Calhoun's Upper School French Language Program Hosts an Annual Travel Exchange Travel with Lycée Magendie, Bordeaux, France
Upper School French teacher Ben Ratliff wants his students to "challenge themselves while taking healthy risks" when they travel in France from Bordeaux to Arcachon, Saint-Emilion and Carcassonne as part of Calhoun's annual French Exchange program.
This overseas adventure, which Ben has been organizing and chaperoning since it first launched in 2013, is more than just a tourist's look at a foreign country; it is a cross-cultural exchange and home-stay immersion opportunity with a group of peers from Lycée Magendie in Bordeaux, France.
The exchange begins in April, when the Magendie students arrive in New York for their two-week stay with host families. They attend classes to get an inside look at progressive education (which is very different from their own experience); walk the city streets to experience everyday life in New York City; and go to sporting events, Broadway plays, museums and city landmarks – often accompanied by their Calhoun buddies.
Then, after the completion of the school year in June, Calhoun's group of 10-12 Upper Schoolers make their sojourn to France for a homestay in Bordeaux with their Lycée Magendie friends. The Calhoun travelers, all enrolled in Ben's French level II-IV classes, put their language skills to use while participating in a wide variety of immersion activities. The trip to Bordeaux finishes with a two-day city-study of Paris.
Ben says that the homestays are central to the entire experience; Tania Calle '16, who participated in the 2014 program, couldn't agree more. The homestay, she says, "helps build a strong connection between you and the place you're visiting." Sacha Rogosin '16 is equally enthusiastic, noting that "it was an incredibly enlightening experience to be able to interact with French people my own age." Leah Rice '15 acknowledges that the immersion program helped her with her language skills. "It definitely helped with my understanding of spoken French and with my comfort in speaking," she says. "I used as much French as I could because I wasn't able to use English as a crutch. Even if I sometimes made mistakes, it definitely made me more confident."
Talia adds that "being an exchange student changed who I am – for the better!" And Sacha Rogosin '16 says he wouldn't "exchange my experience for anything!"
Ben looks forward to continuing the French exchange tradition for years to come. "Every year, my students become more excited to learn and use the language in their everyday life," he says. "And the friendships they're forging with peers across the Atlantic makes each exchange that much more rewarding."
New in 2016
In addition to the New York-Bordeaux Exchange, this year's seniors in advanced French were invited to participate in a three-day Spring Session course in Montreal! The assignment: to complete a video portrait project, with interviews of people from around the city (conducted in French, bien sûr!).