Eight students from a school in Northern France visited Shippensburg University as part of a partnership with SU that allows students from each school to experience what it is like attending school in different areas of the world.
Adam, Antoine, Cindel, Chloé, Guillaume, Justine, Tiphanie and Valentine came from the Lycée Privé St. Joseph school in Boulogne, France, and are members of the latest group of students to participate in an annual exchange program between their school and SU. Professor Géraldine Rénier is the program coordinator, and marked her fifth year visiting SU with her students.
The students who came to Shippensburg were members of the families who had housed the SU students that visited France last summer. The SU students were glad to see their friends from the summer, and spent a lot of time with them during the little more than a week that they were on campus.
A trip to Pine Grove Furnace State Park gave the French students a glimpse of the beautiful rural American landscape when they went on a hike. They also made trips to Baltimore and Frederick, Maryland, in order to experience contrasting environments.
The students participated in multiple classes while at SU, including marketing and social work, as well as one class in every French course offered this semester. The students were impressed with the level of French many of the students spoke in class, because many students in France do not learn English as quickly.
They said the overall experience was very different than what they were used to in France. SU students were very curious about French culture and were willing to ask questions to learn more.
This was unexpected for the exchange students, as this is not very common in France. Students at SU were willing to welcome the students with open arms, showing them around campus and eating meals with them at Reisner Dining Hall.
The students felt more at home because of the warm reception they were given. They said the culture at SU and the surrounding area was very different compared to the one they experienced in New York City and Washington, D.C., before arriving on campus.
Rénier thought it was important to point out that just as Paris is not representative of France as a whole neither is New York representative of the entire U.S. The time they had in the city was much more fast-paced and exciting than the calm, more relaxed atmosphere of Shippensburg.
Rather than a hotel, the exchange students stayed with host families. This gave them the opportunity to learn about the life of an average rural American family.
The students said their families were very welcoming and receptive. They brought the French students into their homes and shared their culture and lifestyle as much as they possibly could.
There was a language barrier in some of the homes, but not every American family has someone in the house who could speak French and the French students are not fluent in English.
Rénier said she feels at home every time she returns to America, especially when she arrives at SU. Students from past trips to France remember and talk with her when she comes back to SU, and several faculty members in the modern languages department have relationships with her.
The students were very pleased with their visit to the U.S., and most said they plan to return at some point in the future. They said they made some memories they would never forget, thanks to all the people who greeted them.
The SU Modern Languages Department offers several study abroad opportunities every year, and stresses the importance of learning about cultures in different areas of the world firsthand.
“C’est important d’élargir votre opinion du monde par les yeux des autres” — “It is important to widen your view of the world through the eyes of others.”