Franco-American Cultural Exchange
with Visiting Students
One could not have immediately spotted the visiting French high school students (from Brest, France) who blended with the Sayville High School students in the halls. They seemed typical in so many ways, except their faces wore the visitors’ expressions of wonder and excitement.
Sayville’s LOTE department was happy to welcome twenty-one First-Year International Studies students along with their two French Chaperones Madame Robet (research teacher) and Mme Simpson (math teacher), for a day of “shadowing” and assimilation into American (specifically, Sayville, Long Island, New York) culture.
“They attend the Lycée St. Anne in Brest, France,” explained Sayville French teacher Mrs. Suzanne Hoss. “It is a private, Catholic high school where they are in a specialized international section. They receive between six- and eight-hours of instruction per week in French, but otherwise they learn not only English grammar, but English literature, history in English, geography in English and even Math in English!”
During the day-long visit to Sayville High School, some French students spoke to the classes each period. During one particular class visit with Mrs. Suzanne Hoss and Department Chair Lisa Gray, three French students explained their studies program, shared cultural differences and similarities, discussed shopping and the favorite stores (H& M, Zara, Macy’s) and one they hoped to visit state side (Abercrombie and Fitch). The students from both sides of the Atlantic enthusiastically exchanged opinions, mostly in French, about favorite television shows, music, linguistic expressions like “tropbien” and “stylé,” as well as social networks.
The French students explained how at the secondary level their educational system differs from the United States. Not all students abroad participate in “higher education,” only those who have demonstrated proclivities and required abilities in their “middle school” years continue onto an academic education. Also, European students do not participate in music or the arts during the typical class day as those areas are considered extracurricular and required an additional fee.
When asked about their preconceptions of Americans, some French students admitted they had been influenced by international news—Americans overeating too much fast food. They were pleasantly surprised to see an American classroom of trim Sayville students. In turn, the French students explained they do not have a culture of ‘snacking’ between meals, because they don’t eat on the run, but enjoy wholesome foods at only three designated mealtimes.
At the request of one student, the French students were asked to share their favorite American accent. “Oh My God!” one French student offered tentatively, which made the whole class laugh appreciatively.
Those visiting students who were not speaking to classes followed their American (French 4H) counterparts through a regular school day and were chaperoned by Sayville LOTE teachers Mrs. Bricker and Mrs. Chirinchella.
As part of the activities with the French 4-Honors Class, the French students (Romain, Pierre, Vincente, Baptiste, Alexia, Ernestine, Cassandre, Jacquotte, Victor, Guillaume, Nolwenn, Victoire, Chloé M. Chloé S., Marianne, Inès, Nicolas, Pierre-Antoine, Nathan, Mailys, and Paul-Edouard) and their chaperones went into town afterschool for a “tour” of Sayville shops and eateries. Later, they regrouped at the High School for pizza and music videos which had all the students dancing and singing.
“They danced to both French and American music.” Mrs. Hoss recalled. “They danced to Happy and Wobbled, did the Macarena, Cotton Eyed Joe, and traditional Brittany dancing! One French girl sang for the group. It was amazing how they knew all the American music and dances. Some left teary eyed and sad to have to bid their amis Adieu!”
C'est la vie!
Or in American, YOLO!