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French Exchange Students

Students from Ankeny High School and Ankeny Centennial High School enjoyed hosting students from France.  The French exchange students stayed with Ankeny families, spoke to classes, visited the State Capitol, attended an Iowa Cubs game, and immersed themselves in American culture.

A student's perspective of the French exchange experience written by Ankeny Centennial sophomore Morgan Kinch:

This last spring break, a life changing trip took place: The French Exchange of 2017. In total, fourteen Ankeny Centennial and Ankeny High School students participated in this opportunity. I am one of the Ankeny Centennial students who participated in this ten day exchange. Words cannot explain how fun, memorable, and life changing this opportunity was. I made new friends, learned how to live in another culture, and expanded my knowledge of the French language.

The first exchange was for us to go live with our host families in Bordeaux, France for six days. Our exchange school was with Sainte-Marie Grand Lebrun in Bordeaux. Bordeaux is in the southwestern France, and is known for its wine, arts, and historical monuments. During our time there, we did field trips while our correspondents were at school. One of our first trips was to Bassin Arcachon, which is around forty-five minutes away from Bordeaux. Bassin Arcachon is by the southwest coast of France. Here they are known for their oyster farms and the sand dune. Another place we visited was St. Emilion. St. Emilion is known for its wine because it is surrounded by vineyards. Finally, the last group field trip we took was a scavenger hunt around Bordeaux. This was amazing because we got to see a lot of the city, and its famous monuments. All of the places we visited had an intriguing history that made it unique compared to other historical places.
Forthwith, when I was with my host family, we did many things over the weekend. On Friday, my host Hortense Martin took me with the group to a restaurant. Afterwards we went into the city center where they had amusement rides set up. This event, fête foraine, is like our Summer Fest, but theirs is set up for a couple of months. Towards the end of the night, we went walking around Bordeaux, which was beautiful at night. Next, on Saturday we went to Hortenses’ sister's confirmation at their school. Since the school is Catholic, her sister’s whole class was being confirmed. In light of that, they celebrated by having lunch with her whole family. This was an astounding event to experience because I got to see how they run things at church, the foods they have to celebrate this event, and meet her family. During my time there her family was marvelous because they treated me so kindly. In addition to what we did Saturday, that night Hortense took me to a dance with her classmates. However, because at their school it is a place to work, they do not have clubs, dances, or sports. As a result, the parents put together a dance so their kids can have fun. It was very interesting to see how their dances differed from our dances in the United States. On Sunday, we went to the city’s market to pick up food for the next couple of days. It was very different from American stores because the food is fresher and there are smaller quantities. Afterwards, we hung out at Hortense’s’ house and played Wii, board games, and practiced French. Later that evening we went shopping on the longest outdoor shopping street in Europe. The whole city of Bordeaux was breathtaking because of how much there was to do there. It is also breathtaking in the sense that its history is so old and engaging.
One of the final things we did in Bordeaux was go to school with them and give presentations. Going to school with them was captivating because it is so much different than in the United States. For example, when the students are freshman, they choose a career path, like literature. Then during their high school career their classes are geared for literature. The literary classes are two hours long and they have a lot of homework each night. Another big difference at this school was that students do not move to their classes, their teachers do. Likewise, their classmates for their courses do not change; they stay with the same people for the whole day. Unlike in the United States were every class has different students. For the most part, these are some of the big differences I noticed about their school day.
Lastly, on our final four days of the trip we went to Paris. It was hard to leave my host family because they had become my second family. Nonetheless, I was excited for Paris. In Paris we saw all the highlights: the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, the Catacombs, l’Arc de Triomphe, les Champs Elysée, Luxembourg Gardens, Versailles, Sacré Coeur, the opera house, Notre Dame, a boat tour of the Seine, and many others. In addition, during our stay we ate at restaurants with authentic French cuisine. My favorite meal we had was in the Eiffel Tower. It was our final night in Paris and we celebrated by eating on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. The meal was wonderful and the view was captivating.
All in all, the exchange trip to Bordeaux and Paris was worth every penny. This was life changing to me because I understand their customs and how they live. I got to learn about their culture different from my own. Not only was it fun, it was educational. During my stay, her family helped me with my French accent. My host mom told me by the end I almost sounded like a native French speaker, but then again she could have been trying to be encouraging. I also learned slang words, and words I did not know. For the rest of my life I will remember the memories I made in both cities, but I will cherish the ones I made in Bordeaux better. It is where I made new friends and gained a family.
A couple months later, however, we got to see them all again. From April 26 to May 3 we got to see our friends again. During this time our correspondents from Bordeaux came to live with us in the United States. However, the start of their trip was rough. In Paris, there was a two hour delay, which caused them to miss their flight from Detroit to Des Moines. This set them back one day. Then, we come to find out, the group of twenty-two had to be split up: thirteen in one flight and nine in another other. So, instead of coming Wednesday night, they all came Thursday evening. This did cause them to miss our school visit we had planned, yet, during their time here they did many things.
One of the first things we did was tour the school. All of them were amazed at how large, and clean, and nice our school was. Hortense, my correspondent, said, “Your school is so big it could be a train station!” Her comment made us all laugh because we are so used to our school we do not even realize how big it is compared to other schools. In addition, another thing the French kids noticed was the yellow school buses. They had only seen them in American movies, so when they saw them in real life they were excited. They took many pictures of it. All of the French students noticed different things about our city, and the United States: how the houses were huge, the streets wider, the stores bigger, the space between buildings, driving at sixteen, and much more. It was cool to see how our normal way of life was so different from theirs.
During their stay here, we, the Americans, planned many group activities to do. For instance, on Friday during the day we went to the Papa John’s Sculpture Park and the Valley West mall because the weather was bad. Later that night we went to an Iowa Cubs game together. Then on Saturday we went to Jordan Creek to shop and later that night threw a birthday party for Rachel, a French exchange student. Then Sunday we had a potluck with all the families. Finally, on Tuesday, their last day, we went to the Iowa State Capitol and to the Jordan House. Everyone loved this field trip because the weather was nice. Then later that day we went Hawkeye park as a group to hang out. That same day we went to dinner, Saylorville, and to a bonfire that night. These group activities not only helped us become closer with our correspondents, but with everyone else.
At the same rate, I did many things with Hortense. On Saturday I took her to tour Iowa State University and my mom’s old sorority. Then we went to Hickory Park to eat. When we got back to Ankeny, I took her to Mills Fleet Farm, Target, and Kohls. Hortense thought it was amazing how much stuff was in one store. Furthermore, that Sunday I took her to Des Moines to Ray Gun, Zombie Burger, The High Life, a painted mural, bowling at Bass Pro, and Albaugh’s neighborhood in Ankeny. Hortense thought everything we did was fascinating because it is so different from her life.
Overall, their stay here was amazing because we saw so much in such little time. It was cool to see their reactions to how we live, and the cultural differences we have. I wished there was more time with them because there is so much more to show them. If I had the chance to do this exchange again, I would do it in a heartbeat. At first, I was worried about my French language skills, but when I went over there I learned so much. I expanded my knowledge and communicated well with the knowledge I had. Not only was it fun over there, it was equally as fun here. As stated before, this trip helped me make new friends with people who live so far away. It also gave me a second home four thousand four hundred and six miles away from home.