2016-17 France Exchange

Bonjour à tous.

In December, we will welcome to San Francisco a group of students from Brest and in April, a group of Urban students will travel to France.  During both groups’ visits, we will update this blog with photos and reflections, so do check back.

Any posts below this one relate to the 2014-15 exchange program. Posts above this will be for the 2016-17 exchange. All posts are dated, so you can’t go wrong. Due to issues with spam, we have disabled comments.

À bientôt!

Ville Lumière

On our last day in Paris, after waking up and eating breakfast we went to see Notre Dame. We got to spend about an hour walking through the cathedral. It was fascinating to see something so magnificent that was built so long ago. Then we bought food and ate at the Tuileries Garden by the Louvre. We had two hours for lunch, so a lot of us ended up napping in the sun after eating our food. I went to buy ice cream and then napped the rest of the time. Afterwards, we went inside the Louvre, and had about an hour to tour the exhibits. There was so much to see and so little time, but my favorite was probably the Greek and Roman statues on display. I also got to see the Mona Lisa up close, which was so cool. After the Louvre we went to dinner, where I got to eat with my brother, a French-studying Urban alum who is also doing a study abroad in Paris right now. After dinner we took a boat down the Seine as the sun set and got to see all the sights of Paris from the top of the boat. Finally, we went on the Eiffel Tower around 10pm and saw the city skyline at night from one of the most iconic buildings in the world. A packed day, sure, but it was absolutely amazing.

–Harry

Beautiful architecture, rich history, and wonderful food create an atmosphere that makes Paris one of my favorite cities in the world. We saw many sights– Notre Dame de Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysees. We took a lovely boat tour and saw the city at night. There were gorgeous buildings and groups of young people socializing by the river. Something that always strikes me when I travel is the way that people interact. I noticed this in Lille especially, thanks to our homestay program. Cassandra and I wandered around the city a lot with her friends. She said that I even helped her discover parts of her city that she hadn’t noticed before–I guess this is often true when we have guests, as she did the same for me in SF! I think I’m supposed to be writing this blog post about Paris… but the highlight of this trip for me was making connections in Lille–both with my host family and with Cassandra and her friends. I believe that getting to know new people is the most valuable part of travelling. I mean, in addition to those selfies I took with Debbie and Arnaud… those are pretty important too!

Liz~

First time in the parisian metro.

First time in the parisian metro.

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En route for Notre Dame.

En route for Notre Dame.

In line to get in!

In line to get in!

On top of the Arc de Triomphe.

On top of the Arc de Triomphe.

About to walk down the Champs Elysées.

About to walk down the Champs Elysées.

Taking a stroll in the Jardin des Tuileries.

Taking a stroll in the Jardin des Tuileries.

In the Louvres - In front of "Les noces de Cana"

In the Louvres – In front of “Les noces de Cana” by Veronese.

Trying to see the Mona Lisa.

Trying to see the Mona Lisa.

Last group picture in front of the "Académie Française"

Last group picture in front of the “Académie Française”

Having some tea at Mariage Frères!

Having some tea at Mariage Frères!

Siblings reunited.

Siblings reunited.

Boat tour - people picnicking on the banks of the Seine.

Boat tour – people picnicking on the banks of the Seine.

Bathroom at the Louvres Museum!

Bathroom at the Louvres Museum!

Artsy toilet paper for sale!

Artsy toilet paper for sale!

The Opera Garnier.

The Opera Garnier.

The EU Parliament

Bonjour ma famille, mes amis, tous! (Hello my family, my friends, and all!)

