Bonjour! French Exchange Students at MHS

By Keely Wiese
Friday, October 24th, 2014

On October 2nd, students of Monticello’s sister school Lycée Claude Nicolas Ledoux, in Besançon France arrived in Charlottesville and met the host families they would be living with for the next two weeks.

On October 15th, the 16 and 17 year old French students returned home, exhausted from the 6 hour time difference and their eventful trip learning about Charlottesville and American schooling. During their visit they also left an impression on the Monticello students, and the Monticello students in the exchange program are sure to learn more about French culture when they visit in the spring.

“Their education system is somewhat more rigorous than ours in that school is really for school. . . in school they tend to be really serious and I think that is a good model for some of our students.” Mr. Keith, a French teacher and staff member in charge of organizing the visits noted when asked what impression the visitors left on Monticello.

It is true. Lycée Claude Nicolas Ledoux focuses on science and math, and found Monticello’s Health and Medical Sciences Academy classes particularly interesting.

Sure, in France these students are part of sports teams and other extracurricular activities, but they all occur outside of school. Monticello’s arts and music programs must have been a surprise to the visiting students, just as the serious atmosphere will be a change when some of our students visit in the spring.

Besides learning about the different school culture, the French students also learned about the Charlottesville community on guided field trips.

Visiting Thomas Jefferson’s house (and our namesake) must have been a highlight, since Claude Nicolas Ledoux, an architect and the man who their school was named after, influenced Thomas Jefferson as he designed his home.

The students got different tastes of the city as their host family gave them tours.

Aidan Stoddart (‘17) had a lot of fun hanging out with his student, Theophile. “”My favorite thing about having him around was when we didn’t have work to do, we would Skype my American friends and play video games together. It was like bonding. We would kill each other in video games in loving, friendly ways. It was fun spending time with him because he was just a really chill guy.”

Other hosting families introduced their student to Bodo’s, Starbucks, IHOP, and other Charlottesville-based stores.

All of the hosting students said it was a positive experience; besides getting to listen to the awesome French accents, they really just enjoyed hanging out with their students. They found that the most difficult part was the language barrier.

When asked if they would host a student again they all gave a definitive yes.

Monticello High School students are excited to visit Lycée Claude Nicolas Ledoux in Besançon France during spring break in a few months.

They are promised a ready friend, as many will be staying with the student they were just hosting. Other students that did not host will communicate with their hosting family beforehand.

The Monticello students will learn a variety of things on their trip. On the last trip two years ago the students visited a region which shares a border with Germany, the capital Strasbourg, and a charming village Riquewihr.

On their trip the students will have a chance to practice their French, or in the case of some, experience living with a family who mostly speaks a language they have never taken.

Mr. Keith explained, “It is certainly not required that a student speak French to go, but the student should be open to staying with a family and learning about how family structures work.”

The students going are excited for the culture and the experience of visiting France.

“I really am just looking forward to the European culture because that’s something I’m quite fond of. I think that there’s a lot of merit in it so I’m excited to be a part of that,” said Aidan Stoddart. (‘17).

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