By Gabrielle Schooling of Sainte-Marie Lyon
A Marist school in Lyon, France
Bonjour! Over the past couple of weeks you may have seen a few strange kids wandering around the school looking lost: we were the French exchange students from another Marist school—in Lyon, France, the city where the Marist adventure began 200 years ago this year!
So what was this exchange program about? Well, it was a chance for students in our schools to experience life abroad and improve their language skills. It was kicked off when eleven students from Marist High came to France for ten days, where they learned much of our culture, great food and way of life—and hopefully a little more French too. Besides time in school, they also went on lots of field trips: to Switzerland with us where we got to know one another as a group, which was really cool, and then to our beautiful capital, Paris, as well as to Lyon, a much underrated Renaissance city close to our school.
Then just a few days later it was our turn to come to the USA. Before arriving in Chicago, we had a four-day tour of Washington DC where we saw the White House, visited the Capitol building and many museums—like the Smithsonian and the Newseum.
We were so excited at seeing our exchange hosts that the short flight from DC to O’Hare seemed to whiz by. Before we knew it we had arrived at Marist High School Chicago. What a surprise was waiting for us! Even if both sets of students are Marists, our schools are very, very different. For a start, French students don’t drive a car to school—almost every French student takes a school bus. Then once at school, in each classroom we have cubby holes that 2 or 3 students share, whereas you have lockers in the corridors; our teachers come to our classrooms so that we don’t have to waste time moving around, while you seem to spend your day on the move. We also work longer than you do: we have eight hours of classes, which means that we start at 8 am and finish at 5 pm—so you don’t know how lucky you are!
Being in your school and classes has been so cool and opened our eyes to a more “well-rounded” system of education. The French system is centered purely on academic performance, so we do not have all the exciting stuff you do—like pottery, senior service, morality, photography, theatre, and bands—to name just a few! We found these classes totally awesome and really complementary to the “serious” stuff we have. Students here at Marist High School also seem proud of their creative classes—and rightly so: they do some great work!
But more than anything else, what struck us was the great welcome given to us by everyone here at Marist High. We would like to offer our special thanks to those who have worked tirelessly to make this exchange program possible—in particular Mrs. Maggio, Mr. Brant, and Mrs. Maloney, as well as the support of the administrations on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet the ones we mustn’t forget are the host families and you, the students at Marist High School, who have made us feel so welcome—and now we don’t want to leave! The next set of students coming to France and over to you here in Chicago don’t realize how life-changing the experience is—we have made friends for life!
Top photo: Students from St. Marie-Lyon jump for joy in front of Chicago's "bean" at Millennium Park. Bottom photo: Chicago and Lyon students pose in France during Marist Chicago's trip in March.