Europe Day at Smith Middle

Europe Day at Smith Middle

Tuesday, June 5

L'echange avec les eleves belges et francais

In order to travel next spring (March 2013), 60 students spent the last two months following a selection process that has been quite extensive. If you are one of the students interested in traveling next year, please explain what you have done for the selection process and upload (copy and paste) your essay into the comments box- Write your first name and last initial under the comments ....Merci!!


LaurenAlston said...

Belgian Exchange 2013 Essay
By Lauren Alston
Being a part of the Belgian exchange will change my world because I will get to see how Europeans live instead of only experiencing it through movies and books. I will get to see amazing architecture, taste great food and be able to compare American life that I know so well to European culture that I know very little of. It will open my eyes to other parts of the world besides just America.
I hope to see the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre. I would like to stroll down the Champs-Elysees, a song I’ve been singing for 2 years. I look forward to staying with the host family, going to the school and being challenged to speak French fluently. I have a passion for fashion, and I’ve heard Paris is the fashion capitol of the world.
I see things in a very bright perspective and see the best in everything. I have been told I have a very optimistic mind. I think that it is very important to have an optimist in every group, especially when traveling, because they lighten up the mood. I am also open to new cultures and to trying new things. I am not shy and it has been said that I am very eager and outgoing. I have great leadership and organizational skills, but at the same time I am a team player. I do not shy away from people and I like to talk and make conversation. This will be an excellent skill while traveling and when interacting with my host family.
Technology is great, but it has some disadvantages. It can create a conversation barrier and a crutch, especially when around new people and in new situations. You will be tempted to grab your phone and text your friends which is rude and defeats the purpose of the trip. Plus you will be unable to fully appreciate Europe if your attention is drawn to your phone or other gadgets. European culture places a different value on technology than we do in America. By traveling without technology we will be able to completely immerse ourselves in our surroundings, and not be “plugged in”.
I enjoy traveling and have been wanting to go to France since I was 8 years old, when my neighbor/baby-sitter went on this same trip and sparked my curiosity. I remember looking up France and from then on I knew I wanted to learn French and participate in the Belgian Exchange program.

Anonymous said...

Angela C.

My participation on this Belgian Exchange trip could change my world because it would expand my educational knowledge. There is a lot of important, interesting history that happened in Europe like the Holocaust and the World War Two. If I go out and explore more about these events it would be very beneficial and help me understand more about the subject by listening to lectures and visiting the birthplace of where it happened. I also feel like the exchange would make me more internationally connected with me and my Pen Pal.

Im really into architecture and I would like to see a lot of the famous monuments, statues and museums France and Belgium has to offer. I’ve always wanted to see The Eiffel Tower, Louvre and the Champs Elysees. I would really like to learn more about WWII and more about the battle of Normandy Beach. Also I want to know more about the difference in lifestyle of Europe and here in America. I would also love to try the new tasty foods of France of Belgium!

I think the special perspective I could bring to the group, is that I am culturally diverse and also my parents lived In Germany for 8 years and traveled around Europe and visiting places like France so I have heard a lot of background knowledge. I also get along really well with people and have great communication and leadership skills.

Whenever I’m in the car with my parents I am constantly on my phone checking my Social Networks and missing out on beautiful scenery and miss out on a lot of conversations. So I think some advantages of traveling to Europe without technology will let students see new things without being distracted with mobile devices. There is also a loss of interactive abilities with peers and teachers if a student is busy on an electronic device.

Anonymous said...

Leigh Sharpless 5/15/2012
Exchange Trip Essay

Hello, my name is Leigh Sharpless, and I am applying for the Belgian Studies Exchange Trip 2013 because I’m enthusiastic about learning French. I have taken 6th Grade French while in my first year at Smith Middle School, and currently I am participating in French1. I intend on taking French2 in my 8th grade year at Smith, and then continue on this path through high school. This subject is not just something I participate in, but one I really enjoy, thus making me want to continue doing French in the future.
This trip would be an extraordinary experience for me. I can’t wait to take my knowledge in the class room, and further apply it to real life situations, and that would be the true test of my French speaking abilities. With this in mind, I hope to visit a place where speaking French may be my only option; a place where my foreign vocabulary will be stretched, and my naiveté for abroad places will be thinned.
In school I currently have straight A’s, with an average percentile grade over 100% due to accomplishing extra credit opportunities. I am fond of my classes, and enjoy my time at Smith. I set high standards, for short-term goals and long-term performances; and not only to I make these standards, but I do require myself to accomplish them.
I feel confident when I am with others or in a team, because I have had much practice after my many years of playing soccer. This has allowed me to observe others, and showcase their abilities in order for the team to flourish. I believe that no one should go unacknowledged, and everyone is a unit like this is equal. Not only am I pleased to be part of a team, but I enjoy leading them as well. During my first season playing on a new team of 7th and 8th graders, I was elected a captain of the Smith Girls Soccer Team by my teammates. This shows that my colleagues see me as a leader, and trust me to put me in this position. Not only has playing soccer allowed me to build new friendships, but it’s taught me valuable lessons about hard work too. I have learned to celebrate my victories, yet except my losses, but always try my best to get there.
When working in groups, I believe that everyone is responsible for in some way improving the team. I feel that if I were to have the chance to travel on the exchange trip I would bring liveliness, adaptability, and composure to a stressful situation like this. I think I would bring these things because I upbeat and cheerful, able to change and be versatile when necessary, and during hard times, I can remain calm. I think I would be an asset to the traveling group, and I really hope to go.
I am willing to participate in new, possibly stressful, situations like being in a different country than that of my own. I avidly connect with my pen-pal, Florence, via email, Facebook, and mail; so I would really appreciate the opportunity to meet her. I am ready to participate in Euro-Club events, and I will support the group even if it doesn’t affect me directly. I am very excited for this opportunity so I can travel abroad with my friends and colleagues, in a new exciting manner I have never experienced before. I really want to participate in the Belgian Exchange Program 2013.

Thanks! I really want to go, and any help from the E.U. would mean EVERYTHING!

Max M said...

