Every year during the month of November, about 15 new faces arrive on the Head-Royce campus eager to get a taste of what life is like as an American independent school student.
Since 2015, the School has partnered with École Saint-Aspais, a Catholic independent school in France, for a student exchange program. French students visit Head-Royce during their October break and stay with Head-Royce families for ten days. In exchange, HRS students are able to visit France to do the same thing in the spring.
“This program provides an opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to a real-world context. Language proficiency is a valuable 21st century skill, and students are able to develop it authentically during the home stays. This program is also a true exchange of cultural values and ideals,” HRS French teacher Aurelie Bordet said.
As part of the program, the exchange students shadow HRS students and attend their daily classes. When they compared Head-Royce to their own school in France, they said there were immediate and noticeable differences that took them by surprise.
“The students here all have computers and the fact you can use it in class is very cool. We just have to write using pen and paper,” Shadé G. said.
“Eating in class is amazing! I would like that because I’m always hungry and tired and if I could eat something in class it would be better,” Hugo G. said.
“The fine arts are really important here. Students can choose between so many artistic subjects: music, jazz band, photography, drama, ceramics, cinema, and dance. We don’t have that at all in France. We only have the main subjects which are math, English, German, physics, etc.,” Mathilde R. said.
In addition to the academic structure, the students were taken aback by the student and teacher relationship at Head-Royce.
“Here you are really close to your teacher, but it’s not the same in France. We have 30 per class, which is a lot, and the teacher doesn’t really have time to stop teaching when students have multiple questions. If you have an issue you can try and talk after class, but not always,” Shadé said. This dynamic does, however, seem to reinforce strong peer-to-peer relationships.
“The teacher can’t stop his lesson if you don’t understand something, so we have to be more united. We need to help each other to learn. If I need to know more about a certain topic, I can ask one of my peers and they will help me. The relationship between the students at our school is really strong,” Hugo said.
Aside from the academic differences, the French students noticed cultural behaviors around campus that they had to get used to seeing: students wearing headphones in class to help with concentration, and students being allowed to wear shorts on campus.
But observing and understanding these differences is why exchanges like this are in place.
“Traveling abroad develops students’ real-world problem-solving skills. They must learn to be flexible and accomodating, to be good communicators, and to step outside of their comfort zones,” Bordet said.
Bird's Eye View is a story series highlighting our work towards the initiative and goals laid out in our Strategic Plan: Bridge to 2020.