What do the Eiffel Tower, croissants, and Northwest’s long-standing partner school all have in common? They are all from France! Starting the week we got back from mid-winter break, Northwest hosted 22 students from our French partner school, Emmanuel Mounier Lycée. These students were able to take classes, tour Northwest, and explore Seattle. This trip was especially exciting for a number of Northwest students, who traveled to France last year during summits and stayed with the correspondents they’re now hosting.
Emmanuel Mounier Lycée is a 9-12 high school located in the northern French city of Angers. This high school is around the same size as Northwest with 500 students. Our partnership with Emmanuel Mounier is one of a few that make up Northwest’s partner schools, including high schools in China, Spain, Taiwan, and Ethiopia. This network of schools is another unique aspect of Northwest and has enabled many in our community to connect with high schoolers around the world. This has been done both digitally and through several of our international travel programs, allowing our communities to join and learn from each other’s schools.
These 22 French students joined the Haus for a little over a week, observing the different cultures within our school, Seattle, and the U.S. in general. To get a first-hand perspective on how the trip went, let’s meet some students from France!!
I sat down with Maelle C. and Antonin M. to chat about their experience. With me questioning in french and them answering in english, we discussed how their trip went and the observations they made. I was also able to connect with Inola M. (who was staying with Northwest senior Scout S.). Maelle and Antonin are current seniors at Emmanuel Mounier, and Inola is a junior. For all three, it was the first time they had visited the U.S., making this trip especially exciting.
When asked what their favorite part of the trip was, all three had difficulty choosing just one memory. For Inola, it was exploring Pike Place Market, and spending time with her host family during a weekend trip to Bainbridge Island. Maelle and Antonin both agreed that discovering a new culture was the best part of their time here.
This new culture, they expressed, was exciting, as it was interesting to see how it compared with their own lives back home in France. A big cultural difference they noticed in Seattle was a sense of freedom both out in the city and within Northwest. Maelle remarked that at Northwest, “students have a lot more independence, and you are also really close with your teachers.” Inola chimed in that Seattle seems “much more open-minded, and that it has a very loving environment.” However, they acknowledged that Emmanuel Mounier and Northwest are very different institutions, and that Northwest is far from the standard American high school.
When asked if anything surprised them about their trip to the U.S., the three had a range of answers. Maelle was struck by the freedom, while Antonin was thrilled to see rainbow pride flags everywhere, such as those painted on Capitol Hill crosswalks and hanging outside various churches. This, he mentioned, was not the norm in Angers. Inola found that her assumptions about the American diet were not completely true: “you don’t drink a lot of Starbucks, or eat a lot of American food, like lots of hamburgers!”
A big part of this trip was the language immersion aspect. While in Seattle, the french students were required to use their knowledge of English to truly submerge themselves into an English-speaking world. Maelle, Antonin, and Inola all agreed that their English had improved drastically over their ten day visit, but maybe not for the most obvious reasons. “I feel like I have improved by listening more than speaking, and things are easier to understand,” noted Maelle. Speaking, they agreed has been difficult, but very beneficial.
One clear theme from the conversation was this: all three agreed that this trip surpassed any expectations or hopes they had in the beginning. In addition, when talking to some of the Northwest host families, it was clear that having these students was a great experience for everyone involved. As our partnership with Emmanuel Mounier continues and flourishes, we as a community can hope to make more international connections, and welcome new and old friends we have made from around the globe.