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Plans for French Exchange Program Underway

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Plans for French Exchange Program Underway

Christina Jordan, Author

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Chamblee French students may be on their way to Paris next semester, if French teacher Wanddolff Bretous succeeds in realizing his project.

“We have contacted some schools in France,” said Bretous. “So far we have received one response, and I have been exchanging letters with this gentlemen, Mr. Quarmenil.”

Chamblee’s exchange partner would be the Lycee Montaigne.

“It’s in Paris,” said Bretous. “It’s a good school, as a matter of fact. What I tried to do, I tried to reach out to the best school in Paris.”

Dates were worked out after several proposals, and it is expected that the Chamblee students will go during spring break. However, a few problems still remain.

“Parents here have to host students coming,” said Bretous. “And students that go there will be hosted by parents there, in France. But so far it doesn’t look like parents here are willing to do that.”

Bretous speculates that some parents may not have enough room, may not want to take on the responsibility, or simply may not be used to the idea.

“I don’t know to sell that to them, but I will try my best.,” said Bretous. “So far, all the students I have talked to, they told they won’t be able to do that. They want to go, but they won’t be able to host.”

Cost will likely be an issue for many students as well.

“We have been working on that,” said Bretous. “We have a letter ready already. We are going to send a letter to some French companies and some American companies as well, to ask if they can finance our trip. So any money that we find, if we can find money, we will divide the money between the number of students that want to go to France.”

Money also ties back into the hosting issue.

“When the students are coming here, they don’t expect to spend a lot of money, like the French do there,” said Bretous. “And it would be easier, and it would be less costly, for the American students to go there and not have to go to a hotel.”

Herr Neuhaus began Chamblee’s German exchange program in 2000, after a group of 12 teachers came from Nuremberg to visit DeKalb schools.

“They visited the county and came to our school on the last day,” said Neuhaus. “And they sat in a couple of German classes and they were in enthralled, enthused, about the quality of German that they heard. And so, I thought, why don’t we start an exchange program. We went the next year, and yup, that’s how it started.”

Neuhaus understands the difficulties of getting families to host.

“Families that have never hosted, there’s a whole range of issues that can come to mind, like the safety issue, the insurance thing, but this has been taken care of from the beginning. The German students are insured, through their school, they have additional travel insurance, so that’s one part.”

However, he has a system in place.

“What we always do is we have about two or three informational meetings, where parents show up. In those meetings, I invite former hosting parents and students, and they address the group, and answer all kinds of questions. Because if you’ve never done it, there’s a big fear factor.”

Because of DeKalb county’s new policies regarding exchange programs, it will be more difficult for a new program without logistics already in place.

“The whole thing [the German exchange program] started basically under the radar,” said Neuhaus. “It was my thing. And because we’re going in the summer, the thing was never officially designated as a school trip. That made it somewhat easy, but now the county wants to streamline all the exchange programs, and there’s all kinds of paperwork that is required, including, for example, a background check, a police background check.”

Senior Brynn Lautenbacher has experienced both of Chamblee’s German exchanges.

“I did the exchange two years ago, and then I did an intern trip which is a different program, but the same idea. In all honesty, I spoke more German on the internship than on the exchange.”

Lautenbacher found many benefits from the programs.

“The first major benefit is that I now have friends in Germany,  so every time I go visit I have people I can talk to, people I can stay with,” said Lautenbacher. “And the other biggest benefit was the confidence that I now have in my German. I worked for two weeks in a cardiology center. So I actually know a lot about medicine and the heart too, but I can talk about just about anything, and be okay. I still make mistakes, I’m definitely not fluent, but I’m so much more confident in my speaking.”

As for hosting, it was never an issue for her.

“Yeah, I think it’s basically just adopting another person into your family for a few weeks,” Lautenbacher said. “So it’s not a big change, nothing drastic happened in our lives. I had a little less personal time, but that was it.”

Lautenbacher has a high opinion of both programs.

“I highly recommend everyone does it, if you have the chance,” Lautenbacher said. “It’s one of the best things I’ve received from my education at Chamblee.”

Senior Doris Amouzou has shown great interest in the trip.

“Ever since we were established as a club, it was something we all talked about,” said Amouzou. “We all wanted to go to France. And the whole reason the club was established was to experience French culture, not just learn, but experience it.”

Amouzou has gone to France twice already.

“I hope this time I can actually get to engage more with the French people,” said Amouzou. “The last two times I went, I stayed with family, so it wasn’t like completely, French culture, because my family is Togolese. I never had time alone, I never got to engage with true authentic French people.”

Despite the issue of money and hosting, Amouzou is still optimistic.

“I really think it’s going to work out,” Amouzou said. “But I do hope we become more fluent in French. Then again, learning French in the classroom is different from being in France, engaging with other people. So it’s going to be a challenge, and I’m actually up for it! I’m excited.”

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