AHS Students go to France


Harini Devaguptapu, Staff Writer

France is an extremely wonderful destination people dream of visiting. Arcadia High School (AHS) students in French 2, French 3, and AP French were given the opportunity to travel there for two weeks during spring break. Madame Christina Vaughan, a French teacher at AHS, planned and executed this trip, offering an immersive hands-on experience surrounded by the culture and beauty of France.

Madame Vaughan started this tradition with another teacher in France, Madame Décombas-Deschamps, years ago. In October and February, students from France came to AHS and were hosted by AHS students taking French. This time around, when the AHS students went to France, families in France hosted them. Many of the students were fond of their experiences with their host families, as the family members were extremely generous and treated them with kindness and hospitality.

When traveling, the students had the opportunity to see two sides of France. With their host families, they got to experience Trévoux, a small city in the rural countryside. There, they went to school with the French students, experiencing their daily lives and schedules which are very different from what we have in Arcadia. School lunches were two hours long, so they had time to travel to another part of the city to eat and shop.

Senior Jackie Chen explained how she “played volleyball for 5 years [which she and her host] had in common, and [she] got the opportunity to play at the club with her in France.” This is really rare because French students don’t typically get as much free time for outside activities and sports. 

There were many interactions made between the students and other people in France. Senior Dania Azher went to a host’s grandmother’s birthday party and spoke with the elders in French. She learned a lot from them and their fascinating life stories, from being on a ship during a nuclear power plant explosion and fighting in wars, to trekking through Europe with friends. 

“Schedules differed every day, so sometimes we would get home at 1 p.m. and sometimes at 6 p.m.,” Azher shared. “Everyone was extremely welcoming, and even though I had to give a speech in front of a class in French, it was intriguing to compare cultures and bond with students!”

In addition, Azher explained how nervous she felt before going to France and being hosted by a family.

“From the moment I met my host, I realized we had really similar personalities, and she and her family did their best to make me feel welcome and have the best French experience,” said Azher.

Her host family took her out to classic French restaurants and shopping malls, and as a family, they made peach tiramisu while listening to music, watched Bridgerton while having dinner, had crepe parties, cooked frog legs, tried different wines, and went out to celebrate her host mother’s birthday.

Senior Avari Wang also shared how she loved the environment where she stayed with her host family. 

“I really enjoyed the countryside and its tranquility, in stark contrast with the usual bustling city that I’m accustomed to,” said Wang. “Even just walking my host family’s dog around the nearby lakes and meadows was very calming and a beautiful experience.” 

For part of the trip, the students stayed in Paris at a hotel for four days, traveling with Madame Vaughan. Students woke up early to go to the bakery with their friends, and buy baguettes and pain au chocolat for everyone. While exploring the city, they would walk 10 miles or more at a time. Wang found that the city had a lot more to explore outside of the stereotypical touristy destinations. She fed French pigeons pieces of her baguette sandwich, which was truly fun for her. 

Throughout the trip, they visited a lot of different museums. However, Chen shared that the Louvre wasn’t open due to protests happening that day about the change in retirement age. Seeing all of this happening was really fascinating because she got to see the political side of France.

Azher explained how they “barely [had] time to shovel down [their] sandwiches as [they] got ready to climb dozens of stairs up to Montmartre or down to the Catacombs,” which she really enjoyed. 

A favorite of the trip for quite a few students was listening to music, dancing, and watching the Eiffel Tower glimmer from up close while riding a boat in the Seine River at night. They went to a crepe restaurant for dinner and climbed 300 stairs to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to see Paris and the whole city. 

Since Trévoux is a smaller city, there is less access to bigger chain restaurants like the fast food places in Arcadia. Instead, there are a lot of traditional homemade foods that are made every day. Everyone tried a variety of different foods during the trip. They were exposed to a different culture and were pushed to try new things and expand their palate. They tried things like couscous, tacos, escargot (snails), and grenouille (frog legs). 

Azer confirmed that escargot are pretty good, especially once you forget about the fact that you are eating snails. They taste similar to mushrooms and were complimentary with buttered baguettes.

Wang tried a variety of French cheeses which were especially delicious. Her favorite was comte, which she even brought back for her host family. 

Chen’s host family owned chickens which they could get eggs from to make different foods like quiche and pasta. She also noticed that before every meal, they had something called a Mousse Bouche. 

Azher explained how they would “begin with an appetizer, move on to the entree, have some fruits or yogurt to cleanse [their] palette, carry on with dessert, and then finish with cheese and an espresso. [They] would sit at the dinner table at 8 p.m. and leave at 11 p.m.!” 

Wang noticed the same thing, and expressed that a food she found really interesting was the French Tacos, which was nothing like a traditional taco. It had a mixture of meat, sauces, cheese, and fries wrapped in a tortilla and then grilled. 

“I will never forget eating French tacos and drinking Orangina with the rest of my friends on the last day before we left France, watching the sun set over the Rhone River,” Wang voiced.

On the last day when they had to leave, everyone realized how close they got. 

Azer shared how she “sobbed on [her] host mom’s shoulder for 10 minutes as she consoled [her] and promised that [her] family and [her] would have a home with them forever.” 

Overall, the trip was a true learning experience and meant a lot to those who participated. AHS students were able to improve their French language skills, experience a new culture, make lifelong bonds, and get a glimpse of how life would be as a student in France.