Two Gould students are in France for the rest of the winter term: Lucy Towle ’23 and Emalee Coffin ’21. Their exchange is part of a larger collaboration with two French schools: Lycée Marguerite de Valois in Angoulême and Collège St. Louis in Orange, France. Two French students will also come to Gould in the Spring, and there is a two-week trip planned for June for other interested students.
Gould is also participating in a new program this year that connects several of our classrooms in the World Languages, Humanities, and STEM departments with classrooms at both schools.
I’ve noticed that over time, I have been able to understand and speak more French. I find it hard to understand classes, as everyone talks so fast, but at home and outside of classes I can participate in conversations. The science classes are the easiest for me (aside from English, of course) because scientific terms are very similar to their English translations. Sometimes, I can say an English word in a French accent and people will understand because it’s the same word!
I have so many people helping me out and guiding me at school and at home. I have met a lot of the family, and they always try to speak English when they talk to me, which is super sweet of them. The teachers are very patient with me at school, and the students are so nice. I have made a lot of new friends.
While here, I realized that we don’t really need to speak the same language to bond with other people. We can use other means of communication, through facial expressions, hand gestures, and even dancing. Dancing is how I met a lot of people, in fact! Camille keeps me in her sight at all times, and if she can’t be with me, then I’m with another friend. Everyone is very supportive, and I am so lucky to have this host family and school community!
Coming here, I didn’t realize how much the U.S. impacts other countries. Some people don’t know English, but they know all the words to popular English songs! I learned a song in French, too! Apparently, I don’t have an accent when I sing, but it’s harder for me to speak without one. I brought gum from America to school, and everyone loved it! There were cries of “Oh! Elle a le chewing gum!” and swarms of people waiting for a piece, it was so funny!
The classes also speak a lot about America, which I definitely wasn’t expecting. We study other countries, but we don’t necessarily focus on another country as in-depth as they do. I’m learning things about my own country I have never learned before! It’s so cool to see my home from a different perspective. There are a lot of both good and bad things that I have heard from students. I’ve had a few people bring me a map of the United Kingdom and ask me which part I was from! They seem to get even more excited when I tell them I’m from America.
I have started writing a pamphlet for Camille about Gould and America, because she has never been there. I am so excited for her to meet everyone at Gould; it’s going to be so great! I love making pamphlets, I don’t think one can ever be over-prepared for something. When I brought my roommate, Danielle, home for Thanksgiving, I made a pamphlet about each of my family members and explained everything she should expect! I doubt that she read the whole thing, but I still like to help people prepare. Anyway, Camille’s pamphlet consists of slang words and phrases that are used commonly in the U.S., as well as vocabulary specific to Gould.
Last weekend was very fun! I was sick on Friday, so I stayed home from school. On Saturday, I was feeling better and we left for La Rochelle. It was a two-hour car ride, so we found ways to entertain ourselves along the way. We sang along to songs from musicals, watched movies, and chatted. We arrived at a relative’s house around 14h and ate lunch with some friends. After that, everyone went shopping. We spent a long time admiring the Harry Potter store, as we’d been looking forward to stopping there -— we talked about it a lot in the car! I was surprised by some of the things they sold. There was beautiful jewelry, expensive figurines, and even a replica of Harry’s Quidditch broom that cost €400! I have seen two Harry Potter stores since I arrived in France, and I think it’s so cool that they’re almost common here! Where I live, we have to shop online for those things, but here they are right on the shelves! The stores really are magical places!
After shopping, we got some churros (photo) and then met up at a restaurant. At around 20h, we went to watch a water polo match and eat dinner in the stands. I had never seen a water polo game before, and I was tired just watching the players swim around in the water! During breaks, some men would yell at the refs from their seats and tell them how bad they were at calling fouls. Needless to say, it was always interesting there!
Lastly, we stayed the night at an Aunt and Uncle’s house. They have a daughter, Lila, 8, who is so adorable! She drew me pictures that were covered in glitter glue and said “Welcome, Lucy” on them! They are now displayed on the desk in my room. Lila was so sweet, and I can’t wait to see her and her family again!
We left to go home at around 16h on Sunday. Gabriel and I watched movies the whole way back, and I made him watch some American movies that I really like (Little Evil, Brain on Fire, and Central Intelligence). I quickly learned that Gabe does not like horror movies very much! On Monday, I was exhausted, but happy to be back at school, as I hadn’t been there in three days.
I had never flown without my family before now, and I had never flown internationally. In other words, I was pretty nervous to fly to France! Once I got through customs and found Emalee at the gate, however, my anxiety disappeared. I was excited to begin my journey, and felt better with a friend who felt the same way! The seven-hour flight went smoothly, though I could not fall asleep. Note to self: Do not watch sad movies on planes (I cried, but everyone was asleep so it was fine)!
When we arrived in Paris, Emalee and I had to wait for her luggage. As we waited, we saw our host families waving at us through the glass! We couldn’t leave baggage claim, but we ran to the wall to say hello! After getting our luggage and grabbing a quick bite to eat, we began the long drive to Angoulême, where we would be living for the next two months. We sang along to the Frozen soundtrack in the car (in English and in French), and within an hour, most of us were asleep. Camille’s parents took pictures of us, but those will not be included in this blog, as they are very embarrassing!
I celebrated New Years with my host family and their wonderful relatives! We played foosball and danced until midnight. Later, we walked around outside and the kids taught me my surroundings in French!
The next week, we spent a lot of time with the whole family, and I learned more about their culture. Camille is 15 years old, and her brother, Gabriel, is 11. Their parents are Marion and Nicolas. They are all so nice and funny – everything we do is a little adventure! The weekend before school started, we went to the city. It was so beautiful! There were huge paintings on the walls of some buildings and cute shops all over the place! When we have free time at home, we play video games and watch movies together. I learned how to say “loser” in French during our intense matches of Mario Kart!