Alexandra Gardner
Middle Pages Editor
October 29th, 2018

Imagine: you are on top of the Eiffel Tower, sipping a warm cup of coffee under the stars, and munching on a Nutella crepe in the summer heat. Or, wait—you are gazing at the magnificent Royal Palace of Madrid while you speak Spanish with a native! You can experience these things and more by participating in the Columbia Association Sister Cities Program.

This year, six French students at Atholton went to Cergy-Pontoise, France with Sister Cities. They stayed there with their French student’s family for two weeks, and then they brought their student back to the states to live at their house for two weeks. One participant, junior Zoe Shi, went to France for her Sister Cities destination, where she roomed with Flavie. “It expands your outlook on the world and it’s way cheaper than taking a normal vacation to the country,” she said.

Whilst in France, Shi was able to explore a number of amazing sights, such as Paris, Mont-Saint-Michel, the Palace of Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, Normandy, and the Louvre. She was also in France when they won the semi-finals of the World Cup. “France won a couple days before we left, and I watched the match with my exchange family. It was so fun to see how passionate everyone was, and afterwards, many French people drove through the streets while honking and waving French flags in celebration.”

Shi mentioned that traveling to another country had its challenges too. “The biggest obstacle was probably the language barrier, which made it somewhat stressful, especially the first day when I was jet-lagged and homesick. After a couple of days, it got better, and I was able to actually have fun! Everyone spoke very fast and with a heavy French accent, so they had to slow down and pronounce all of their words clearly for me to understand.”

Each location has its own program of group trips that go to different places in the country. Caitlin Clemens, another Atholton junior who participated in the France program, said that she enjoyed the group trip to Mont- Saint-Michel. “Basically, it’s a really old island town that has a really old church on top. We walked across the bay at low tide which was really cool. In the afternoon we explored the island and ate a lot of French food,” she said.

Chloe Shader, yet another Atholton junior who went to France with Sister Cities, said “My favorite part was getting to know so many French kids. It was really fun to actually use the French I learned in class to make new friends.”

Anyone who is in level 3 or more of their language can participate in the program. In the words of Zoe Shi, “The exchange was so much fun and I hope more students consider doing it because it’s such a great opportunity to get better at the language you’re learning.”

Posted by Alexandra Gardner

Alexandra is a Junior at Atholton High School. She is a staff reporter and the Middle Pages Editor. She likes lobster rolls, long walks on the beach, and baby elephants. Alex hopes you enjoys her stories.

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