Trip leader Justin Romick, shares the groups emotions as they prepare for their time in France.
The discrete emotional resonance of giddy anticipation and wonder marked the opening moments of the trip as students gathered together at Logan airport to embark on a month-long journey of cultural and linguistic discovery of France. As teachers, Brian and I focused attentively on trying to get a read on the early dynamics of the group as the reality set in that our students are about to encounter a spectacular mix of joy, wonder, challenge, and growth. The two words that best describe what we observed are curiosity and excitement. Of course, we have to add a small sense of apprehension as well, as students shared concerns about what it might feel like to communicate solely in French and the nervous anticipation of meeting the families opening their homes to these students from so far away for the next three weeks. Overall, the desire to understand and expand their own knowledge and experience proved to be the prevailing sentiment as we engaged in a thoughtful, focused free-write posing various questions to the group before we boarded the plane. We asked them what questions they might have for their future host families and they all delivered thoughtful and original queries, here are just a few examples:
What about your country would you shield from your child?
What do you know about dinosaurs?
Where is the best pastry shop and bakery?
What is French spirit like?
How can I cook like a French person?
Where have you traveled outside of France. Was is better?
What do they think about Americans?
What is something you take for granted?
As we began our descent into Paris, we saw students snapping pictures through the windows of the plane, accompanied by giggles elicited from fleeting glimpses of the Eiffel tower and views of Paris from above. That laughter permeated the bus ride from Marseille to Arles, as Svetlana, Toler, and Sammy chatted away in the moments before arriving in the city we will all call home for the next three weeks. After a quick stroll through the streets around their school, stopping for requisite samples of ice cream and pastries, our students chatted with one another in French and continued to pose a series of questions to our wonderful host, Katie, in the moments before they were all picked up by their host families. These slightly awkward first encounters were marked by joy and nervous laughter, the first steps of the journey are already behind them and countless adventures await as we all settle into Arles for the next several weeks.