Over the past month or two, I have come to meetings, been interviewed, and written essays. This is my essay:
I have always loved French class, even from my first day in sixth grade I could tell that this was the language that I would want to learn through middle and high school. When anyone asks me what my favorite class is, my automatic reply is French class. I think that travelling to France and Belgium and meeting my pen-pal will impact my life forever.
I also think that being able to stay with a host family is much better then staying in a hotel, because you get to know more about the cultures of the people and you can understand them better. You get to know about day-to-day life, you get to learn about (and eat) the foods that they eat, and you also get to know what school life is like in other countries. I think that this is one of the greatest advantages about traveling with the school.
I am going to France this summer with my family and grandparents, but the only place both I would go this summer and go on the exchange trip, if I am selected, is Paris. My grandparents have it planned so we do some of the same things, like going to the Arc de Triomphe and seeing the Eiffel tower, but we are also doing some things that most people may not do when they go to Paris.
When I go to France and Belgium, I really want to learn about the cultures in each country. I think it would also be interesting to see how the cultures of the two countries compare and contrast. I also want to learn about the different foods that they eat, and also how they are served. I think that it would also be interesting to compare and contrast this.
By travelling as a group of students and teachers, I think that I will learn more than travelling by myself or with my family. I will also get to know more about the people I am traveling with, both students and teachers, because we will be spending a lot of time travelling as a group. We will learn not only about each other, but we will learn about the things that the other people like to do. I think that this will be good, because I am sore that I will learn something interesting that I might not have ever heard of before.
I also think that it is good that we will be traveling to Europe without technology. It will allow us more time to get to know each other and to know our Belgian pen-pals. I know that many people, including myself, default to technology when things get awkward or when we have nothing to do. Without technology, we will instead talk to each other and maybe learn something new. It might even influence our habits when we get back home, so we could live with less technology and more social time.
This trip will influence me in more ways than I can describe in words, and most likely it will influence me in ways that I will not understand until I am older. It will affect the way that I live my life, and will improve my French-speaking skills. I plan and continuing to take French, and I might think about travelling abroad in college. If I do, this trip will definitely help me.

Max M

Sally said...

I have always loved to travel! No matter where I go, near or far, I always get this rush of adventure. I love that feeling that I’m going to do something completely out of my comfort zone, and afterwards feel this sense of accomplishment. When I went to China last year, everything I did from eating to transportation to using the bathroom, was different. But these differences are what make something memorable, which is what I hope to get if I travel next year!
If I get to travel, I know I will learn things that I will look back on forever. When you go somewhere at an early age, you really understand that places history and customs so much more. For example, I’ve been learning a lot about World War 2, and that time period. Although I have heard stories, read books, and done some research on my own, I still have a lot of questions. If I have the chance to go Normandy and see where they actually attacked the beaches so many years ago, I would get a whole new understanding of the war. When you see something that you have heard so much about, it really completes the picture or puts the icing on the cake.
That thing, you see, doesn’t have to just be in history. I really want to see Saint Benoit, Saint Servais, because it’s another place I have heard so much about! In class we have watched videos, seen pictures, and then during spring break I got to meet some incredible people from there. Although I didn’t have the best experience with my student, I tried to keep a positive attitude, and I learned that you really have to be open to everyone. Belgium sounds like such an incredible place, and I would love to see some of the touristy and everyday things.
I think if I go on the trip, I could benefit everyone by being a leader and helping people out if they were down. When I went to China, a few people were homesick and I thought I did a pretty good job of cheering them up. I have a large understanding of travel safety, while having fun at the same time. I’ve been to Europe, so I know that there are some differences. These differences are what makes travelling an adventure.
I also have been studying French very hard for the last 3 years. I think I have improved with the help of you, Madame, but I also take a lot of initiative to improve on my own. Although I know I will not be able to understand people speaking 100%, I think I will have the ability to communicate and put my French skills to the test.
I believe it won’t be so bad to travel without technology. I won’t deny that I was a little freaked out at first, but technology is not what this trip is about. It is about getting to see, hear, learn and experience the amazing things in Europe. If we have a distraction like a phone or Ipod our focus will not be on the experience, but what our friends are doing back home or what the new song on Itunes is. Without technology, we will get a chance to become closer with our classmates. When we went to Williamsburg, I saw how close all of the 9th graders are, even though they go to different schools. I hope to become closer with other people and not having a phone or music will help of become closer.
I really just want to get to see all the culture of Europe. I learn a lot when I just get to explore and look on my own. I loved Paris when I went for 2 days a few years ago. but I didn’t get to see that much of it. I was underneath the Eiffel Tower, but I didn’t get to go up. Just getting to see more of such an incredible city would be amazing. I would really like to go to Normandy! I will do any type of fundraising and speak with the EU to get the grant to go there. From what I have heard from 9th graders and some teachers who went as well, Normandy was the most moving and interesting part of the trip.
I just think it would be so amazing to go travel with my classmates to extraordinary places like Belgium and France! I know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am already very excited!

Matt S. said...

Being a part of an exchange like this would change my views of the world, forever. I haven’t been out of the country and a trip like this will definitely influence the way I perceive the world. I feel like the more you know about other cultures, the more you can benefit yours. People all over the world have many different view but the core issues are all the same. Going on an international trip like this would expose me to a multitude of different people and their stories. The more I know about people that are different than who I see everyday the more I know how to act as a person and be the best that I can be. I can learn from ones that live much simpler lives, which will teach me the core values of life that we have strayed farther and farther away from in the past few decades.
I think this last point is why you do not want us to bring technology. We are so caught up in trying to perfect our virtual image without worrying about the real world. Technology can be a great learning tool but nowadays we are so addicted to these glowing screens. Traveling without technology will let us spend more time talking with our Belgian hosts and just learning about the similarities and differences of American and European life. In Paris the lack of technology would make it easier to really appreciate the history and wonders of the old city. It will challenge me to speak using personal skills only and not an app of some sort to get around. I was surprised and really confused when I first learned that we will be traveling without technology. But after I thought about it there are so many benefits of not using technology. It would just get in the way of our learning and not push us to rely on our own abilities to get by.
Being in Team C I know a lot about a small number of students and far fewer teachers. To be in a foreign country with people my age trying to get around requires a lot of social skills. You need to be willing to listen to other people while still contributing to the goal of getting by in a country that requires knowledge of their culture. I really love talking to people and working with them. I would be honored to be able to experience a trip like this with my peers. France and Belgium are beautiful countries that I would love to share with some old friends and some new.
In France and Belgium I want to experience the whole package. I don’t want to walk around looking at all the famous landmarks, but rather seeing all of the great cities like Paris and Brussels. That is why I feel that people that don’t travel abroad don’t understand the cultures. You can read so many different books and see as many pictures as possible but you don’t get that same experience. I want to learn how these cities were marks of innovation, and lived through hard times. I am very interested in politics so if I get the opportunity to go on the trip, my favorite part would be learning about how the EU functions as one. How all these different countries can have one organization represent them would show me how Americans can work together much like the EU and be a stronger nation.
My mother taught me the quote, “You don’t know a man until you walk a mile in his shoes”. In a sense this is why I want to go on this trip. I want to walk that mile.

H said...

