Journeying to another country is a treasured part of the student experience at Silicon Valley International School (INTL). The opportunity for INTL students to immerse themselves in a foreign culture, customs, and language can be transformative. INTL’s 4th and 5th Grade French Program students traveled to Fumel in the south-west of France and then on to the famed city of lights, Paris. By living with host families in Fumel, attending classes at INTL’s sister school Ecole Jean Jaurès, and interacting with locals, the students were able to gain a deeper understanding of the French language and culture. From conversing with shopkeepers and playing French board games to enjoying traditional French cuisine and visiting historic sites, the trip was packed with memorable moments that helped the students enhance their language skills and gain a new perspective on the world.
After 22 hours of traveling, the students spent their first night with their host families. In the morning, the group gathered to share the experiences of this first evening with each other. Many students spoke excitedly about the delicious food they had for dinner or breakfast, including pasta dishes, croissants, quiche Lorraine, and brioche. The students shared the entertaining evenings they’d spent getting to know their host families. Some played board games, soccer, basketball, and even video games.
That morning, the students joined classes at Ecole Jean Jaurès, participating in dictée (a combined listening and writing activity) and math class. They were happy to report afterwards the INTL’s rigorous math classes had served them well, and they were able to represent the school with pride.
In the afternoon, the group explored Fumel and learned about its rich history on a tour led by the local students and teachers. Upon reaching the Château de Fumel, they were greeted by the Mayor of Fumel and then toured the beautiful grounds, terraced gardens, and the city hall.
The next morning was spent in classes, with the hosting teachers sharing how impressed they were with the spelling prowess of the INTL students. For lunch, the group had a picnic at the school and then spent the afternoon experiencing the French love of cinema by watching the French-dubbed version of 1957 film The Incredible Shrinking Man. This viewing was part of a Ecole Jean Jaurès' school project where their students learn about the history of cinema. In the evening, everyone gathered together back at school for a potluck dinner, sharing a meal together and taking the opportunity to thank the host families for their kindness.
The following day began with the students spending the morning with their host families enjoying a variety of activities including soccer, board games, bike riding, video games, and horse riding. The afternoon was spent at a cultural center where the group engaged in a delightful range of art activities including making badges, linoleum stamps and creating some wonderful portraits.
Students spent the next day with their host families. The host families had planned wonderful activities including baseball, aquarium visits, bowling, sushi making, and soccer!
After gathering together to share all the wonderful things they had done with their host families, the group visited Bonaguil castle. There they enjoyed a well-designed and challenging treasure hunt around the grounds of the castle, with treasure at the end. The group ate a picnic for lunch in a small woodlands area by the castle and took time to play out in nature. Following lunch, the group headed to the water for a cruise on a gabare (a traditional flat-bottomed boat). The tour guides shared tidbits of local information during the tranquil, beautiful ride. The trip included transport through an écluse (a canal and river lock), which was a first for many onboard.
Early the next morning, the students traveled to Rocamadour, a small village on the edge of a cliff that is known for its religious buildings. An informative tour guide showed them around the village and as the group climbed down many flights of stairs to reach the bottom. Lunch was enjoyed at a lovely restaurant with a choice between steak haché and croustillant d’aiguillettes de poisson, with frites and salade.
After lunch the group rode the lift back to the top of the cliff and walked to a bird show. The students spent time learning about the birds and watching the birds’ impressive training in action. Students were able to handle different birds and even had a parrot eat from their hands. That evening students returned to their host families to pack and for their final night together.
The students woke up early the following morning to take a bus to the Toulouse airport and catch their flight to Paris. They enjoyed a smooth flight to Paris and on the ride to the hotel witnessed some sights of the famed city, including the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Élysées.
After settling into the hotel, the group walked to a giant nearby bookstore. Although slightly overwhelmed by the stunning array of choices, the students were excited to discover many books in French that could not be found in the U.S. It was also an excellent opportunity for the INTL students to practice their budgeting and calculation skills in real life. The students could barely wait to read their new treasures, some students even began to read in the store.
The final day of the trip began with a guided tour of La Conciergerie, a former royal palace turned prison. Students were entranced as they learned about the 2780 prisoners that were tried and sentenced at the Conciergerie, including Marie-Antoinette. The group walked to a nearby brasserie for lunch and were joined by a former INTL teacher who taught many of the group’s students back in 1st grade.
After lunch the group walked to a boat tour that took them along the Seine showcasing the many sights of Paris including Notre-Dame, Pont Alexandre III, and of course the Eiffel Tower!
INTL’s cultural exchange trips allow students to embrace their target language in a uniquely effective way. Spending this time completely immersed in the language and culture can instill an understanding that no other method can match. INTL’s cultural exchange trips are an integral element of the school’s immersive bilingual education, giving their students an unparalleled opportunity to demonstrate mastery of their language skills and expand their cultural understanding.