I am currently writing this from seat 84 on the TGV from Brussels, Belgium to Paris, France. Devan is sitting next to me, and we are watching Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. This is the first movie I have watched on this trip that has been in English! In Lille, I watched countless movies with my family in French: Gatsby le Magnifique (The Great Gastby), Cendrillon (Cinderella), Pourquoi J’ai Pas Mangé Mon Père (Why I Didn’t Eat My Father), Taken 1, Taken 2, and La Reine de la Neige (Frozen). No doubt my French has ameliorated throughout this trip. Today was our second day in Brussels. We had an early wake-up call at 6:50. After eating a complimentary breakfast at the hotel, we embarked on our journey to the European Union Parliament. There, we sat in on an informational meeting about the history of the EU. I learned that there are 28 participating member countries, thus totaling 751 individual members that help make decisions about Europe’s future economically, politically, and socially. We all sat in the famous Plenary room where meetings take place Emma Watson gave a riveting speech at the podium here about gender equality. In light of Emma, I asked our guide how many women are in the European Union. The answer? 31%. Not even a third. Can’t wait to be in Paris!

Xoxo, Natalie Sears

Today was our second day in Brussels, Belgium. We started the day with a group breakfast in the lobby of the hotel and then we were out the door by 9 in the morning. The first stop of the day’s adventures was to the Belgian parliament where we were lucky enough to receive a presentation from an employee of the parliament about the European Union, how the decision of which nations can be a part of the Union is decided, and how the laws made by the parliament are created. After this visit it was time for lunch. We were given the freedom to eat where and with whomever we chose, after which we all met up again. We took a tour bus, and we ended up at Little Europe. Little Europe is a collection of models of important locations in each European nation. After we finished there, we hopped into a train and were off to Paris where we had dinner all together then went to the hotel to get a good night’s rest for the next day’s adventures.

-Dustin J Magidson

On Sunday, I went with my host family and Aiden and his host family to Ypres, a city in Belgium. Ypres is famous for being the location of a World War I battle, so we visited the museum dedicated to the battle. We learned about life before the war, the details of the battle, and old military equipment. On Wednesday, our last day in Brussels, we went to the European Parliament and learned about the European Union and how the parliament works. We also got to see where they hold some of the meetings. Next, we saw the Atomium, a huge silver sculpture that was built for the World Fair in Brussels. Nearby, we walked through Mini Europe, a park with miniature buildings and towers for each European country. Finally, we left Brussels by train and headed for Paris. ————— Ben Louie

Early breakfast at the hotel

Early breakfast at the hotel

A group picture en route to the parliament

A group picture en route to the parliament

Students learning about the workings of the EU.

Students learning about the workings of the EU.

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Inside the EU Parliament

Inside the EU Parliament

In front of the EU members flags

In front of the EU members flags

A piece of the Berlin wall in front of the Parliament.

A piece of the Berlin wall in front of the Parliament.

At the Atomium - Brussels

At the Atomium – Brussels

Paris

We are here in Paris, everything is going really well. We have not been able to post because of a bad internet connection in the hotel. Our days are very busy with lots of visits. Today we start with Notre Dame and then Le Louvre and the Sainte Chapelle. We will end the day with a boat tour at night and the eiffel tower. Tomorrow, the bus will come pick us up at 5.30 am to take us to the airport.

See you all soon – Arnaud

Brussels

Last Weekend in Lille (LONDON) and Brussels:

After school on Friday I got these little chocolate filled beignets from this bakery called Paul, which is everywhere, and I am obsessed with them. Trying to find stores in Paris. I went back to my exchange student’s house to rest, and then at 1am we got up and took a 5 hour bus ride to London! We arrived at maybe 6:30 (awful and cold) and got Starbucks (equivalent of American embassy for me). It was so cool to see the main attractions of London like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace because I had never been. Was weird to hear people speaking english all of sudden! My favorite part had to be seeing the Ancient Egyptian exhibit at the British Museum, it was such a big collection and I was DYING (love ancient Egypt). It was pretty cold out but we did some awesome shopping on Oxford st., had dinner, and took the bus back at 11:30. I was really tired on Monday, which was a day off for the French students, but participated in an Easter egg hunt with my host family (the hunt got pretty intense) and had a fun last dinner with the french exchange students. I think my french is finally improving. I was so sad to leave Estelle and Lille on Tuesday, but Brussels is super cool and SUNNY! We hopped on and OFF on a hop on hop off bus and that was so interesting. Belgium is so cute with all the architecture and chocolate stores. I feel like all I’ve eaten is french fries and waffles and croque monsieur’s it’s awesome.