Chere Madame,
For the trip next Spring, I believe I would be an excellent candidate for going on the French- Belgian exchange trip. I have worked hard, been excited, and all round been a helpful, friendly, funny person that I think would benefit from the trip and won’t disobey rules.
I am a good student. I have maintained consistent A’s in 6th and 7th grade and am persistent with my grades in all of my classes. Recently, when I took the National French exam, I scored in the top 10. I worked hard to prepare, completing every French One test available online. I am a very well rounded student. I have taken art, theater, and a language. I did sports at every opportunity in 7th grade; cross country, frisbee, and baseball. I am also in Boy Scouts. I have been very committed to all of these activities. My commitment to the class has shown by my attendance of the Euro Zone meetings and Europe Day. My good work in and out of school is going to contribute positively.
I am not shy. I was in the school play last year and this year in front of a sizeable audience. You saw me in Alice in Wonderland, recently, where I played two of the main characters. I would love to use my performance skills and present in front of the French students. I would enjoy speaking French during the trip, especially in host homes. I am a comfortable French speaker and even though I didn’t host anyone when the Belgian Students arrived, I still carried out a very good conversation with the Belgian girl I talked with. This is what I feel French is about, and would love to experience more interaction with Belgian peers.
I am really interested in French culture. I would love to explore a big city like Paris and see the Louvre and the Pompidou. I also would like to see small French villages. They seem like a hidden beauty of France. Ever since I was a small child living in England, World War II has always interested me. Seeing General Patton at Europe day was really amazing. Veterans like

him who have survived for this long are a huge inspiration to me. I have read many books, including Just Henry, Adolphus Tips, and War Horse, about the wartime. The schools and children during the time must have lived through a lot that we don’t even think about now.
I am always a very dedicated person. Once I set my mind to something I don’t go back on it. This is the case for fundraising. I have already started hunting for duck buyers and convince my family to help me raise money for the trip. I am willing to donate my allowance, birthday and Christmas money to fund my trip. I am also planning taking a babysitting course to start raising money that way. As I mentioned before, I have come to all of the Euro Zone meetings and strive to be a helpful and important part of these meetings.
I am happy to travel with a group of peers. During Boy Scouts, we learn many important parts of life that I could utilize on this trip. I have been a leader of a patrol during campouts and have learned how to get on with everyone. I am currently helping the new scouts advance and teaching them how to work and have fun in Boy Scouts. During weekend-long campouts, I have had to plan and execute a menu and cook for six or seven people many times. I have lived through very tough conditions, such as on the night when it hailed in huge balls on a campout and my tent almost got flooded- while I was trying to sleep. My hardiness and leadership ability will be a great benefit to you on the trip next year.

Katie Huang said...

What if a dream of yours had the possibility to be put in reality? What would you do? Get excited, of course, and put all your effort into making a dream come true. Along with the fact that you could establish everlasting friendships, there’s the simple bliss of touring around other countries in the European Union. I’ve been to China, and some other states in the U.S.A, but I love travelling and those places don’t leave me content yet. The Belgian Exchange program is a phenomenal opportunity which would bring me not just satisfaction, but over-satisfaction. No, it isn’t even a phenomenal opportunity, it is the phenomenal opportunity. It is “très super!”

Such as stated in the beginning, the phenomenal opportunity would be a dream come true. Not only for me, but for others for certain. The benefits are endless, to try to list them would be like trying to list all the chocolatiers in the world. It is a gift that can’t be unloved by anyone, like chocolate. For instance, staying in countries whose official languages is the language I’m studying would obviously be a boon to my study of French. Another example would be the social difference when returning back to North Carolina. When you arrive to Belgium in the beginning, you had a pen pal whom you’ve never met but act friendly towards. When you leave, however, you’ve made a true friend. Perhaps even more. The bonds are more threads adding to the rope tying the nations together. Another case showing benefits would be the touring and travelling itself. The knowledge me and other students would gain would be more than expected for sure. Museums, architecture, monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, they all engrave themselves in our minds. Then, there’s the culture. I wish to understand more of the French and Belgian culture. Yes, we’ve all learned it in class, but seeing it verbally and witnessing it with my own eyes are quite different things. They’re more memorable. More special. I would hold the experience forever.

H said...

Henry C.

(Pt. 2)

One of the requirements is to live without technology for the trip. While some people, such as my cousins, live on Facebook and Twitter, I have neither of these and have only texted someone on my phone once. I have traveled abroad before and have never used any technology. I am only allowed on video games on weekends, never on school days and breaking away from this won’t be an issue. I would consider technology to be only a distraction from the sights we will see and friends I will make. I would much rather talk with my peers on the trip than sit there texting my other friends back at America.
I am looking forward to this trip and really think that I deserve to go. I have acheived good grades, been friendly to everyone in my class and had an interest in France I have been a dedicated person, have leadership abilities, and do not need technology. Overall I believe I am a good choice for this trip and feel I will prove it to you next Spring!

Katie Huang said...

The experiences grouped together sound stupendous, but just exactly what would I want to experience? Well, besides the whole culture of France and Belgium together, there’s most definitely the cuisine. Who wouldn’t want to try foreign countries’ foods? It adds to the country's’ pride to have their own style, to have a “French” personality in what they eat which many others would be unable to accomplish. France is known for so many different types of food. Its elegance, its pastries and desserts like mille feuille and operas, and the classics such as breads like baguettes. Besides the cuisine, I'd like to be able to go sightseeing to the fullest. For example, visiting the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Some other areas I'd be ecstatic to visit would be Napoleon's Arc and the spooky underground catacombs. I want to be able to print these places in my mind as unforgettable memories and be able to get the full experience of these places. Yes, I'm willing to sacrifice my phone and iPod for this trip. Technology would most likely distract me from taking in as much of France as I could if I have with me a tempting texting and music device. Sometimes, if I’m nervous or unfamiliar with situations, I just grab my iPod like it’s a sanctuary and hide my face in it. Without curling up and hiding with music and games, I’d be able to socialize better and take in a better experience. No matter how hard it might be for me to part with my iPod, I know it is the right thing to do and will help me on the trip with bonding and learning.

My knowledge isn’t going to help that much, besides the clarification of food, of course, since it is my obsession. (Bon appetit!) However, if I’m able to go, I think I could help bring some of the other students together and help bond us all. In some situations, I can be a leader. Also, if there just happens to be any chinese people there, it’ll help my communication there and I’ve always wanted to try Frinese. The Belgian Exchange Program, a.k.a the phenomenal opportunity, changes things. It changes life. It brings a new perspective to people when they experience what they might never have or will again.

Parker h said...

To be able to go on the trip, I have written an essay, raise money by selling ducks, getting good grades and stay out of trouble, get a teacher recommendation to go, volunteer at Europe Day, and come to weekly meetings.

Liam L. said...

Why French is Important

I am very connected to Europe. I myself was born in London. My dad is fluent in French, and has lived many years there. My uncle lives there also, and has become fluent. Because of all of these connections, I have always wanted to live in Europe. As I got older, I realized that not only was my goal to live in Europe, but also to speak a European language, namely French.

Before fifth grade, I visited the French speaking part of Switzerland for two weeks, and then one week in France. Even though I was with my family, the language was all around me. Iʼm sure you know just as well as I the feeling of not understanding any thing people say, but also your feeling of ingenuity if you figure out one small word, its meaning pieced together through context and bits of prior knowledge.

That was all I needed to solidify my wishes to learn French. After that summer, I pleaded with my parents to let me go to France by myself, staying with families who
spoke next to no English. When the plans were finalized, I would be staying three weeks with two different families in France. I prepared by reading old French comics my dad had like Tintin or Asterix. I had a french-english dictionary, that my dad got when he
went to school in France for a year, and when that failed, I would ask my dad himself.

