March 24, students embarked on the first ever SEM exchange to Lille, France. Although the trip began with a slight change in plans fpr the eight students and their chaperones due to a strike at Air France, the girls could not wait to see their French correspondents after hosting them in Buffalo three weeks prior.
Every weekday began with a SEM student meeting with their chaperones at 8 am, and a breakfast stop at the bakery across the street from the exchange school St. Adrien’s, for an early morning croissant or pain au chocolat. Afterwards, while the French hosts went to class, SEM students went on excursions around Lille, including a tour of the city with a visit to city hall, trips to museums, plenty of shopping, and best of all, a day spent in Bruges, Belgium. Over the weekend, the students visited Paris and Versailles with their host families and got to experience what living with a French family was really like.
“Living in someone else’s house, in their world, was a big change. But getting to experience all the small things about a culture that you could never learn about in a classroom was awesome,” said Julia Beck, ’20.
All the girls agreed that the most difficult part of their trip was speaking solely in French to their host families and other students from Lille. “Although this was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, I am proud that I stepped outside my comfort zone, because my French definitely improved,” said Maddie Love ’19.
A big change for the SEM students was the partnering school. St. Adrien is a Catholic, co-ed school for students ages 5 to 17, with the school’s population being nearly 2,200 students. Coming from a small school like SEM, it is easy to get overwhelmed with such a great contrast, which many of the girls were. Class sizes ranged from 20-30 students, and navigating the hallways was nearly impossible if not following closely behind a correspondent. Additionally, an average class day at St. Adrien begins at 8 am and ends at 5 pm, so the students quickly learned that we are fortunate to end our school day at 3:30 pm every day.
After the 10-day trip was over, the girls were sad to say goodbye to their correspondents but ready to come back home because they kne
w that this exchange would not be the last time they would see their French friends. Getting to experience such an incredible opportunity allowed the students to open their eyes to a new culture, and they all hope to go back to visit their friends and continue to improve their French in the near future.