South French students participate in cultural exchange

Lizzie Garvey, staff reporter

Over spring break, 10 sophomores and juniors from South traveled to France for 10 days for the French exchange program. South students came back with participating French students, who stayed in Glenview until April 22, according to Matthew Bertke, French teacher and leader of the exchange.

While in France, South students visited Lyon and Paris to participate in activities with and without their French companions, according to Bertke. Activities included walking tours, museum visits and exploring the city at night, according to sophomore Marina Madsen. French students did the same thing in Glenview and participated in American activities, such as laser tag and tours of Chicago.

“When she’s here, it’s kind of interesting because I feel like I’m doing so many more things than I usually would,” Madsen said. “I [had] to keep busy, so we would walk around the lake or something instead of me sitting and probably watching Netflix or something like that.”

One of the most remarkable parts of the exchange, according to Madsen, was the different culture of the French. She said that cultural differences, such as French students frequently smoking, the difference in the style of dress and her host family’s lifestyle were very interesting changes from what it’s like in America.

“Everything’s just a little different,” Madsen said. “I think that there is a distinction between bad and different, because different was really cool.”

The differences were surprising for many other students, including Madsen’s French exchange student Solana Rives, who said that she liked the differences between her school and South the most. According to Rives, kids are much less judgemental of others at South, and the school, in general, is unlike anything in France.

“You’re really lucky,” Rives said. “I don’t know if you [know] that, but you have electives; you have clubs; you have free periods; you have great teachers; you have computers; you have big classrooms.”

The students were also able to develop relationships with their exchange students that they were assigned to stay with throughout the trip. According to sophomore Andy Sirakides, he built a lasting friendship with his French student.

“If I was back in France any time, I know I could probably call him and be able to visit him and have a good time still,” Sirakides said.

However, there were some parts of the exchange students disliked. According to Rives, shadowing Madsen throughout her school day was one of the more boring aspects for her.

”It’s really interesting, but it’s kind of boring, because one time it’s cool, [the second time] it’s cool, but it gets more and more boring,” Rives said.

As for the benefits, Bertke said he believes that the program gives students a new perspective on the French culture and language that goes deeper than what they are learning in the classroom.

“It gives what the kids are learning purpose, but then also lets them experience the world,” Bertke said. “Even students that don’t have the opportunity to travel to France still get to meet French people and experience French culture and see the world in a different way.”

The exchange has motivated Madsen and Sirakides to do similar things later in life, such as travel abroad for a semester or study more into French.  Anything related to studying abroad is also highly beneficial to students, according to Bertke.

“I think it just gives you another opportunity to have some really great selfreflection about who you are and what you want to do in this giant world that we’ve got,” Bertke said.