South welcomes French exchange students

Iris Kreilkamp, Staff Writer

You may have noticed some new people walking around South, extremely stylish people at that, carrying tasteful tote bags instead of heavy backpacks and wearing fashionable jeans that haven’t quite made it across the pond yet. 

That’s right…they’re French exchange students!

French exchange students and their hosts from Bloomington South

On October 16th, 25 students from Lyceé Notre Dame, a school in Le Mans, France, arrived in Bloomington for a week and a half long stay, continuing an exchange program that was created in 1982 by a Latin teacher at Bloomington South named Joan Arthur. Arthur was friends with a teacher in Le Mans, and they decided to start an exchange program between the two schools.

 “It’s kept going, and has grown into such a tradition,” said current French teacher Beth Smith. Smith has two visitors of her own in two teachers from Lyceé Notre Dame, Marie-Ceclie Amoullin and Brigitte Charpentier, both of whom have participated in these exchanges for many years. Smith has been organizing this program since 1999, and has done it alone since 2011. At the time of the interview, Smith seemed slightly beleaguered as she answered questions in both French and English from a crowd of students. “It’s a lot of planning and organization, of course, but I’ve done it enough times that it’s sort of a formula at this point!” said Smith.

This exchange program happens every three years, and any students from South who hosted this month will get to visit France for two weeks in March of 2020 over spring break. They will stay with the exchange student they hosted here.

In addition to the international friendships that form between the French and American students, Smith says this program even builds bonds between South students. “Some students who haven’t really spoken to each other will be hosting students who are friends, so they’ll make friends even within the school. It’s one of the great things about this,” said Smith.

Myriam Laaquira is staying with South sophomore Sophia Ramlo.“I [decided to come] because I took English as first language, and I just wanted to discover a new country and culture,” said Laaquira. This is Laaquira’s first time in America, and when asked if America was how she expected it to be, she said, “We have a cliche … We thought there would be things a lot bigger than in France, and they are… even the cars and streets are very big!”

Laaquira and the rest of the exchange students returned to France on Oct. 26. Au revoir!