Exchange students get a taste of life in the U.S., local school

Exchange students get a taste of life in the U.S., local school
Pacific Ridge School sophomores, from left: Natalie Gandara, Anna Nuzzo and Hallie Goodstein socialize with several students from Lycee Victor Duruy High School in Paris last week. In total, 11 French students from the school were hosted by PRS families for two weeks as part of an exchange program. Courtesy photo

CARLSBAD — Every year dozens of students from around the globe engage in an exchange program at Pacific Ridge School.

This year, students from Taiwan and France are spending two weeks with their American host families and getting a taste of life in the U.S.

As for the Pacific Ridge students, they also have the opportunity to study abroad for several weeks as part of the program.

Pacific Ridge French teacher Steve Stella said the program has grown in popularity over the years. He said the program has been active for at least seven years.

“Our goal is … to go back on our global travel trips and stay with the French students,” Stella said. “We haven’t done that for a couple years because there is a lot of competition for global travel.”

French student Archibald Bernard, 15, hails from Paris’s Lycee Victor Duruy High School and is one of 11 students and two chaperones to make the journey. He is learning the differences between the two educational systems and schools in addition to touring Carlsbad and San Diego with PRS sophomore Becca Henry and her family.

The 16-year-old is guiding Bernard during his time here and is also learning about the differences between cultures.

For instance, Bernard’s school in Paris is within eyesight of the famed Eiffel Tower, but his schedule can be longer or shorter depending on the day. He said a typical day can be spent in school from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., which leaves little time for extracurricular activities such as sports.

“It’s very different here and I think it’s very funny to see the difference,” Bernard explained. “We have a bigger day. Sometimes we don’t always finish at 5.”

Also, Bernard said if a student forgets their book to a class, they are kicked out, while at PRS students either share or perform a chore, depending on the class.

In addition, he said Wednesday’s are half-days of schooling, but the following Saturday will make-up for those hours.

“It’s different for every school,” Bernard said. “It’s been very nice. It’s a big city (San Diego) … very big compared to cities in France.”

Another difference is in the lifestyle. Paris is a massive metropolis with a population of more than 2 million. Also, it is one of the oldest cities in Europe leaving little room for single-family housing commonly found in the U.S.

Thus, he was surprise to see Henry’s flock of chickens when he arrived.

“I wanted to do it again because it was so fun,” she said. “Just to hear how different French school is from our school. They spend some of the time in class with us and some of the time traveling around San Diego.”

The trips, meanwhile, are reserved for juniors and seniors where they visit such places as Paris, Australia and Asia, among other locales.

Stella, though, is encouraging his students to cross the pond and live with their counterparts and take in the differences of daily life in France.

Speaking of, the fifth-year PRS teacher said arguably the biggest difference in the school setting is the Carlsbad school’s room arrangement. At PRS, the students are in circles with their desks to encourage more dialogue and debate.

Bernard said his classes have the traditional setting of rows and not as much interaction with classmates.

Another difference is the students’ worldview and today’s political environments in each country are similar, Stella said. He said the conversations between the American and French students have been fascinating.

“Political discussions are, we’ve gone through a lot in the last year in this country and the French people are going through similar things in their country,” Stella said. “When they connect with one another, they see there are many similarities. They see they are just human beings.”

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