Talking to my dad taught me much, but it also brought up many more questions. When I got there, my first impressions were that I was totally unprepared for the trip. After one night in Paris at my uncleʼs apartment, he dropped me off with the family I would be staying with for the next week. I donʼt have many meaningful memories with them, but I was still getting accustomed to their language. In the first week, I finished all five books I had brought with me. That is not to say I did not learn anything, but I was
extremely timid the first week in France.

Although I was out of books, that coincided with me becoming more brave. I took the train to Nantes after my first week where I would stay with the second family. It was
then I began learning French. Everyday, I felt one step closer to being fluent. When I had to leave, I was melancholy, for I enjoyed the family, and I was just starting to feel comfortable there, although I was glad I would be getting back to a familiar language. To this day, my goal is still to learn French, if not to go beyond that and learn several more

I believe that a trip to Belgium, more importantly Wallonia, would continue that goal of learning French. I have a mission to finish, and what better way then to visit a
french-speaking country. I also feel like I could be a leader on the trip, not only because of my previous Francophone experience, but because of my prior knowledge of both Paris and Normandy. I have been to both places multiple times, and could tell my fellow students much about these locations.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I'm so excited to go with my peers to Europe...but it has been a loooooong process to get in! Over fifty students have been working so hard, to be one of the thirty who get to travel to Belgium on the Smith Middle Exchange Program. So far we have written an 3 page essay about ourselves, raised over 100$ of fundraising money each, do an interview entirely spoken in french, participated in numerous after school events, keep all of our grades above an "A" or "B," volunteer at a school "Euro-Day" event"... and this is only the beginning!(Now that's a lot!) We will have to be doing projects over our SUMMER, have MORE meetings, and avidly continue our French speaking if we will be going!

All I have to say is

Leigh S.

Anonymous said...

French class has been one of my favorite classes since I came to Smith last year. I know that I’ve had a lot of friends in my class, so that’s part of the fun, but also just learning the language and all of the projects that we do in class are (most of the time) fun! Last year we only had it for a semester, which was disappointing, so it was great in 7th grade to have it all year. Having French all year has been great, since we get to learn more, and we don’t have to stop learning in the middle of a lesson. I forgot a lot of the French I had learned over the first semester, so it was hard to get back on track in the beginning of the year, but once I got on track, I suddenly remember everything I had learned before, which was helpful when taking French 1. I knew that taking French 1 would be a little harder then 1A, but I’m glad I took it since I think I need a challenge to work harder.
Participation in the Belgian exchange program would just be amazing. This would just change my world because of the French speaking opportunities with pen pals, but also learning about the history of France and Belgium would be phenomenal. I have always wanted to go to the beaches at Normandy, because of all the things that happened there during World War II. Seeing where D-Day actually happened would be a life changing experience that could never be replaced. I know that there is a chance that we might not go to Normandy, and even if we don’t, I would still love to go to Paris. I have been to Paris before, around 4 years ago, but we didn’t get to see everything, and since Paris has so much history, I would like to learn more about that. I’m also very excited about staying in Belgium with our pen pals. Speaking French in a real world environment will be so different from speaking French in a classroom. It will make us all better speakers and easier for us to hold a conversation in French, which I have always wanted to do.
Every time I’ve traveled across the ocean, I was with my family. Traveling with classmates and teachers would just be so much different from traveling with my siblings. For one it would DEFINITELY be more fun since I would be with friends, but it would also be kind of weird. I mean have you ever been on a plane with someone you knew that wasn’t family? It would be strange! But it will be something that I have to experience. Something that I could bring to the group is that I have been to Paris before, so I kind of know what to expect. Even though it was a pretty long time ago and I can barely remember it, I do remember a lot of the facts my dad told me about the history of Paris (and how great the food was, of course!). So hopefully I could contribute to the group in that way.
Traveling without technology will be HARD. I’ve had to do it multiple times, and each time it’s gotten more and more difficult. But when traveling with a group, I think it will be a great experience for everyone. Sometimes, in awkward situations, people bring out their phones or iPods to make the situation “less awkward”. Usually it doesn’t work. So without any technology, people will have to talk to each other, which could lead to making really good friends. Also this will make us speak more French to our pen pals, and less English to our friends at home via Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.
Traveling to Belgium and France would be a trip that would change my world. Learning about all the history, seeing all the famous sites, and all while speaking French would be spectacular. I really do hope that you will give me a chance to go on this trip, even if I’m not the best at speaking French in the class or I don’t have the best grade in the class. If you let me go on this trip, I promise you that you won’t regret it.

Amy S.

Anonymous said...

Dian N.-
Traveling the world might sound like a naive child’s early dream, yet it was something I always aspired to do. Each country holds something exciting and refreshing; from the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt to Machu Picchu in Peru. Out of almost every country I’ve heard or read about, I’d find a certain aspect of it interesting, and proceed to babble enthusiastically to my nonchalant parents. But recently I’ve dawned upon something- I don’t just want to travel to a country and quickly flutter through all of its landmarks. I want to go a step further and take part in the natives’ normal, mundane lives: dress like them, shop like them, and just to spend some time and absorb their culture. Reading countless books about Iceland, for example, cannot compare to actually sitting in a small cafe on the streets of Reykjavík while listening intently to a the conversations in Icelandic of the natives.
After living in three drastically different environments in the world and stumbling with four different languages, I’ve only scratched the surface of this dream. Deciding on taking French in sixth grade was a choice that partly alluded to this childishly simple ambition- I had hope to come in contact with the famous Romance language and possibly travel abroad and interact with different people. And now, with the opportunity to experience life in a fourth environment, I want to further my horizons a little more and blend into a French-speaking culture, even if for just two weeks.
A reason why my stubborn self chose to latch onto this impossible notion of going around the world might be the influence that my cousin Wendy has on me. Though she is already a senior in college, we are similar in many ways. Both of us share the love of reading to the point where visiting a bookstore is painful to our wallets, an excellent critique on chinese food, and of course, our hunger to seek out the world by travel. So far, Wendy has been to Egypt, Australia, Holland, Germany, Peru (yes, she did go to Machu Picchu), England, America, Japan, various Provinces in China, and ironically, France and Belgium. She is one of a kind- an intelligent (though slightly impractical) and seasoned traveler studying Political Science in Peking University. She was the first to expose me to the thrill of discovery and a role model. Being part of the 2013 exchange program will strengthen our sister-like bond, and allow me to set an example for my younger sister, Aileen.
France and Belgium are culturally and historically rich countries. By traveling the two European countries next year, I can visit many of their attractions; including the Eiffel tower, Montagne de Bueren, Champs-Élysées, and the Louvre. Ah, the Louvre! I would like to see for myself some of the World’s finest and most famous works of art. There is a wealth of information and knowledge there, hidden by artists in their masterpieces. This, to me, is worth every bit of nervousness and anxiety during this period of selection of the candidates for international travel. Since third grade, I’ve been actively taking oil painting classes. My first teacher was born and raised partly in Belgium, and had told me about one of his working summers spent in Paris. Oil painting itself originated from Europe, and Europe itself is a haven for artists. The trip will also provide plenty of inspiration and photo opportunities- if I go, I’d bring a sketchbook and record my thoughts and memories along with it.

