Minot High School students head to France this summer
Students from Minot High School went abroad this summer, touring France while staying with host families. Some of the students and their teacher Anne Olafson wrote to describe their French adventures below:
By Carly Schachtschneider
During my three weeks in France, I had countless amazing experiences. But my favorite experience would have to be my family stay.
My host family was so great. They were welcoming, kind and very patient, which was good because I had to have things repeated about 900 times. My host sister, Emeline, was amazing. She helped me out with everything, and she got me hooked on “Desperate Housewives”!
My favorite time during family stay would probably have to be la Fete de la Musique. It’s this huge music festival everywhere in France that practically everyone goes to, so I got to meet a bunch of her friends and just have a good time.
My funniest experience during family stay was when my host dad asked me to do something. Madame Olafson had told us earlier in the trip that we should say “Oui” to everything our family asks us to do, so I did, even though I had no idea what I was saying yes to. All I knew was that my host dad was asking me if I wanted to do something so of course, I said “Oui!”
Turns out I agreed to drive the family car home one night. I panicked, because I just don’t do French highways in the middle of the night. But thankfully Bethany’s host sister, Alice, talked to Emeline and convinced her it was a really bad idea. So I didn’t have to drive the car.
All in all, the experience was so great. If you get the chance to go on this trip, take it. You won’t regret it.
By Bethany Leyrer
The first day we were in Paris, the Language and Friendship group did something incredibly “dangerous.” We went on Fat Tire Bike Tour.
There were a bunch of bikes – with fat tires, of course – that were either red or blue and they all had their own names that ranged from Superwoman to Crazyhorse. Our tour guide let us pick out which bike we wanted and then we set off through the streets of Paris. It sounds simple enough, but in reality it was very difficult to navigate 27 people in and out of traffic. There were quite a few times where we made the cars stop and caused the noise level to increase from all the cars honking at us.
Although we were intimidated by all the crazy drivers, we still had fun and were able to see many famous buildings. Our tour guide would occasionally stop and tell us information about the buildings we were seeing, so it was educational as well as fun.
We rode past the Military Academy and saw bullet holes in the walls left over from World War II, then we biked past the Eiffel Tour and saw the Dome Church which housed Napoleon’s tomb. We kept biking around until our guide stopped us in front of a busy street, and once the light turned red we all got in the left turning lane and waited until the light turned green again. It was funny because among all these little European cars was a group of Americans on bikes making a left hand turn in the middle of the road.
We survived the turn and ended up in a little court where the guillotine once was. It was a little creepy knowing that we were standing in a place where thousands of people were beheaded during the Revolution.
We followed our tour guide to the Louvre, and once we got inside the court, the noise from the city was blocked off and all you could hear was the water from the fountain nearby. We all just rode around the pyramid and had fun. We crossed the Champs-Elysees and the Place de la Concorde and passed the Musee Rodin.
Afterward we made our way back to the Fat Tire Bike Tour headquarters and parked our bikes again. The bike tour made learning more interesting because we could see the buildings that our tour guide was talking about and we were able to remember the information better. In the end, it was one of my favorite parts of the trip because how many people can say they rode a bike around the Louvre?
By Trey Welstad
I studied French in high school for four years, and I thought it would be exciting to practice all that I had learned in class. Getting to use my French to communicate in average day situation was very cool, but the places where I got to use it may have been even better. With all the history of France, there are many historical sites to visit. My favorite is the Pont du Gard. You may not recognize the name, but you have probably seen a picture of the structure. It is part of a 31-mile long aqueduct built by the Romans about 2,000 years ago to carry water to the great public baths of the city of N’mes. We watched a video about its construction and the images didn’t do justice to its truly magnificent size. From the river running below to the top of the third row, it measures 49 meters, which is a little over one half of a football field. Looking down at the water from the walkway, I was surprised to see kayaks and swimmers in the water. There was a small beach area just a few yards away from the Pont du Gard, and I soon made my way down to it with my fellow travelers Bethany, Carly, Chris and Kristjan. Luckily we did bring our swimsuits and jumped into the water. It was one of the most fun moments of the trip. Having fun in the river on a hot day with a giant, beautiful and historical monument just a few yards away was so cool. We didn’t get too much time to swim, but I will never forget the time I had at the Pont du Gard.
By Chris Peck
This June, my classmates and I traveled to France for what would be the cultural experience of our lives with our fantastic teacher Madame Olafson. We traveled for a week , then spent eight days with a family in Grenoble where we lived as one of the family members, than enjoyed a week of paradise and pampering in Paris. Of the 21 days I was in France, it is really hard for me to distinguish my favorite experience of the trip. With the Pont du Gard, Grenoble and the Eiffel Tower, I’m still amazed with the fact that I experienced as much as I did, period. However, if I had to choose my favorite experience of this adventure, I would have to say the family stay was the most beneficial and culturally enlightening for me.
