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Steamboat Springs High School Embarks on Transformative French Exchange Program

Steamboat Springs High School Embarks on Transformative French Exchange Program

Steamboat Springs, Colo. - Eleven students from Steamboat Springs High School are embarking on an opportunity to immerse themselves in the French language and culture by participating in an exchange program with Lycée Frédéric Chopin in Nancy, France. 

Last year, SSHS French 3, 4, and AP classes exchanged pen pal letters with students from Lycée Frédéric Chopin. Over the summer, Rebecca Cohen, the French teacher at SSHS, met with Lycée Frédéric Chopin's English teachers and their head of school to propose a student exchange. With their approval and support from SSSD administration, the exchange program was established. 

From April 14-28, 11 SSHS students will travel to Nancy, France, and visit Lycée Frédéric Chopin and stay with a student host family for 11 nights. In exchange, this September, 30 high school students and three educators from Lycée Frédéric Chopin will visit SSHS for two weeks from September 17 - October 1, and stay with host families in Steamboat Springs. 

Cohen's personal experience is the driving force behind the creation of a French exchange program. In high school and college, Cohen participated in French exchange programs that ignited her fluency in French. This pivotal cultural exchange inspired her academic pursuits in International Relations and French and also led to serendipitous discoveries—like finding family ties in France and Luxembourg. 

“I probably would have discontinued my studies in French after high school if I had not had that important family stay cultural experience,” said Cohen. “I am still in touch with my host mother and host sister.” 

Upon settling in Steamboat in 2022, she came across a French teaching opportunity, reigniting her desire to give back. Establishing connections for students abroad is her way of paying forward the enrichment she received.

Victoria Santos Reyna is a sophomore in French 3. She is excited to have a chance to finally immerse herself in the language and culture and to experience Paris with her peers. She is deeply passionate about the French language, having spoken it since the 6th grade. She is excited to stay in Nancy and see day-to-day life there instead of just visiting tourist destinations. 

“We are lucky that Steamboat Springs High School has these opportunities and makes them accessible,” said Victoria. 

On Fridays leading up to the trip, Cohen uses class time to help her students prepare for it. She gets their input on itineraries and prepares for how they will get around Paris. She also helps them prepare for staying with a host family and being efficient travelers. The students and Cohen also committed to a weekly lunch meeting leading up to the trip. Each student had to miss other clubs and lunchtime commitments to prioritize time to prepare together. 

The trip will begin with seeing famous sights in Paris, followed by a high-speed train to Nancy, France. While in Nancy, the students will enjoy a visit to Lycée Frédéric Chopin, visit the town with the French students, go to a local chocolatier, a chateau in the region, and visit Strasbourg, France together. 

Janie Gonzales, a sophomore in AP French, has been speaking French since the first grade while attending an immersion school. She is taking the AP French test in My and believes the trip will help her pick up on the minute parts of the language you can only get when you immerse yourself in the language. 

Jude Fesperman, a freshman in AP French, has been taking French since preschool while also attending an immersion school. He is passionate about learning about different cultures and is looking forward to immersing himself in the language. 

Eme Bruski, a junior in French 3, hopes this opportunity will help her learn about the French language in a real-life application so she can speak it with her mother, who grew up in Canada speaking French. 

Eme is also interested in learning more about the French healthcare system. She wants to go into healthcare administration eventually and is interested in learning how different countries operate their healthcare. 

To prepare for the visit, Eme has been in contact with her host family, and she is excited to meet them. In September, Eme’s family will host the students Eme stayed with while in France. 

“I hope to find lifelong friendships with my host family,” she said.