From Lake Annecy to America
New York getaway: Our four Annecy exchange students with other Tufts friends. Félix Deceunik kneels in front, center. In the second row, Sylvain Chalot is second from left in a grey T-shirt; Etienne Chalot wears a striped T-shirt and sunglasses; and Marine Paumard stands next to Etienne.
Editor’s note: With funding from the MacJannet Foundation, each year Les Amis du Prieuré de Talloires provides scholarships to students living around Lake Annecy to spend four weeks attending the English summer program at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. Four students were chosen last summer. Excerpts from their accounts (as well as one by their teacher) appear below.
A lucky teacher
It was ten years ago—my first year as an English teacher at the Lycée Lachenal, one of only two high schools in Annecy offering preparatory classes for entrance to selective universities. My students were enrolled in a science-oriented program called PTSI, an acronym that stands for Physique, Technologie Sciences de l’Ingénieur. So when I first heard that Les Amis du Prieuré had offered some of these teenage students scholarships to study English at Tufts University in Massachusetts, I have to admit I felt a little jealous. Oh, to be young again and spend a month on an American college campus…
However, when the first two students came back to class that fall, I immediately saw the advantage for me as a teacher: The lucky recipients came back having progressed in English, but not only that: They were also full of enthusiasm as well as a desire to share what they had learned about the U.S. and its inhabitants, as well as about other citizens of the world.
To me, the experience is as much a linguistic one as a human one. It has been interesting for me to hear the improved accent, the ability to express themselves more confidently, the little colloquialisms, the typical phrases like “Step up to the plate,” although I must say it is difficult to have them stop using “gonna” or “wanna.”
To Les Amis du Prieuré and its funders at the MacJannet Foundation, I say: What you offer my students is amazing, and what it does for them and to them is invaluable. I really hope this program can continue.
The hugeness of everything
The first thing that impressed me was the hugeness of everything compared to France, from the size of roads and cars to the size of the Tufts campus or of cities like Boston.
We attended school every morning from 9 a.m. to noon, with two different courses. The first one was for improving our grammar and our language skills by discussing social issues or other topics, and it was really interesting for me to learn more about Japanese, Chinese, Serbian, and Saudi culture. The second course was based on American history, so we learned a lot about it and prepared Wednesday afternoon tours called “Discover America” and also the Boston Tea Party.
In the afternoons, we were free to plan our own activities or to do some proposed by Tufts. We visited Boston, a beautiful city with perfect squares for drinking lemonade and playing with squirrels. At the end of the second week we decided to visit New York. We traveled there by bus and stayed in an Air BnB there. It was absolutely amazing. Even two days were not sufficient to see everything in New York. It was one of my best memories.
This scholarship gave me the opportunity to discover and learn so many things about America, as well as cultures all around the world. I couldn’t hope for better for my first trip out of Europe. It was by far the best summer I have ever had, and I will never forget it.
Etienne Chalot, 19, lives in Vaux, a village outside Annecy. He wants to become an engineer. He studies PTSI with Félix and Sylvain.
A lot in common
When my teacher told me I’d been chosen to spend four weeks at Tufts University, I didn’t realize at first how lucky I was. For a young adult who had never traveled outside of Europe, I thought it was a golden opportunity to discover the world’s most influential country. And I was right. Both Boston and New York are amazing— much better than in movies. However, the tourism was not the thing I liked most.
At Tufts, I met people from all around the world. They were very different from me; they had different tastes and habits; but the more I got to know them, the more I realized we have a lot in common. They made me discover their culture, and I taught them about the French way of life. Hearing them talking about current subjects, like communism in China or war in the Middle East, makes me realize that what TV shows us is not the unique truth. During this summer, I also realized that I want to travel a lot in order to form my own opinions about the world.
Félix Deceunik, 19, lives in Annecy and studies PTSI at Lycée Lachenal in Pringy. He loves sports and Japanese culture.
When cultures collide
Tufts University was a social hub where students with many different backgrounds were able to see all their cultures confront each other. I use this term confront from its French definition: It would expose someone to a difference, enabling him to contrast with his own point of view.
An example of what I call cultural confrontation happened when people of different nationalities observed each other’s habits and behaviors. When one expresses something, the other can realize such a thought is quite surprising from his own perspective. This surprise will enable him to better understand the other person’s way of thinking. Or it would provide an occasion to debate about an issue. In either case, such a moment would lead to personal growth. Such a thing is only possible in a place like Tufts.
A discussion about the French language in Rwanda over breakfast, a course of Arabic during lunch, and a debate about different integration patterns to finish the day already make for a very rich and plentiful day, So, you can imagine how much I learned in a whole month!
I have spoken here only about one aspect of my trip, which is one of the most pleasant and colorful to my mind. But plenty of other experiences made me love my time there but also made me grow and learn about life around the world.
Sylvain Lansou, 19, lives in Annecy le Vieux and studies PTSI at Lycée Lachenal in Pringy. He hopes to become an engineer or to have a career in the military.
Old and new
I could not hope for a better way to discover the United States. Thanks to this scholarship, I had the opportunity to discover American culture as well as cultures from all over the world. I arrived in a large campus where I met people who became my friends. Currently, I keep in touch with some of them, and we planned to see each other again. I learned a lot about Japanese, Chinese and Saudi habits.
The morning classroom allows us to know more about American culture, and we could learn about each other as well. We participated in debates and presentations, and we spoke about many subjects, like the history of the U.S. or the Latin American immigration. It was a good way to improve my English.
We visited different places in Boston. I really love this city, where old buildings and new ones are mixed to make a place where you feel great. We also visited New York, a city so different from Boston but one that I really appreciate too. We wanted to see everything, so we tried to visit as much as possible in two days. One of my best memories is Times Square at eight o’clock in the morning. We were almost alone, and it’s the first thing we visited. It was incredible.
I can assert that the trip was my best experience. This summer made me want to travel and to continue to discover more and more.
Marine Paumard, 20, commutes to the Lycée Berthollet in Annecy from her home in Aix-les-Bains on Lac du Bourget. She hopes to have a career in marketing and communication and to be able to work abroad.
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