VINCENNES, Ind. — A group of students from Vincennes’ sister city in France are getting a taste of Indiana’s oldest city.

The students, about 20 of them, arrived from Vincennes, France, on Oct. 23 and have plans to spend about 10 days here — touring the sites, meeting the people and getting a feel for the Midwestern way of life.

“We’ve been busy introducing them to new foods,” said Jenny Jewel, who is hosting two French students with her daughters, twins Claire and Hannah Kifer, both freshman French students, and senior Abigail Kifer, also a French student. “They’d never had root beer, so we made root beer floats last night.

“Oh, and easy mac and cheese,” she said with a giggle. “That was kinda fun, too.”

In addition to spending their evening hours with local host families, the French students also attend three classes a day at Lincoln High School and the rest of the time in the library, often wading through piles of homework sent with them to the U.S.

They’ve toured Vincennes University, local historic sites and had plans to go to Indianapolis to watch the Pride of the Green marching band compete at semi-state.

And of all the things they’ve done — and tasted — so far, that seems to be their favorite.

“The band is very impressive,” said 16-year-old Baptiste Fraysse, to which his fellow French students nodded and smiled in agreement. “At our school, we haven’t got (a) show like this one.”

“It’s amazing,” added Marie Le Clezio. “It’s really, really impressive. We don’t have things like that in France.”

The French students are here as part of an exchange program; there is a new group that comes most years, and they’re usually made honorary citizens by city officials.

Primarily, they’re here to see the sites, experience American culture and, most importantly, study English in a full immersion environment.

And local students studying French get in a bit of practice, too.

“It’s so helpful because you learn the language from them,” said Josephine Hayes, a junior. “We see how they speak, and it’s different than learning from a textbook. There is slang, other ways to say different words, words we sometimes don’t learn at all. So it’s fun.”

“It’s interesting to listen to them have conversations, too,” said Corin Halter. “You can stop them, ask them what they said instead of just doing listening activities in class. You learn so much more about conversational French.”

But it’s not always about studying. Along the way, they often make life-long friends, too.

Evan Combs, a junior, is hosting two students, Theo L’Heureux and Marc Petrilli, the latter he stayed with himself on a visit to Paris last summer.

“We stay up until 10:30 p.m., playing video games, talking, playing ping-pong,” he said with a smile. “We talk about sports. Theo had never ever heard of American football before, so it’s been fun explaining everything to him.

“Coming to school for the first time, their eyes lit up,” Combs said. “They said, ‘Your school is so much bigger! There is so much more room!'”

“Everything is bigger here,” said Le Clezio. “The university is bigger, the gymnasiums are bigger, even the food is bigger.”

Jewel said her family has enjoyed having the French students in their home, both for the learning experience and the friendships blooming before their eyes.

“We have a big family anyway, so we’re used to having a lot of girls in the house,” Jewel said. “And these two are like part of our family now.

“We’re enjoying sharing our American way of life, and they’ve brought a little bit of France into our homes, too.”

Bailey Hacker, a French and Spanish teacher at LHS, said she, too, has thoroughly enjoyed watching her own students interact with the French students, whose rigorous and lengthy school schedules often fall short of that most American students. Local students learn about French culture, she said, and so much more than they could ever read in a textbook.

“They have a genuine curiosity and want to learn what their lives are like back in France,” Hacker said. “And it’s so fun to hear my French students getting excited to use their French in a scenario outside of the classroom. It makes me so happy when they feel proud of their abilities.

“And they start to realize that the world isn’t so big and after all.”

Source: Vincennes Sun-Commercial

Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial,

This is an Indiana Exchange story shared by the Vincennes Sun-Commercial.

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