Foreign language students take trips abroad over Spring Break

March 30, 2018

Voyage a la France

Last year many students opened up their homes to foreign exchange students from France. This year the tables were turned and Johnston Students were given the opportunity to travel to France over spring break. “[I wanted to go on this trip] because I hosted last year and I have a connection with a student already,” John Leimer ‘18 said.

Students boarded their plane set to land in Lyon, a large city in the southern part of France on March 7. From there they would take a bus to the suburb Saint Étienne for their home stay with their French Exchange students.

He was also excited for the opportunity to speak French consistently. “The home stay was a big thing for me because I’ve never been so immersed in a language, where had to use it and talk to people,” Leimer said. “It is nice to actually be in a place where I can make mistake, I can be imperfect, but I can still talk in French.”

While Leimer was excited for the home stay and seeing his exchange student again, he is also nervous about the tables being turned. “[I’m nervous about] the home stay because I’m in French 2, so I only have one year of French behind my belt,” he said. “I only confidently know the simple present, and I vaguely know the past tenses, so just the lack of tense and grammar makes me nervous.”

The home stay was also a selling point for Alisa Capehart ‘19. “What really made me what to go on the trip was my host student, that I hosted last year, Léa,” she said. “We became really good friends and I just wanted to see her again.”

Not only do they get to live with a host family for a few days but they also get to visit various popular and historical attractions. These adventures include riding bikes along the Mediterranean Sea, visiting a Roman aqueduct, and walking to a pilgrimage spot are a few of the significant place on their itinerary.

Capehart thoroughly enjoyed the scenery in France, she particularly enjoyed the pilgrimage spot. ““The most memorable moments would be the views,” she said. “They were beautiful. [One day] when we went up to a church, which was on a very steep hill, we could see the whole town.”

While the sites were a great aspect of the trip, it seemed that the food was a highlight to the trip.

Prior to the trip French teacher Tamara Andrews described one of the food endeavors planned. “We will go to a chocolate factory and have a tour,” Andrews said. “ In the tour of the chocolate factory they will give us free samples and it’s all in French of course, and in the end we can shop and buy wonderful chocolate Easter eggs and Easter bunnies.”

Leimer was fascinated by French cuisine. “The way they do food over there is just really different,” he said. “They have more specialty shops, where we have more grocery stores. They have grocery stores too, but they have shops that specialize in bread, cheese and dairy, and butcher shops.”

It was all smooth sailing though, there were a few complications through the trip. “We had some people lose passports, but they eventually got them,” Capehart said. One person had their passport until we got to Detroit, and it literally got taken from her because she had it in her hands. So Ms. Gray had to stay back with her and they met us later in Lyon.”

That wasn’t the only passport complication during the trip. “On the way back, one person left their passport on the plane and had complications in getting back on the plane,” Capehart said.

By the end of the trip Leimer was ready to go home. “I loved my trip and I loved France in general, but something about not getting to see my family or most of my friends for a week [was hard],” he said.  “I wanted to return home just to take and shower and go to bed.”

Capehart wasn’t quite as ready to head home. “ I had mixed feelings,” Capehart said. “I really loved France, so I really wanted to stay. At the same time, I wanted to go home and see my mom and my dogs.”

Jake Atterberg ‘19 stands in front of a column in Park Güell, while the rest of the group stands around him. “ I felt like me being with only girls on the trip wasn’t bad at all, however I was used as the butt of a large number of jokes because I was the only guy,” Atterberg said.

Viva España

It is a year of new beginnings and the Spanish department is jumping on board with its newly offered trip to Spain. The trip is not the typical vacation with an itinerary that solely consists of museums and tourist attractions. This 11 day trip is focused on students having both a cultural and educational experience.

“For the first half of the trip we are just going to be traveling to museums in both Barcelona and Madrid,” Spanish teacher Peggy Fox said. “The second half of the trip, is going to be the home stays, that’s going to be very different from a trip you would go on with your family and friends. I think that is where a majority of the learning will occur.”

Many of the 14 students that are traveling on this trip have some concerns. Kiersten Bahr ‘19 is especially nervous for the home stays part of the trip. “I’m nervous about staying with my [host] family because I don’t know them and they don’t much English. [This means] I’ll have to speak only in Spanish,” Bahr said.

Katherine S ‘18 had similar sentiments. “I guess [I’m nervous about] what everyone is nervous about, which is staying with their host family and having to use Spanish all the time and not when you just feel like it.” Katherine said.

While the students have some concerns, they are mostly excited about the experience they are going to soon embark on. “We will be going to a lot of royal palaces, museums, and buildings that are very old in comparison to literally everything in America,” Katherine said. “But to be honest, the thing I’m most excited about seeing is the stores. I want to go shopping in Spain.”

Bahr is anticipating the tourist stops.“I am most excited for the events we are doing, like the soccer stadium in Madrid and some of the museums,” she said.

Both Bahr and Katherine have been in contact with their host family prior to their trip. Katherine in particular, has been in frequent contact with her host family. “The daughter in my host family emailed me and we have been texting ever since, in fact she just texted me right now,” Katherine said.

Katherine elaborated further, “I know a lot about my host family so far, the mother’s name is Maria, she works in the cleaning industry,” Katherine said. “The father’s name is José and he is a truck driver, and the daughter is 15.”

While Katherine has been in contact with her host family for many weeks before the trip, other students have only in been in contact a few days prior to the trip.

The Spanish teachers stress the importance of students using this opportunity as a learning experience. To ensure that students pay attention to their surroundings cell phone restrictions were put in place. “During the day when they are out and about and especially when they are with their host families they need to consider their phones are cameras only,” Fox said. “That is going to allow them to enjoy the experience around them versus having their nose on their phones.”

The students aren’t completely banned from using social media on the trip. They are allowed to use their phones at night, when their activities are done for the night. Katherine thought that the cell phone policy was reasonable. “I did not have any problems following the cell phone policy, ” she said. “When we were in a group we did a lot of walking and moving around so it was very inconvenient to be on your phone. There was enough to see that I didn’t really want to be on my phone.”

In fact by the end of the trip, Katherine was making promises to come back. “By the end of the trip they were telling me I had to come back and telling me all the things we would do,” Katherine said. “The dad promised me he would teach me how to scuba dive, since he is apparently some kind of well known diver in the diving community. I’ve never gone before.”

Katherine was not ready to go home. “Pretty much every single person in the group was ready to go home, as far as I know, except for me,” Katherine said. I really think if I could have stayed, I had made enough progress within those four days, that I could have been fluent in six to nine months. [Which is] not as incredible as it sounds, once you actually go there and use the language often it is easy to pick up.”


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