There’s a really good group here and I’m excited to take the TGV tomorrow, because trains are very cool.

-Shane

Hard to wake up!

Hard to wake up!

Saying good bye to the "correspondants"

Saying good bye to the “correspondants”

In the Royal Galerie - Brussels.

In the Royal Galerie – Brussels.

Admiring the Manneken pis.

Admiring the Manneken pis.

Yet an other round of chocolate waffles!

Yet an other round of chocolate waffles!

Having dinner in a belgian Brasserie.

Having dinner in a belgian Brasserie.

More French fries!

More French fries!

Elijah at a soccer game with Hakim.

Elijah at a soccer game with Hakim.

I had a great day on Saturday. In the afternoon as a group we played laser tag. After laser tag I did a little bit of shopping with Hakim. After shopping, we went back to Hakim’s house to prepare for the night. Saturday night we went to see the local soccer team play a game. Lille beat Reims, a team for the city just outside Paris, 3-1. It was a great experience and it’s always fun to watch soccer in Europe. Elijah

 

More Bruges…

Yesterday the French students and American correspondents went to Bruges, Belgium. It took us two hours by bus to get to Bruges, but many of us had music and card games to keep us busy. When we got to Bruges, we stepped out of the bus into a sand open with small trees. We walked along a sand path until we reached a wooden bridge that led to the town. Looking beyond the bridge, we saw horse drawn carriages that trotted down cobblestone path, streams filled with geese and ducks, and houses that dated back hundreds of years. It is as if the bridge that we crossed were a time machine that transported us back in time, for what we saw was not of this century. As we walked we saw many shops selling candy and souvenirs as well as famous statues and churches. We walked until we came to a river running through the middle of the town. The group separated in half and we took a boat tour through the town. It started to rain on the tour, which was really annoying, however, it was a very weak rain so it could have been worse. After the boat tour, we walked to a square and separated for lunch. I decided to go with three other friends to find a place to eat out of the rain. After about 20 minutes of searching (we usually take like half the time trying to find a place to eat) we found a friterie (famous French fry restaurant) and ate there. After eating, I walked around with the three friends I was with and bought some chocolate. We stopped at a stand to look at earrings and everyone bought something except for me… because I am really fickle and I was not 100% sure what my mom would like. After lunch was over, the entire group met in the aforementioned square and went to a museum on the history of Bruges. The museum had a large animated portion with animatronics as well as an interactive game section. It was very interesting. After the museum, we started back for the bus. On the way, someone got left behind and Debbie stayed behind to get them, which gave the rest of us time to get waffles. After waffles we all went back to the bus and drove back to school.

Aiden

Picture on the main plaza.

Picture on the main plaza.

Octave ate his chocolate waffle in less than a minute!

Octave ate his chocolate waffle in less than a minute!

Students admiring the "grand place".

Students admiring the “grand place”.

Everyone on board ready to tour the canals.

Everyone on board ready to tour the canals.

Izzy ready for the red carpet!

Izzy ready for the red carpet!

Students learning about the history of Bruges.

Students learning about the history of Bruges.

Bruges

Alright alright alright alright, it’s me! y’all probably missed hearing from me. I know that I miss hearing from me in english. I’m very much still alive and thriving and beautiful as always, except in a european country this time (two technically since we went to Bruge where Erika gave me some of her belgian waffle and of course i ate my own). Bruge is a beautiful city, which I got to see through a boat tour in the canals. It was very nice…although there were a lot of…swans/geese/ducks and I gotta say swans and geese FREAK me out because they’re so aggressive and nasty and gross. But…I survived. There was a very interesting interactive museum in Bruge that I may or may not have paid much attention to, but that’s because I was very distraught that I lost the flower hair pin that I bought. Honestly, a grand tragedy. I’ve been moving sneakily a lot in France (Not that I’m doing anything bad, I promise. I am just sneaking a lot.) and yesterday, Arnaud told me “pas de sneaking en France!” However, I CAUGHT Arnaud SNEAKING in Bruge today so he could get pics for the blog and I am very disappointed in him.