Adriana said...

Pour pouvoir meme etre considere pour le voyage, j'ai du...

1. Rendre et remplir une forme d'entree, et mes parents ont du la signe.

2. J'ai du (mais ca ne me derangait pas) assister a des reunions de ceux qui veulent faire partie du voyage.

3. J'ai discuter avec mes parents a propos du voyage et de tous ce que je devais faire pour y participer, et apres ils on du signer un forme.

4. J'ai du demander a un prof de remplir une feuille de papier avec des questions sur mon comportement et mon attitude (et pour reussire cette epreuve j'ai du bien me comporter et avoir une bonne attitude).

5. J'ai du ecrire un papier sur quatres questions:
1. Comment est-ce que votre participation dans l’echange belge vous changera-t-elle?
2. Qu’est-ce que tu espères faire, voir, et apprendre?
3. Quelles qualités amènerais-tu au groupe qui voyagera?
4. Quels sont les avantages de voyager sans technologie?
Les reponses sotn dans mon papier, qui est poste autreparts sur ce blog.

Je vous promets que tous ca ce n'etait pas facile, mais pour moi ca vaut la peine parce que je veux voyager en Belgique.


Anonymous said...

Dian N. (cont.)-
I look forward to, besides touring the attractions, dining on the mouth-watering food served in the two countries. Just thinking of food like croque-monsieurs and gaufres de Liège makes my mouth water. During the exchange program, I want to make friends while attending Saint-Benoît Saint Servais; possibly friends that will deepen my understanding of the world and form bonds that will last even years after I leave. I’m excited about staying in a Belgian household, too.
If there is one thing I excel at, it is being charismatic in situations that many people would find intimidating. Although this may not always be the case, the friendly and bright side of me truly takes over at the sight of new sights and new people. Naturally, we humans are extremely social animals, and naturally, I am one of the very talkative and sociable among people. I think I will be able to contribute a lot to the group in this way, besides my eagerness to learn French and express what I’ve learned. Though I am no overachiever, I am a hard worker, and for this trip, I am willing to work.
Personally, I consider travelling without technology is an intelligent idea. Nowadays, teens are spending more and more time texting on their phones and playing video games than socializing with their friends or being productive. The more we play on our iPods, the faster our grades drop, and the less time we have to complete our goals. After all, beating your high score on Mario Kart doesn’t help you learn how to conjugate french verbs. Technology is also an excuse to not participate. One of the objectives of this trip is to talk and become familiar with the people around you, French, Belgian, or American. Instead, if you bring along some electronic toy, you can easily bury your nose into it and not utter a single word for the whole trip, thereby wasting valuable time that you could’ve used to have more fun. Becoming a screen zombie, besides being a waste of time, can damage your eyes, too.
This year, there are many students that want to participate in the upcoming Belgian exchange, and I understand that Mrs. McMahon cannot take all of the children who want to go. However, if I am chosen, this will prove to be a great learning opportunity, for both my academic and personal life. I may not be the best with words, but I’ve learned how to express myself for something that I have a passion for- which is, in this case, travelling and French. I anticipate the upcoming results (and whatever may happen, bonne chance to everyone one!), and I hope that those who are chosen will have a good trip.

Anonymous said...

It has been a bit of a sacrifice trying to have the opportunity to travel to France, but, whether I do get on the trip or not, it has been very rewarding and completely worth it. Smith's connection to Europe and the EU is quite amazing. It has changed many lives, including my own, for the better.
Europe day was a great celebration at school, and not just because of the delicious cake! It was great how much work was put into showing our bond with the EU, and that the US cares about huge events that happened all the way across seas.
Last spring I had the amazing chance to host a Belgian exchange student. We became good friends, bonding over things such as the uses of ketchup, The Simpsons,'Pretty Boy Swag', our inability to dance and much much more. It was cool getting a little insight into a different culture and learning that they were, at the same time, just like us, but also in a completely different environment. I wish to continue the friendship between by pen pal and I and/or make brand new ones!
Over all this trip will be completely rewarding for anyone and everyone who takes part in it. I hope that we will be able to let anyone who wishes to go be able to go, no matter their financial status.

Grace B

Claire Y said...

To go on this trip, more than 50 students, including me, have written essays, attended weekly Euro Club meetings, sold ducks for fundraising, and volunteered to help out at Europe Day. It's been a great experience, and if I am able to go, I would be extremely ecstatic.

Participating on this Belgian exchange will greatly change my world, because I have the chance to test my French abilities I gained the past year to its extent. I get the opportunity to communicate face-to-face with my pen pal, which gives me obstacles that merely writing to my pen pal didn’t give me. This will challenge me, and help me increase my French speaking skills. Not only will this benefit my French speaking skills, but seeing the wonders of Belgium and France will open my eyes to things I had never seen or even noticed before. I will understand what it sounds like to have a real conversation in French, and the people around me speaking in French will encourage me to want to speak the beautiful language. I get the chance to put things I learned in class into real life situations. For instance, if I go shopping, I would be able to ask how much something costs, or what my total is. Not only will I be able to say things, but I will understand things. Getting to experience things the same things that my pen pal experiences will allow me to fully understand her, and we would have more topics to talk about. I can make contrasts of America and Belgium, and really know what our differences and similarities are.
Instead of looking at the one in the classroom, I hope I get the opportunity to visit the real Eiffel Tower. I would like to go shopping not only to see what the difference of prices in America and France are, but to see what European fashion is like. I basically want to be able to make comparisons between America and France/Belgium, so that my French learning will be enhanced. I want to visit museums to learn about the art and history of Europe, so I can make relations of Europe and America. I hope to practice enough French so that I advance my fluency in French, and I will quickly interpret what people are saying in French. I hope that I will grow a stronger connection with my pen pal, and our letters and conversations over the internet will be more interesting and include more vocabulary.
I have played sports on teams, and I feel like I work well in teams. I know that I will have to cooperate, and that if I go on the trip, everyone will be making contributions, not just me. I have great leadership skills, and I have a good loud voice that comes in handy in many situations. I am creative, I can adapt easily to new cultures, and I can use the resources around me to help me achieve things that I need to. I feel good about working on teams, but like the fact that not too many people are attending the exchange program, so things don’t get out of hand.
One of the advantages of not being permitted to bring electronics on the trip is that students will be obligated to talk to their pen pals the whole time, instead of burying their faces in their iPods or laptops to avoid conversation and the hardships of speaking French. This will greatly challenge us and help us face our fears of speaking in French. Another advantage is that we will be closed out of America, and get to soak in every detail of France and Belgium. We won’t keep on thinking about our friends and family, but instead, we will truly have the feeling that we are living the life of a Belgian.

Adriana said...

