White Mountain School students and faculty will soon celebrate a 25-year exchange program with Lyceé St. Cyr, a high school in Nevers, France. Shortly after the departure of another group of French students from WMS this month, we talked with French teacher Campbell Ainsworth about the history of the program and the school’s connection to Nevers.
“It started with Jane Zanger, a WMS French teacher years ago, and her counterpart, Sophie Chevrier,” said Campbell. “They met at a conference in France before Jane had even come to WMS. When Jane’s work brought her to White Mountain, she brought the relationship and exchange program with her. We’ve kept it going ever since.”
Since then, a tradition has developed. Every year students from one school visit the other in the spring. This year, 12 French students and two teachers, including Sophie, visited WMS for a week during their tour of New England. They lived with local White Mountain School families and faculty, attended classes and school events and participated in all sorts of activities with their White Mountain School host students, like a weekend bonfire and an on-campus treasure hunt.
Tessa Pham ‘16, a WMS student host, said, “it was a wonderful opportunity to gain experience as a host. I felt really good about their visit. They loved our school, and I know that as a whole community we did a great job hosting our visitors.”
Last year, Derek Li ‘17, Barbara DeLeon ‘16 and Julia Scalley ‘17 were all on the French Immersion Field Course where they met and stayed with the same students they hosted themselves this year. “It is a true exchange program,” says Campbell, “and all but one or two of the French students who came this spring is graduating this year. Many WMS hosts will have the opportunity to see their counterparts next spring.”
“Nevers is a real town,” says Campbell. “It is a medium-sized town, and it is perfect for our own students’ homestay experiences. We also visit Paris and go sightseeing, but Nevers is great for a true experience. It isn’t a touristy place, so our students get a real understanding for how the language and culture comes together. Dinner can be a three-hour meal. That’s something that you just don’t get until you do it. Our students learn the benefits of practicing their language with native speakers. Their confidence grows when the French students come here and when we go to them. They learn that language is about communicating and that you don’t have to be perfect when you are learning.”
Thank you for talking with us, Campbell and Tessa! For more information on the Modern Languages program at The White Mountain School, please click here.