Besides all that, I love my host family! They’re all SO funny (but maybe I only think that because they have my sense of humor) (France clearly has not changed me yet) and they’re also super nice (and I think they like me too so that’s always good). I’m understanding them a lot more than I thought I would so that’s pretty good. Everything is cool great fantastic amazing. I’m cute as usual so life is pretty good I would say. I’m also confused as how to upload pix, but there are many selfies of me (plus my main G’s Liz, Erika et Frieda of course) (and of course some w/ the host fam) looking VERY good so you can expect something nice when I return. I think that’s all I got to say for today. It was a pretty good day and tomorrow, they’re taking me to Paris to do some flea marketing (my favorite thing to do) (so…inevitable Sneaking), so I gotta sleep early. See you all in a week!

maybe a little more than a week? i’m not used to the timezone thing. peace.  s h m a r

 

In Bruges

After waking up at some ungodly hour (unfortunately, the jet lag that made it very easy to wake up in the morning has worn off; the jet lag that makes it impossible to be awake at 3pm is still around though), we boarded a bus to Bruges. If you haven’t seen the movie “In Bruges,” I recommend that you do to get a better idea of what the place is all about, but I’ll try to describe it here. It’s kind of like Old Lille (the neighborhood in Lille that’s all brick and ornate decoration and stone streets) on steroids. Every building is brown or red or grey and made of brick, some with gold accents. Like in Lille, the streets are very small (which helps explain why the average car here is about half the size of the average car in the US). There’s a canal that goes through the city with geese in it, and all these bridges going over it. There are horse drawn carriages (which Arnaud is very disapproving of) and a lot of tourists. It’s in Belgium, so there are also approximately 140,000 thousand chocolate shops per block, which really makes you wonder how they make enough money selling the same assortment of house-shaped chocolate bars and (admittedly ridiculously delicious) chocolatey Belgian creations. There are also waffle vendors everywhere, so the whole place smells of waffles and chocolate.

We took a boat tour through Bruges. The boat driver told us a lot about the city, most of which was completely incomprehensible because of his Belgian accent, but the city is very pretty from the water and it wasn’t raining too much at that point. By the time we got off the boat, however, the rain was getting pretty legitimate so we all pulled out umbrellas and looked for places to eat lunch. The desserts here are insane, but I think I prefer the savory food in France.

After lunch we had some time to walk around and explore central Bruges. This mostly entailed visits to more chocolate shops.

We then went to one of the strangest museums I’ve ever seen. Half haunted house, half adventure/romance movie, it walked us through the very odd story of a character living in Bruges in the time when it was a booming port for European trade. Complete with scented fog, shadowy sets with automatically opening doors, and life size, moving models of people, it was a strange experience.

After recovering from the excitement of the museum, we got some waffles (which were insanely good and once again really made me question why everyone here isn’t obese) and then bussed back to Lille. Overall, although clearly primarily a tourist destination, I would recommend a trip to Bruges (or if not, at least a viewing of “In Bruges”– just know the real Bruges has a few less dead bodies lying in the Plaza).

-Emily

On the boat in Bruges

On the boat in Bruges

In the Historium Museum

In the Historium Museum

Selfie madness!

Selfie madness!

smiling in spite of the rain!

smiling in spite of the rain!

 

 