Pourquoi J’ai Envie de Participer dans le Programme d’Échange Belge
Par Adrienne Lorenzini

1. Comment est-ce que votre participation dans l’echange belge vous changera-t-elle?
Mon rêve c’est de un jour faire partie des gens qui décident ce qu’il se passe dans le monde, soit un chef de nation, soit un représentant aux Nations Unies, ou possiblement un ambassadeur. Si je veux faire ça un jour, il faut que j’apprenne comment le monde fonctionne. Je veux voir l’Union Européen, je veux voir les plages de la Normandie où nos braves soldats ont débarqué.
J’adore voyager. Je veux voir le monde, les cultures différentes...même si quand je voyage je ne suis pas toujours dans une situation où je me sens à l'aise, cet a dire je ne suis pas dans ma zone de confort. Justement, je crois que c’est sain, que ça me fait du bien, Ça me prépare pour le monde. J’ai déjà voyagé, mais ça c’é tait toujours avec ma famille. J'espère pouvoir dire que notre groupe est devenu ma famille aussi, mais pour l’instant, le voyage sera sans ma famille, et ça aussi ça m’aidera a grandir. En voyageant sans famille, et en participant dans l'échange, je pourrai mûrir.

2. Qu’est-ce que tu espères faire, voir, et apprendre?
Quand je suis a Liège, j’espère voir tous les lieux fameux dont j’ai tant entendu parler durant ma carrière a Smith. Le Peloton, les musées, les églises, la Meuse. J’adore l’histoire, et j’espère en apprendre la leur. J’espere aussi pouvoir visiter les bâtiments de l’Union Européen, et apprendre les fonctions de l’UE. J’espère pouvoir voir les endroites de Paris connus du monde entier. Quelle magie, quelle rêve, quelle paradis.
Ce n’est pas toujours facile pour moi de me faire des amies, mais quand j’ai rencontré Manon (la fille qui est venue vivre chez moi en avril) je me suis dit qu’on avait vraiment un lien, et donc je voudrais la revoir. On s’est très bien amusées ensemble, et elle m’a tellement décrit ça vie (pendant qu'elle était ici et dans les émails qu'on s'envoie) que j’ai hâte de l’experiencer. On avait beaucoup en commun, et elle a vu ma vie, maintenant...à moi de voir la sienne.
Finalement, je pense que tu sais que j’ai vu déjà vu la Suisse et l’Italie. Et quand j’étais la, j’ai remarque pas mal de stéréotypes. Les Américains sont gros, ils sont paresseux, j’ai même dit quelque chose très vite (je parle beaucoup plus rapidement que la majorité des Américains, on est d’accord?) et mon cousin a tout de suite dit que les américains font tout trop vite. Oui, je l’avoue, on a beaucoup de stéréotypes ici aux États Unis, et j’essaie de changer ça tous les jours. Je veux aller en Belgique, pour leur montrer la vérité a propos des Américains.


Adriana said...


3. Quelles qualités amènerais-tu au groupe qui voyagera?
Quand je me retrouve dans une nouvelle ville, un pays différent, ce n’est pas avec de la peur que je promène, c’est avec de l’enthusiasm et la soif de l’aventure. J’espere et je pense que mon attitude sera contagieuse. J’ai beaucoup de patience pour les difficultés de voyage, les filles aux aéroports, et j’ai encore plus d'adaptabilité. J’ai assez voyagé pour pouvoir rester calme. Ça, ça sera au moins utile pour vous, si ce ne l’est pas pour les autres étudiants.
Je parle Français. Ça c’est utile a Paris et en Normandie quand toi et le guide n’etes pas la pour

traduire. C’est pratique à Liège, et a l’école Saint Benoit-Saint Servais. Dernièrement, j’ai déjà participé dans deux voyage scolaire (en China et au Mexique) et je sais comment ils fonctionnent. Je sais communiquer avec les autres étudiants, et même si parfois je suis timide, j’adore la sensation d’être en communauté, et j’arrive a travailler pour l’atteindre.

4. Quels sont les avantages de voyager sans technologie?
Moi, je n’utilise pas de technologie, de toute façon. J’ai un GSM, mais je l’utilise seulement en cas d’urgence. Je te jure, je l’ai perdu pendant un mois, je n’ai même pas remarque. Je n’ai pas d’Ipod, ni d’Ipad. J’ai un ordinateur, mais je l’utilise seulement pour les devoirs (d’accord, parfois pour regarder des émissions de télé). Quand Manon était ici, je n’ai pas utilisé mon ordinateur pour environs deux semaines. Je peux le refaire, sans problèmes. L’europe, l’histoire, tous ça, c’est passionnant, je te promets que j’arriverai à survivre pendant le voyage sans technologie. Si vous me faites l’honor de m'emmener en Belgique avec vous, je promets de ne pas te décevoir, d’être coopératif, de t’aider quand je peux.

Sydney B. rising 9th grade said...

This is an excerpt from my essay about why I want to go to Belgium on the exchange trip in 2013. My real essay was too long to fit(:

If I get to go the Belgian exchange trip, I cannot put into words how amazing and exciting that would be. I'll experience new cultures and foods that I have never ever seen before. I hear of things like escargot but i have never had a chance to try them. I would be introduced to a whole new environment in Normandy, Liege, and Paris. The trip would make me more open minded to trying new foods because i'm pretty picky when it comes to eating. I have always admired and loved France and Belgium. I even did a project on Belgium and its food for Life Skills. I have never been out of the U.S. so this would be a totally new experience for me. Even though i may think i know a lot about Europe, i probably don't. No one in the world can go one day without learning at least one new thing.

If I go on the trip, I really want to see places like the Seine, the Bastille, le Montagne de Bueren, le Sacre-Coeur, the D-day beaches, Saint-Benoit Saint-Servais, Madingley Cemetery, le Tour de Eiffel, and the Champs-Elysees. I mostly just want to go and explore everything, especially with a group of people who are excited as me. I want to eat in a french cafe, stroll along the Champs-Elysees, stay in a belgian person's home, and just soak it all in so i can remember it forever. I probably won't get to experience this kind of stuff because this is a once-in-a-lifetime type trip. I would like to learn what the allied troops felt when they stormed the beaches on D-day. I want to visit the bomb craters and feel all the emotions.

My essay is about 2 and a half pages long and can't fit. I hope this shows how much i seriously want to go. Thanks.

Rebecca Zuo said...

I would love to be a part of the Belgian exchange program because it would be a really fun and educational experience. Also, I think it would be different travelling with your friends and classmates instead of travelling with your family and friends. Going on the trip would change my world because I would finally use and apply the French I have learned and hear native speakers speak it. Being in France and Belgium would change my perspective and create my own opinions about the countries.

If I go on this trip I would like to visit my pen-pal's school, Saint-Benois Servais, because she always talks very fondly about it. So I would really like to see what it's like. I hope to learn and experience the every day rituals and schedule of a typical French or Belgian Student. It would be interesting to be able to see and compare the differences and I would also look forward to seeing the famous attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. IT would be an amazing experience the be able to go to the top and overlook all of Paris. I would also be amazing to walk around the Louvre and see the endless paintings and vivid sculptures, especially being an art enthusiast myself. Tasting the many foods of France and Belgium would also be really exciting. Belgian would also be really exciting. Eating foods like escargo that are almost impossible to find in the United States would be an once in a life time experience. I love crepes, they are my favorite dessert, so it would be really cool to eat one where they originated.

