A flavorful exchange

Published 10:10 am Friday, April 14, 2017

By now, the 15 students and two chaperones who came to Southampton Academy are back home in Chalons, France. Their visit featured a weeklong stay of living with host students, attending classes, touring historic sites as well as having fun American style.

Specifically, the guest students regularly attend Lycee Jean Talon, a French boarding school. Their trip here was organized by Sherry Ferguson, who teaches French language and culture at Southampton Academy. She explained that she was looking for a way to expose her French III and IV students to a real-world language experience and came across the opportunity online. Following an application process, the two schools used Sykpe and Edmodo to talk with one another.

Southampton Academy’s French instructor Sherry Ferguson, center, with the chaperones of the students from the Lycee Jean Talon.

“It makes me so happy to hear my students remarking that they are speaking to real French people,” Ferguson said. “They were very nervous to put their French skills into practice and soon realized how challenging it is to converse in a foreign language.”

Before arriving at Norfolk International Airport late last month, 11 families were located to serves as host the guests, including Ferguson of course. Two of her children, Ethan and Kendal, talked on Thursday about the experience. Fellow students Richard Byrd and Kristen Whitehead also shared their memories of the visitors.

Ethan said the French were not at all stand-offish as some people might be led to believe based on stereotypes. Kristen agreed. She recalled that her guest Mathilde was quiet at first, but within two days they were laughing all the time.

Richard said his father’s mind about the French was changed in a positive way by their guests, Maxence and Quinton, both 16.

Something that surprised the visitors at the academy was the schedule. They are used to a longer school day and a longer lunch. To one it seemed that no sooner did she sit down to eat then the bell rang for the next class. And whereas students in America will intermingle with other classmates going from subject to subject, overseas they stay in one group.

Maxence and Quinton are now fans of barbecue and spare ribs, thanks to Richard’s family. They also got an American football, which was much used before leaving.

Kristen introduced Mathilde to peanut butter, which seems to be practically non-existent in their neck of the woods, which by the way is about 90 minutes west of Paris. Reese’s Pieces and Oreos with peanut butter filling were among the treats she took back with her.

The Fergusons took their guests to the Commodore Theater in Portsmouth to see “Beauty and the Beast,” which everyone reportedly enjoyed.

Three of the guests had this to say before leaving on a trip to Washington, D.C.:

“This exchange was very interesting,” Jeanne Donnee. “It was great to be part of a real American school and meet American students. Thank you, Southampton Academy and the teachers for this trip.”

Sophie C.: “I will remember this trip all my life. It was the first time I had visit the U .S., and it was perfect. Everybody in Southampton Academy was amazing. I’m looking forward to welcoming you in France to make you discover my country in return.”

Mr. Montanari: “Hi, Sherry! It’s been an amazing experience and it’s allowed our students and their teachers to discover the American school system, way of life, culture and traditions. This is the first time some of our students have travelled abroad. Students have created great and strong links with their shadow students and host families. We are so grateful that S.A. has made it possible! We will be honored to welcome you in France. Meanwhile, we will continue our electronic interactions to keep in touch!”

The cultural exchange has not ended with this visit. Ferguson said she’s planning on taking some of her students to the Lycee either during a break in November or perhaps next April.