The old town – Lille

5 days in…and… finally… sleep! Today we were able to sleep in for one hour more because our students did not start school until 9:00am. Sure, one hour is not very long, but every second counts and I, for one, think I might finally be adjusted to the time difference. After my luxurious slumber, I arrived at the school where we began yet another day consisting mostly of walking. We walked to a ‘hop on/hop off bus’ in order to get a better sense of Lille as a whole town. We saw the ‘olden town’ parts, the center of the city next to Lille’s version of downtown, and then continued our journey looking at monuments, sites, and sculptures, each with their own significance to the formation or continuation of this incredible European town. My favorite site was an old church, ‘Saint Maurice de Lille,’ because its architecture reminded me a bit of the front of the Sagrada Família (a famous church in Barcelona). After the bus tour, we were given 2 hours for lunch, about half of which was spent looking for a restaurant that was both open and had tables to sit at inside (if you weren’t already aware, San Francisco’s “foggy and cold” is a beautiful summer’s day for Lille). After settling on a somewhat legit kebab place, I ate a kebab sandwich and then walked through the streets peeking in shops varying from small, seemingly invisible chocolate shops to much larger and very obvious…chocolate shops (I will note the difference: some of them sold only chocolate while others offered a variety of jams as well). After lunch, the entire group met joined again around 1:15 where we walked to the museum of Charles de Gaulle. We were given a guided walking tour of his house where we learned about his life as a child and how that may have prompted his future as a leader of France. From this museum we walked (again!?) back to the school and joined our french students. From there a few of our students asked what we wanted to do, (they suggested not only more shopping and walking, but also scuba diving?!) but they soon realized that our feet were exhausted and so we instead relaxed and I was able to watch some french reality television, a great experience. Lille has continued to surprise me in the best of ways and I can say with sincerity that this has been an incredibly beneficial trip. I am excited to learn, see, and do more!

Sarah

Main square with Flemish architecture

Main square with Flemish architecture

Inner courtyard of the Hospice Comtesse

Inner courtyard of the Hospice Comtesse

Eglise Saint Maurice

Eglise Saint Maurice

Chocolate and pastries - Meert Lille

Chocolate and pastries – Meert Lille

Listening to our guide at the Charles De Gaulle Museum

Listening to our guide at the Charles De Gaulle Museum

Kemp is in trouble!

Kemp is in trouble!

Waiving at the paparazzis!

Waiving at the paparazzis!

Discovering the city

Today we spent the morning walking around la citadelle de Lille, which is used by the military and shaped like a pentagon. (We also saw Marguerite Yourcenar’s house.) It was very windy so that made it really cold. The sun made several appearances, but quickly disappeared again so we suffered a lot from the cold, but at least it didn’t rain. We spent a while there walking around and then we left and split up for lunch.

For lunch we had mussels and fries, which were good, but certain people didn’t like them that much (i won’t name names…). Afterwards Arnaud and Debbie bought us beignets (i think). They were really good, but sadly Liz could not eat them because she is allergic to gluten (although the other day she did find a restaurant where they served gluten free bread that actually tasted like bread). Liz also was really happy because she got to take selfies with Arnaud and Debbie. Then after lunch we all met up at Le Musée des Beaux Arts. We had a tour of the museum led by a woman who works there and she talked a lot about certain pieces of art (and by a lot I mean a lot). The museum was also getting ready for an exhibit where artists recreated famous paintings, but replaced the faces of the people’s heads with Donald Duck. After our 2 and a half hour tour, we headed back to school. Also Arnaud showed us where he was born and many photos were taken.

