An academic and cultural bridge to France

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
French exchange students Maiwenn Troley, left, Salome Mazure, center, and Marie Benejean, right, spent 10 days living with a Canal Winchester host family, touring central Ohio and attending classes at Canal Winchester High School.

A years-long relationship with a French high school is sending both Canal Winchester students and teachers to France and bringing French students to the central Ohio city and high school.

“We have had a partnership with this high school in France for about eight years,” said French teacher Julie Aldrich. “This is the fifth time French students have come to Canal Winchester High school for such an exchange. They spend 10 days living with a host family, attending classes, hearing speakers, taking tours and just experiencing life as a teenager in America.”

Students work on international projects, exchange letters and videos, work on growing their linguistic and cultural competence and make friends for life. Canal Winchester students also participate in an exchange to France.

“Following a 10 day ‘tourist’ trip, French families from the partner school welcome our students into their homes in Normandy,” said Aldrich. “Our exchange happens in the summer, so we usually aren’t able to see classes while there, but they organize trips and visits for us. Several of the students who are hosting this year spent the summer in France.”

Canal Winchester senior Sarah Gilliam traveled twice to France, once as a freshman and this past summer to France and Switzerland as well. She said she really enjoys learning French and traveling to foreign countries.

“I thought it would be a good experience,” said Gilliam. “We did all kinds of tourist stuff in Paris and crazy things like high ropes and mountain climbing in Switzerland. I stayed with a host family while I was there.”

Senior Sam Baucum also traveled overseas this summer. He said he paid for his trip by saving his money since his sophomore year.

“My family barely travels, so it was a life-changing experience for me, especially being in a different part of the world,” said Baucum, who said living with a host family was the most interesting part of his journey. “The food and the cities are different. There are a lot more pedestrians, the streets are narrower and they are more environmentally aware.”

French exchange student Maiwenn Troley said she always wanted to visit the United States and travel around the globe. She was happy to make the trip to America her first stop. She found it interesting that Americans often don’t check the price of an item before buying it.

“In France, we usually look before we buy,” Troley said, “but the burgers here are better.”

Marie Benejean said this was also her first time traveling to the United States and wanted to do so in order to experience a different culture.

“It was my dream to go to the United States,” said Benejean. “Everything is so much bigger, like the Walmart store, which surprises me that it is open 24 hours a day. Our schools are very different. We start school at 8 a.m. and finish at 6 p.m. and students don’t work like they do here.”

Aldrich is participating in an Ohio Department of Education sponsored exchange between teachers in Ohio and teachers in the Academie de Rouen. Aldrich and her French counterpart, Cyril Bonnaudet, were selected by their respective departments of education to exchange positions for the 2018-19 school year.
Bonnaudet is teaching French at Canal Winchester High School and Aldrich is teaching English at Lycee Augustin Fresnel, in Bernay, France.

“This exchange is without a doubt one of the highlights of the French department at Canal Winchester,” said Aldrich. “It motivates students, opens doors of opportunity and creates a real-life connection in this increasingly global world. Our high school is diverse and inclusive and extending that across the ocean is a natural step. This student exchange is definitely one of the most rewarding things I do as a teacher and I’m grateful for the support of our district and community to make it happen.”

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