They may not be accustomed to yellow school buses. The shorter lunch periods may have come as a shock, and the focus on sports may not be the same back home, but their differences were not the focus when a group of French exchange students recently bid au revoir to their hosts at McEachern High School.
One French student said that if she could take one thing back with her to her home country, it would be the friends that she made.
“This trip was to last three weeks, but it will last much longer in my heart,” the visiting student added.
McEachern held a breakfast in honor of their new French friends who got to experience life as American students in the 23rd largest school district in the country. The French student exchange program with Academie Nancy-Metz was sponsored by the Georgia State Department of Education. Twelve McEachern families hosted 12 French students for three weeks. The French Department of Education chose the French students based on their application and research project.
“It’s truly amazing for students to be able to experience other countries,” Cobb Schools Superintendent Chris Ragsdale told those in attendance at the breakfast. “I hope the French students have had a positive experience. I hope you have formed some memories that you will keep for a lifetime because we do have some of the best teachers.”
Georgia’s School Superintendent Richard Woods echoed the remarks of Superintendent Ragsdale, telling the French students that “Cobb County has a wonderful school system,” and they are at one of the best schools in the state of Georgia.
Superintendent Woods praised both the McEachern students and French students as ambassadors for their countries.
“I hope you will continue to maintain contact with each other. I hope it is something that you will treasure for the rest of your life,” Superintendent Woods encouraged.
Even before Superintendent Woods spoke, French student Caminne already declared that she planned to visit again.
“It was a really wonderful experience. I’m grateful,” she added.
During their visit, the students attended classes, watched sports practices, feasted on classic American food, tasted southern cuisine like grits and biscuits and gravy, and toured landmarks and museums. They laughed with their new friends, in French and English. They helped each other strengthen their foreign language skills.
“Learning another language is good for you. You discover a whole new world,” said the French Consul General of Atlanta.
“As a parent, you try to be a role model for your child, but these [students] have been such a role model to me. The way they enjoyed its each other’s company, wanted to share and build relationships so easily and openly has been so refreshing,” the host mom applauded.
One McEachern student said that she had heard stories from her dad about his experience hosting a foreign exchange student, and thanks to the program at McEachern, she was able to make memories of her own.
“It was a great experience for everyone,” she gushed.
Next year, the roles may reverse for the McEachern students who are looking to visit France. If McEachern students are able to visit France, their French friends have already given them a clue as to what to expect.
“Everything is different. [In America], everything is way bigger, the roads, the cars,” Azalee said with a smile.