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The American Perspective: What is it like to be an exchange student?

Last year I had the opportunity to be a part of the French Exchange to Mazamet in Southern France. As a freshman, I was very nervous; this was to be my first intercession experience. I also had never been overseas before or flown anywhere without my parents. We left on Friday, April 12th, and to start off our trip the bus that was supposed to bring us to the airport got sent the Bedford High School in Bedford, Massachusetts! Mr. Hagen immediately fixed the issue calling us a school bus in which we all anxiously shoved ourselves into. Our journey then began. After a rocky start, we cruised though security and check-in and hopped onto the plane. The flight to Paris took about 7 hours; we got to Charles De Gaulle airport around 8am the following day. We then went about Charles De Gaulle checking into our next flight: to Toulouse.

When we got onto the plane to Toulouse, I was extremely excited. I started to speak (the things I knew) in French to everyone around me. Two hours later we landed. Jean D’Arc, the French sister school to BHS, sent a coach bus (there are no yellow school buses in France) to come and get us and our luggage and off we went to Mazamet. When we pulled up to the school, all the French students and their parents were waving and cheering with their American flags and signs. My host student, Lola, was even wearing the Vineyard Vines shirt we bought her when she came and stayed with my family and I in Bedford. I was greeted with ‘la bise’ or a kiss to either cheek and a hug from all the students and the parents whom I did not know. After I got my luggage off the bus and said my goodbyes to all the other Americans and Madame Lola, her Father and I got into their car and drove to her mother’s house. I did not know what I was expecting about the house, but from the colors and the big picturesque windows, it was beautiful.

The first Monday, or Lundi as they would say in France, at 8:00 am, we left to go to Jean D’Arc School. That day we went to all of our students’ classes: English, History, Spanish, and Gym. We were all very surprised by the teachers’ knowledge of English. The following day, we went to Carcassonne, which is a fortified castle built in the 13th century. Our tour guide told us all about the history and all the potential traps that were built to prevent invaders.

A week and many tears later, we said goodbye to our hosts and friends in Mazamet and boarded a bus back to Toulouse. The bus ride was a tearful one because our host families had really become our families. We got on a very fast train and journeyed on to Paris.

After getting off the train in Paris we were greeted by a coach bus that brought us to our hotel. I will never forget that bus ride, looking out windows and seeing Paris. It had been something that I had wanted to see since I was five years old.

We all checked in to our hotel which was right in the middle of Paris and only 2 blocks away from a metro station. We unpacked and got ready for dinner which we had at Cafe Blanche.

The next day, our first full day in Paris, we went to Sacre Coeur and The Louvre, which were so beautiful in person, prettier than I could have ever imagined.

Soon the trip was over. As we boarded the plane that would take us back home, we all reflected on the amazing trip and experience of being exchange students in France.

Feel free to watch this video on our trip, created by my friend, Noah Easter (class of ’19)!