experience. My host mom is fantastic and the food is even better!

Darian: My first impression of Rennes is that it is a very nice city. I’m experiencing a little bit of culture shock because a lot of things are very very different. For example, when my host student and I took the bus to school this morning it was 8am but it was dark out, all of the stores were closed, and there was not a single adult walking around outside or going to work. Another example would be that Monsieur Février informed us that the French government requires people the renovate the outside of their homes if it looks a little broken down. If the family does not have the money to renovate the French government pays for it and the family is forced to vacate the house. The purpose of that is to retain the old style that tourists come to see in Rennes. It struck me as very inhumane and not empathic to kick people out of their homes if they’re already struggling, money is tight, and they can renovate the outside of their home.

Joi: Today Monsieur Février gave us a walking tour of Rennes. I loved how we could see different time periods within the architecture of the buildings. From the Middle Ages, to the 14th century, to “Le Rennes Modern” (the modern day Rennes), it is clear that this small city is filled with beauty and liveliness around every corner. Everyone at Lycèe Saint- Martin as well as my host family are so welcoming. I was initially nervous about immersing into the French language, but they all have been very understanding and excited to help us improve our skills. I can’t wait for what comes next.

Tanya: Rennes has been great so far. My host sister is really sweet and welcoming. The city is really beautiful and historic. We learned a lot during the guided tour. After the guided tour we waited for our host students to finish school because they each finish at different times. We took the opportunity to go and explore the city ourselves. We went shopping and ate crepes.

Zoe: So far Rennes is one of the most unique and beautiful cities I have visited. The building are grand and the people are very chic. My host family has been telling me all about the city and interesting things I can do while here. I feel very very welcomed by the family and have been able to communicate well with them and develop a good connection even with the language barrier.


MPS takes on Rennes!

Bonjour de Rennes!!

We are up and moving on our first full day! MPS students gathered this morning at 8am for M Février’s introduction to the school and explanation of rules and expectations. This gathering was followed by a croissant breakfast and welcome from the school’s Vice Principal. He explained how pleased Lycée Saint Martin is to receive students from an American school and reminded the girls how lucky they are to have a wonderful opportunity like this one!

M Février took the students on a guided tour of the school. There are three main buildings: a gym, a cafeteria and a chapel. The school was actually founded as an all boys religious school in the 1820s but became co-ed in the 1960s. Today, there are around 1,400 students and 100 teachers here. We had an interesting discussion about the similarities and differences between the two schools. Some of our students think that they prefer MPS, but others expressed interest in trying out the French school system! Tomorrow, they will have their first class immersion day, so they should get a better sense of what a French class looks like.

Everyone gathered in our base room!

Croissant breakfast!

Enjoying les croissants!

Batiment A at the lycée



M Février showing us a French dorm room!

We just finished up lunch at the school cafeteria and are heading out for a walking tour of Rennes!

And wheels are up, the group is off to France!

The group arrived at JFK with plenty of time to buy dinner and to change their USD into Euros before boarding their Air France flight #11 for Paris. Martha reported that everyone is in great spirits, super excited, and that they can’t wait to embark on their adventure in France!

Their flight is due to arrive in Paris tomorrow, January 7th at 10:55am local time, which will be 4:55am EST tomorrow morning. They will have a quick break to stretch their legs before boarding their Air France flight #7676 to Rennes which will arrive at 1:20pm local time, 7:20am EST. I will update this blog tomorrow morning once the group has arrived in Rennes and met their host families.