-Erika

Today was a very tiring day, but definitely very, very fun. I started the day waking up a little late and running to catch the bus with my French host, Sigrid. Anywhere else, that would have been very annoying but, as she tried to pull on her coat and I tried to finish my breakfast on the go, someone actually held the bus door open for us. After arriving at school, Sigrid and I parted so she could go to French class and I could meet up with the other Urban students (and Arnaud and Debbie). Then, we set off for La Citadelle, a military base constructed by Louis XIV (of course, only after stopping for chocolate croissants, bread, and coffee). I’m not sure what I expected, but what we found when we arrived at La Citadelle was not that. While in years past, the base has been under the control of (and used for) the French military, it is now (since 2005) a NATO base. After a security check at the royal gate (yes, a real thing), we entered a really, really warm room. Now, I say warm not in a bad way, but in a very good way, since it is absolutely freezing here. We’re all wearing as many layers as we can, plus scarves, hats, and gloves. Once there, one of the soldiers explained the history of the place and little bit about the reasoning behind the construction. La Citadelle is shaped like a pentagon with smaller bastions coming off of each corner. When it was built, they placed cannons on each corner, so as to completely surround the citadel with cannonfire if (and when) an enemy approached. La Citadelle was reinforced and stocked such that it could withstand siege for 40 days. Once, it went 41 days under siege before the French (literally) waved the white flag and went on a shopping trip to the grocery store, so to speak, before returning to the fortress to continue the siege. After leaving La Citadelle, we went to lunch in Vieux Lille (Old Lille). Some people went to a kebab place, others to a crêperie, but most of us ended up at Aux Moules, a restaurant which is famous for a Flamand specialty: moules frites, or mussels with fries. Some abstained from trying them, but I bravely ordered the mussels. As someone who has never been a huge fan of mussels, I must say…..my opinion hasn’t exactly changed. But I’m glad I experienced such a specialty anyways, even if it was just mussels. However, I did really enjoy our dessert: croustillons, better known as deep-fried beignets. I don’t even think I need to explain any more about them, since I’m sure you can imagine how delicious they were (very). After lunch, we all met up in front of the Musée des Beaux Arts, the fine arts museum of Lille. I’m pretty sure this picture will be up on this page, but we took a group picture with the facing building as a background. Guess what that building was? The DMV. I wish our DMVs were as pretty as that. Anyways, we took a guided tour of the Musée with Pascale, our tour guide. She showed us some highlights of the museum, starting with the Dark Ages and ending with the mid-20th century (a painting from Picasso’s Blue Period marked the end of our tour). And, just like that, our very tiring day of lots of walking around was over. We finished up at the Lycée, and went home. Thanks for reading!!!

Frieda

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First group photo!

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Dinner at the school with the host familieskw97d IMG_0082IMG_0088 IMG_0090 IMG_0093 IMG_0103

A great tour guide at the Musée des Beaux Arts.

A great tour guide at the Musée des Beaux Arts.

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Vie Française

This morning we attended more classes with our students. The classes are run very differently here. At Urban, the classes are mostly discussion and activity based, while here the classrooms are more classic lecture and textbook types. The students sit at desks, rather than tables or groups so it seems to be less about collaboration. However, I do not think this hurts the students, because I was told there are many super smart kids who do well in school. Also, it is different to be in a much less technology-based school. At Urban we have easy access to computers and smartboards, and it is easy to forget that luxury. Lastly, I noticed that all the students write in cursive here – and with quite nice handwriting at that! I think that students are required to learn a certain style of handwriting early and then expected to use it in school.

– Michela

Lille has treated me very well so far! The classes are very interesting but so different than Urban classes. This morning, I had an English literature and philosophy class. In English Literature, the class is reading Hamlet, which I just read in my winter term at Urban! The class is totally in English so it is very easy to understand, except the teacher has a very strong Southern accent because he is from Alabama. The philosophy class is very interesting because it is a required class, unlike at Urban. The students are learning about the origins of justice and morality. I also am enjoying my time with my family a lot. Neither my host father nor mother speaks English, so I really have to practice my French with them. My exchange student lives outside of Lille so we take a bus to and from school everyday. My host family has been feeding me extremely well and it is interesting to see the differences between meals in France and America. We eat dinner a lot later than I do at home, especially because school ends at 5:30. Also all the dinners, I have had so far have had multiple courses, including cheese at the end!

-Niki

I love Lille ! I am not fond of the weather, but the scenery and cute architecture makes up for it. My homestay family is extremely nice and has great hospitality. They feed me so much I’m probably going to gain weight. It’s so great. We have breakfast at 6 :30 am before school. That usually consists of pain au chocolat, bread and jam, fruit, coffee, juice, and tea ! During the weekend, my homestay family served me a three-course lunch ! And dinner of course, is a very big three-course meal. I’ve eaten plenty of bread, chocolate, and coffee. So far, I’ve had foie gras, bœuf bourguignon and I’m waiting to try escargots !

-Izzy

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Teachers informal collaboration in the faculty lounge.

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Students attending a course on European history with Mr Tellier - History teacher and former Head of School.

Students attending a course on European history with Mr Tellier – History teacher and former Head of School.