In a group situation I can bring my problem solving and conversational skills. First, I love to talk so it wouldn't be hard for me to start a conversation with anyone. Also, I've been on many family vacations so when there is a problematic situation, I know how to stay calm and evaluate the situation.

There are many adventures of travelling without technology. First, it would help us focus more on what is going on around us rather then being zoned in on out electronics. Without technology, students are forced to interact and communicate more. Secondly, it would be safer and less of a burden. It would decrease the chance of being robbed and lessen the burden as well. I would really love to be a part of the 2013 exchange trip.

Vivian L. said...

I have always wanted to visit another country. Although I did not know that by taking French, I might have an opportunity to visit a French speaking country. The chance that I may be able to visit Belgium makes my choice of choosing French as my language elective, that much rewarding. Especially since it will give me the opportunity to see another culture from my own. Also, having the opportunity to speak the French I know, with people who speak it fluently and as their native language.
If I get the opportunity to go to Belgium I hope to learn more about the people, and their culture. By visiting different parts of Belgium, I also hope to learn and experience how people travel in Belgium. It will be a great experience for me to visit important sites, and to taste their food, while appreciating the things that are similar and those that are different from the American culture. With this kind of opportunity, it will also allow me to visit a different part of the world, which I probably would not have had an opportunity to visit.
A skill that I am able to bring to the group is teamwork. Since I already attend French classes with my classmates, the idea of traveling together will bring us even more close. And because we will be in a foreign country, we will basically know only each other better and therefore work as a team. This experience will also teach me how to work with my peers in a different way. I personally hope to bring my teamwork skills to the group, and even my ability to appreciate other cultures.
As a young person, I know that technology can be a big distraction because I’m so used to having it around me all the time. So I understand why it’s not a good idea to bring technology on this trip. This advantage will allow us to learn more by listening and observing things that will be going on around us. But if we had technology, it would be like we hadn’t left home, with its distractions.

Anonymous said...

Tori Goldson

Next year, as we all know, the Belgian Exchange group is going to Belgium. I would really like
to be a part of the experience.
Going on the trip next year would be very beneficial to me. If I was chosen to go on the trip, I
would learn so many new things. I believe I would learn about the Belgian culture. We already
learned some things about the country of Belgium. But I would like to learn about the people of Belgium. At least, I could learn little things like how people act, what they eat, and what’s in
style (fashion wise). I’m fascinated with people of different cultures. Since I live with Americans
and I know how they act, I’d like to learn about other people.
While on the trip I also would like to learn about Normandy. I know some, but very few things
about the beach of Normandy. It seems very interesting to learn historical information about
other countries.
If I were to go on this trip, I would have a little bit of background knowledge about the trip
because my cousin Hannah. She told me about all of the fun she had on the trip, also she
explained to me about the great sights in Belgium (and the places her host took her). I would
really like to experience some of these things for myself.
I believe, along with my background knowledge, I would bring great laughs to the group. I feel
really comfortable with my French class. When my mom passed, they were there for me. So
ever since then, I’ve really appreciated them. Since I get along with my classmates well, Id like
to get to know them better. So the trip would be a great time to do that, and the trip would be really enjoyable to me.
Without having my phone on the trip, I believe I would enjoy the trip more. I know my phone
would be a great distraction for me, that’s why I’m glad were not allowed to have our phones.
It’s kind of like a challenge for myself, but it comes with a benefit. Since communication is
basically the main reason for this trip, I could communicate face-to-face with Belgians, rather
than being on electronics.
I would really enjoy going to Belgium with my classmates. This experience would be very
beneficial to me, since most children don’t get to go to Europe with their school. I appreciate
the fact that you take time out of your life to organize this trip for your students. It’s probably
stressful, getting everything arranged for the students benefits. So, thank you for doing this,
and presenting me with this opportunity.

J said...

Belgian Exchange essay by Jay P
I am very excited about the upcoming trip to Europe. Below are some reasons why I think I should go.
My participation in the Belgian Exchange will help me learn more about Europe in an interactive way. This trip will help me fully appreciate Europe and make me more aware of its challenges because I will be seeing them with my own eyes. This trip will help me develop lasting friendships with my host family and other Belgian people that I meet on the trip.
I hope to able to communicate well with my host family and learn about European family life from them. I hope to learn more about European schools when I visit Saint-Benoît Saint-Servais. I want to learn more about the history of Europe from after the creation of the European Union to the present. I hope that I will be able to see some famous European monuments and cities like the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
I will bring many skills to the group that is traveling if allowed to travel. In addition to my knowledge of American (and to some extent, European) culture, I know a lot about Indian culture because I am a second-generation immigrant. I am also good with technology and can speak French very well. Lastly, because I am disabled, my host family and the group that is traveling with me will learn about the daily challenges of a disabled person. They will then be able to apply this knowledge in the future with other disabled people.
I think it is a good idea to travel to Europe without technology because it will facilitate communication with the people around you, resulting in better communication and language skills. In addition, you will able to see and experience more in real time. There is no chance of losing your technology on the trip if it is not with you.
I think that both the group traveling and I will benefit if I am allowed to go to Europe. This trip will make me a more concerned citizen of the world, and I will make better decisions because of it.

Emer's reflection following the European Exchange Experience

“Tonight for dinner food is…..” Oh great, I thought. Where’s my dictionary? So, what was it again? Ah yes, a word beginning with “c”. I’m not even going to attempt asking the spelling, so I’ll just browse the “c” section for a meat of some sort. Ok, so it’s not there, I’ll guess. Lamb? No. Beef, YES!!! Ok, but isn’t beef- boeuf? Well at least I have some idea of what I’m eating…some. Oh, the joys of living with a family in a different language. Sure, it’s hard and darn confusing, but isn’t that the point? It’s meant to be a challenge, you know? It’s meant to make you take a step back, and think before you say something, which will most likely be the wrong thing. Sometimes, I wish things would stay like that. Not knowing much of each others language and constantly learning. I got such a thrill from hearing them I never wanted to stop listening and talking. Mistakes? Always, but never a problem. One night, I told the brother I went to bed at 6 (pm) instead of I slept for 6 hours. Oops! It’s inevitable, but they come and go like clouds, and you just laugh and move on. It puts half the fun in conversing. One of the main lessons I learnt on this trip is to take life slowly. We can’t always, speak, or type, or do things as fast as we (Americans) do. You’re learning a new culture, and if you go too fast, you’ll miss the small things that matter along the way, like the first time you think in French. Man, that’s amusing! March 25th, my host family drove me to the train station. Let me tell you, in that car ride, I found a new meaning to “Never say goodbye”. All I could say was “PLEASE visit me in America, you’re always welcome” and “I’ll miss you a lot!!!” of course there was a ton of Franglais in there. Well, it’s the thought that counts! As the train pulled out of the station, me, Helena and like half of the American and Belgian students started crying- like sobbing crying. When that happens, you know that bonds have been made, and connections tied up. These are people- friends that we would never ever forget. We came across the big pond to learn about Europe, oh but we learnt and gained so much more. I for one will never look at the word “Together” or “Ensemble” again the same way, because it means something bigger than the dictionary could ever say. Dictionary definition: into or in one gathering, company, mass, place, or body: to call the people together. My definition: united- when you and another person are doing something ~ you’re united in what you’re doing, with all differences forgotten, because, essentially, you’re the same, and being ~ or doing something ~ brings out that equality. The world is ~ and always will be, it just takes people who know that to show the rest of the world. United in diversity- aren’t we all? Diversity! Bingo!!! That’s what we are. The American and Belgian students, we’re diverse to the limits, and best of friends. An adventure and friendship of a lifetime for me began with conversation. Sunday afternoon, doing homework and a window popped up on the computer screen. “Emer” “Yes?” “It’s Flore, your pen pal” “…OMG, HI!!!!” “I mean, Salut!!!” Flore and I, our friendship began with conversation and I hope it always stays that way. I mean, the European Union was all about removing boundaries and borders, well, we’re about removing language barriers and not letting physical boundaries stop friendships from flourishing. Conversation is one of a couple ways to get rid of language barriers- for once I can be proud of my inability to not stop talking! What bad could happen from talking? Practice makes perfect and I truly believe that the more we practice talking to each other in each other’s language we will come to understand each other. And that- that would just be…a dream come true.

