Twenty-four high school students from France spent three weeks in the metropolitan area and rated their stay an 'A'.
The program is coordinated by the International Center for Language Studies, located in Washington, D.C. While the organization focuses mostly on adult education, they partner with Nacel, an organization in France to bring two groups of French high school students to the area each summer.
“We try to provide a mix of education and entertainment,” said Barbara Gurr, ICSL’s English-as-a-Second Language coordinator. “The students spend four hours each day in the classroom learning English. In the afternoon, we take them to museums and to other sights of interest throughout the area.”
This year, those sites included The Lyceum, the Torpedo Factory and Christ Church. “They also got to walk around Old Town,” Gurr said.
To practice their English, students went to Georgetown to ask young people about their views of the situation between the United States and France. "They were very surprised to learn that most of the young people they talked to didn’t really think there was a big problem,” Gurr said.
AT NIGHT, the French students stayed with host families. Most are usually recruited from schools with French emersion programs. This year, things were particularly difficult. Many host families backed out of the program at the last minute, fearing to have the responsibility of someone’s child at a time when terror threats were increasing, especially when there seemed to be threats to the area’s Metro system.
“We basically recruited every friend and neighbor we could,” Gurr said.
But things worked out and the evaluations the children filled out indicated that all host families did an excellent job. Some families took their French guests to the beach while others took them to see things closer to home.
Half of the students came from the Leon region of France and were sponsored by the French healthcare corporation.
“In France, corporations with more than 49 employees must dedicate about two percent of their profits to the welfare and education of the families that work for them,” Gurr explained. “This year, that corporation was the healthcare system in France, so many of the students were children of doctors, nurses and psychologists. The other half of the group were from different schools throughout France.”
Most of the students spoke some English but only about five of them were fluent. Less than half of the group had ever been to America before.
“It really was a wonderful program and everyone had a great experience,” Gurr said.
Another group of French high school students will arrive on Aug. 1, for three weeks of study and fun in the area.