The time I spent with my family was my most important experience for a variety of reasons. One reason was how we were thrown into the situation as a whole. We got off a bus and were introduced to our families, with whom we had exchanged letters and e-mails, said our goodbyes to our friends and left with our families to wherever they felt like taking us. I really realized how different it was from traveling with our teachers because our families didn’t speak hardly any English, and our teachers will in an emergency. Although we expected this and tried our best to prepare for it, there is no way to explain how it felt to have to rely only on my three years of French to make myself understood, let alone the enormous task of having to understand the verbal slang and speed they spoke to me. This was by far the hardest task of the trip, which was the main reason I feel it was the most important. My classmates and I would only joke about how fast they spoke and how they mixed two or three words into one, but having to live with it and decipher it for more than a week was more than a lesson in French for me. Learning their styles of speaking and slang and having to respond just as quickly was the experience of my life and taught me so much more than what I had learned in class. Every single piece of my French knowledge has increased because of the family stay from comprehension, to grammar, to my ability to understand and respond quicker to French in general.
The second reason I felt the family stay was the most important experience for me was the amount of knowledge I gained about the French culture. For instance, every day my host family would have breakfast containing a slice or two of bread with honey and a bowl of black coffee, or maybe cafe’ au lait. After this, my host brother, Evariste, and I would usually hang out at one of his friend’s house for a few hours and then go home and have lunch. Our lunch was far from an American lunch, including salad, lots of fruit and vegetables, mineral water, and some bread with goat cheese (usually for dessert). After this, we would go either to the movies, or the lake, or to do anything our friends could think of doing, always taking a tram from one destination to the next. We would usually head back and have dinner with the family around 7-8 p.m., which consisted of two or three vegetables, some meat, bread again and usually fruit for dessert. After this, we would either go to an event held in town, or go to a friend’s house and hang out there until around midnight, when we would head home, sleep and start our day over at 9 a.m. the next day. This was an average day in the life that was remarkably different from the American lifestyle for many reasons, the major one being the healthy lifestyle and nutrition they enjoyed. Our meals consisted mainly of vegetables and bread, rather than Hardee’s and McDonald’s. Our days were filled with activities, yet time never seemed to be an issue until it turned pitch black outside. People were much more leisurely, relaxed and overall much nicer than many Americans, nowadays. I felt my being with the family helped me realize the true culture of France and the benefits of France rather than the negative stereotypes about the French culture that our media feels they must portray.
The third reason the family stay was most important for me was the personal and lasting friendships that were made. My host’s friends, Maud, Alizee and Baptiste also hosted three Americans from our group. Their names were Andrew, Elizabeth and Amber. By the time the family stay was over, not only had we all exchanged cell phone numbers and personal information, but we also exchanged farewells and hopes of visiting next year and even hosting ourselves. Evariste and I have kept in contact through e-mail and I have even kept in touch with my host parents throughout the few weeks I have been back. Maud, Aliz’e and I also keep in touch through MSN and e-mail and Maud is visiting Canada next month and is possibly coming down to visit North Dakota and stay in Minot for a week or two so I can show her around. I made an American friendship with Andrew, who is from Wisconsin, and we are already talking about flying back and staying in Grenoble for 21 days next year. The amount of new people we had the opportunity to meet, get to know and befriend is one of the most important reasons I feel the family stay was beneficial for everyone, including myself.
I could have told you a story about Paris or Nice or a variety of other places we visited while in France, but I feel the amount I learned, as a whole about French culture and the amount of education the family stay has instilled in me was by far more important than any building or monument seen in France. One can spend a million years in France and never know its true culture or way of life. The ability for teenagers like ourselves with molding minds to have the opportunity to go to France and experience the culture in every-day life firsthand still amazes me. We knew just enough to understand the happenings around us and at the same time learned so much and became amazed by the smallest things that many overlook in everyday life. But this is why we went to France in the first place — to learn about the people, the country and their way of life as a whole, and most of all to improve our personal knowledge and comprehension of the French language.
By Anne Olafson
In the late spring of 1989, I got a letter from my host family for that summer’s France trip. It was from a retired couple, and in broken English, because learning English was one of their projects. Let’s see – they had a dog named Whisky and a pig named Ursula. A guinea pig, I thought, something lost in the translation. They seemed interesting, but I thought, a retired couple? That’s going to be boring.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. They took me everywhere during my family stay week—horseback riding in the Alps to mountain villages and Monaco. They wanted to vote, so I went along to the polls and came away with posters of all the candidates. I remember fabulous meals of fresh produce and card games with the grandma, (who cheated).
Ursula, by the way, was a full-sized pig. She lived in the backyard and came in after meals for treats from the table.
What’s up for the weekend? A senior citizens gastronomic bus tour to Italy. OK. A bus full of senior citizens and me. Thirty-six courses later, I felt about as huge as Ursula!
Spring forward to 2007. I’ve kept in touch with this couple for all these years and our trip included a stop in Nice once again. We met for lunch, and though we have all aged, we had a great afternoon sharing pictures and reminiscing. The moral of this story is: keep in touch with the families who are so eager to host you. You never know what’s going to happen as the years go by.