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Part I: Beyond Borders: My Eye-Opening Experience in the French Exchange Program

Part I: Beyond Borders: My Eye-Opening Experience in the French Exchange Program

In late October, I was exposed to a life-changing experience along with 17 other Country Day students.

This year, the school brought back its one-to-one French exchange program with the Lycée Saint-André in Colmar, France, after the pandemic.

“I have a love of different cultures and languages, so I thought going on this trip would increase my knowledge of French culture and its language,” remarks Ali Zimmerman `26. “I really love to travel, which makes this whole experience even better. I remember in middle school my best friend and I said we were going to go to France together no matter what and it's happening, so there’s also a bit of nostalgia.”

CCDS students and their French-exchange partners posing for a photo at the Dayton AF Museum.

This fall, I had the amazing opportunity to host my exchange partner, Eline, for one week. The week flew by, and we soon found ourselves saying goodbye when we felt as if we just said hello. Throughout the week, I made some incredible memories that I knew I would cherish for years to come. One of my favorite moments was playing a strong game of chess, where I was able to learn the names of various pieces in French.

“I really enjoyed going out to dinner with my students and a friend of mine,” says Zimmerman. “Our waiter was even a French student in college, so he noticed an accent and started speaking French with us, which was super cool. I also loved playing Just Dance with them. We did that for a few hours throughout their time with us and it was a blast.”

Along with Just Dance battles, Ali introduced her students, Mylena and Constance, to a variety of authentically American experiences, including a trip to Graeters and to a Country Day football game.

If I were to sum up this program in one word it would be this: eye-opening. Sitting in the classroom learning about vocabulary is inherently different from experiencing the language around you. Through this program, I realized that the French language is not just a textbook chapter but a rich culture and a lifestyle for millions of people. This was experienced by many other students as well.

French-exchange students with their host partners on the steps of CCDS.

“It's important that people experience different cultures and ways of life, and one easy way to do this is by going on an exchange program,” remarks Zimmerman. “When you know people from other cultures and spend time with them, it really broadens your mind in some ways that you wouldn't expect.”

Ali summarized by stating her anticipation in continuing the program. “I'm excited to go to France and see my students again, and I'm excited to meet other people in a French school, but I'm honestly most excited for the experience as a whole. The flight, the time change, the language difference… I think it will all be a really good experience.”

From carving pumpkins to baking cookies and watching Hocus Pocus, I truly appreciated every moment spent, and was able to learn so much from my partner that goes beyond language. Additionally, I feel immensely grateful towards the school for the opportunity to participate in a program such as this, one that many only get to experience in college, if at all. I was able to grow as a person just by meeting people from across the globe, something that I think is a unique experience for any student. I am incredibly excited to go to France this coming spring, and to eat many pastries.

Article written by Shiva Shyam `26. Part II of this piece will be in the spring edition of Connections, after the Country Day students spend time in France.