At 4 p.m. on the 29th of April, the 20 French exchange students visiting the United States (and Warde) said goodbye to their host families and headed back home to Nîmes, France. There were tears, there were photo-ops and definitely lots of umbrellas. Let’s rewind a bit to look at the 10 days both the hosts and students shared with one another, and the program that brought them to this final day.
“The French exchange program with the Lycee Albert-Camus high school is about 41 years old,” said Madame Mairech, teacher at Fairfield Warde and the organizer of the program. “It’s a great opportunity to expand on what you learn in [French] class but also build a relationship with someone from overseas and learn from each other’s culture.”
The French students spent 10 days floating around the tri-state area with day-trips that included multiple excursions into New York where they visited the Statue of Liberty, the Whitney Museum, as well as the Broadway musical: ‘Some Like it Hot’.
More local destinations consisted of Yale University’s campus, a meeting with Fairfield’s selectwoman Brenda Kupchick and a visit to the Fairfield Police and Fire Stations.
The students even had a mock graduation in the Warde lecture room in keeping with American customs. The ceremony included both a short speech by Warde Principal, Mr. Cavanna and an intermission for High School Musical’s own classic song, ‘We’re All In This Together’.
“In France after we finish high school, that’s it. But having an American ceremony like the one in the movies was cool,” India Irlès, a High School Senior from Nîmes, France, who was a part of the exchange program, said.
Irlés did have one complaint, though:“The hats were not flattering at all.”
“After the graduation [hosting students] went to the beach with some French exchange students. It was my favorite memory from their visit,” said Heather Torney, a Senior at Fairfield Warde and a host student.
While the French students’ schedules during the week were packed, the weekends were the time where Warde host families exposed their French students to their unique American lives.“I liked introducing her [french exchange student] to my friends,” Emma Mulligan, a Sophomore at Fairfield Warde, said.
“I went to a Yankees baseball game, the mall to try on prom dresses, a carnival, and Target,” Irlès said.
When Irlès was asked about her favorite activity there was a clear winner: “Target, I really liked the [shopping] cart escalator.”
The French students spent one full day at Warde to experience the schedule of an American high school student.
Warde hosts took the exchange students to each of their classes, even providing them with the delicacy of cafeteria food.
“In France, the cafeteria is different. It is always the same thing every day but here there are different options like pasta, tacos and salad.” Irlès said.
Sadly, there must be a shortage of crepes in Nîmes.
While most of us can’t wait for the bell to ring at 2:10 every day, the French students had a different perspective.
“Our school gets out at 6 p.m. with another one-hour bus [ride] to get back home, so leaving school when it’s still light outside and you have time to do your homework must be nice,” Irlès said.
In fact, they’re spending a sizable amount of that time at school learning three languages.
“I have Italian, Spanish and English classes,” Irlès said.
These lessons must be paying off, because they spoke English for a majority (pretty much all) of the time with their host families.
“I was really surprised by how well they spoke English, I don’t think I would be able to do the same in French,” Mulligan said.
On the final day, there were bittersweet feelings after the bus pulled out and the French students headed off to JFK.
“When I get home the first thing I’m going to do is get a kiwi and apple smoothie,” Irlès said.
“I took a nap,” Mulligan said.
Even though they all had different ideas of what they would do once the trip commenced, it’s clear that it definitely wasn’t due to any strained relationships.
“I showed her American culture and I learned about hers as well, we really built a friendship,” Mulligan said.
In fact, Warde hosts and their French students have been keeping in touch with one another after the latter has left, continuing to maintain that cross-continental friendship.
If you think that hosting a French student or even going to France to be hosted by one sounds fun, then you’ll have the opportunity to do so in 2 years during the 2024-2025 school year, even if you don’t take French.