We DID video conference with students at Smith on March 23 10-12pm

Thank you to Federal Express for offering their teleconferencing facility in Brussels so that our traveling students could share their learning with students back at Smith. Go FedEX!!!! This event was an incredible real-time learning experience! Thank you to UNC and the efforts of Bjorn Hennings, manager of the Carolina Center for Educational Excellence. We appreciate all you did to make the connection. Thank you to Rebekah Cole and Monica Liverman for making arrangements for Smith students.

Journey with us.... will try to send pictures along the way

March 17 - Leave for Paris March 18 - Arrive Paris, rest and explore the city! March 19- Explore Paris March 20- Paris: museums, shopping and Eiffel Tower March 21 - Head for Brussels; meet our pen pals in the "Grand Place"; visit the European Parliament together; head to Liege to spend the night in host families March 22 - Spend the day at Saint-Benoit Saint-Servais- attend classes; my students will love English class; tour Liege, socratic seminar on the EU; spend evening with families March 23 - Early train to Brussels for visitation at European Commission - spend day in Brussels; return to host families March 24- Tour Maastricht and WWII cemetery with families Souper-spectacle that night...what fun! March 25 - Bid adieu to our host families and new friends; on to Brussels to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Signing of the Treaty of Rome March 26- Going home!

Meeting my Fate and Justine Angela

There were just seventeen days left until I would meet my fate. At least that was how I interpreted it. People have praised me, saying that I would be fine there, and that all of my years spent studying French would now finally pay off. And I guess that my three years of middle school French would make me a lot better off than those who had not even studied a year. Perhaps the most nerve-racking part of all was thinking about how I could completely forget all the French I’d learned while I was in Belgium. It would definitely be very different from speaking French in class—I wouldn’t be as comfortable speaking French to complete strangers (and trying not to make any mistakes at all with my limited vocabulary) as speaking French to my friends or my teachers (and knowing that they would understand if I did make a mistake). And then again, I wasn’t the most optimistic person in my class. But I can try to be optimistic about my fate. After all, it would be a great experience—and I could improve my speaking skills as well. And the best part of all would be becoming great friends with Justine Marchal, whose family will be my host family for a week. I have also learned plenty in preparation for our seminars about the European Union, and in preparation for everything else that we will be doing there. I might even be able to say that I have learned more in these two or three months than I have ever in my life. There has also been plenty of excitement in my life during these few months. Anxiety as well, of course. Who couldn’t be both excited and anxious about going to Belgium and living in a host family? And this my excitement and anxiety may well be beyond those of others—this is my first time traveling to Europe, my first time living in a host family, my first time traveling to a country where the official language isn’t English or Chinese. And this excitement and anxiety increases as I count down the days left until I am riding the train from Paris to Brussels. It will continue to increase as we near the train station at Brussels, as I glance around for the face of Justine Marchal and her family, which I have seen only in pictures, as I spot them and try to find a comprehensible sentence or two that I could say to them... And trust me—it’s not like I haven’t had nightmares about this. This is also the first time that I have stopped to ponder about how I will truly miss them when I am forced to board the plane back to Chapel Hill, back to North Carolina, and back to the United States. But that does not mean that all hope is lost for Justine and I to stay friends, even though it will be much more difficult to do so from such far away places. But we will keep in touch. We will try to meet each other—face to face—every year, if possible. We will remain friends, bonded together by a type of friendship that can only truly arise from being unable to see each other whenever we want to. And as for the long-term goals—they are countless. I will have something extra to include in my college resume. I will be able to consider a future abroad, to see if it really fits into my future. I will have a chance to find out if French is really for me. If I had asked one of my Belgian friends what “E.U.” stood for, they would have probably immediately answered, “les États-Unis.” Of course, these three words are French. Translated into English, they mean “the United States,” or rather “the States United.” But here in America, if I had asked perhaps twenty people in Chapel Hill, or rather, anywhere in the United States, what “E.U.” stood for, none of them would have answered “les États-Unis.” And that is because here in the United States of America, “E.U.” is an abbreviation for the European Union. And of those twenty Americans, perhaps only one or two of them would have known that. And it is our duty—that is, the duty of the UNION*—to increase that number by as much as possible. And to help us accomplish this goal, we have all attended the “Euro Club,” which meets every Tuesday after school and every Thursday during lunch, and we have all prepared an “EU journal” with notes from those club meetings. So what exactly is the European Union? It is a family of twenty-seven democratic countries in Europe. They have shared values of democracy, freedom, and social justice. Their mission is to provide peace, prosperity, and stability for its peoples; overcome the divisions on the continent, ensure that its people can live in safety; promote balanced economic and social development; meet the challenges of globalization and preserve the diversity of the peoples of Europe; and uphold the values that Europeans share. But that is simply a basic outline of the goals of the European Union. It does so much more, and deserves so much more credit for doing what it does. The European Union has funded our trip to France and Belgium. And now it is your job to learn more about the EU and to help others learn more about it. Spread the word! *The UNION is made up of the students who will be traveling to Paris, France, and Brussels and Liège, Belgium in March 2007.

Emer's dream

Smith Middle School. It was the 3rd school I’d seen that day and I knew it wouldn’t be the last. The teachers there seemed so friendly, but what really intrigued me was the French Department. Apparently, they were making a trip to Belgium. My friends Olivia had previously told me that her school in England were going to Belgium, but I had never imagined a school in America would go. The name America had gotten as the land of oppertunities was suddenly maing so much more sense! It was from that moment on, I had told myself, if they go to Belgium, and I am taking French, I will be on that trip. Since I found out there was a trip happening it had more meaning to me. It had the meaning of a goal to achieve- a dream.

Another cool design for our T-shirts

Another cool design for our T-shirts
Created by Angela

I know more about the EU than you....Nathalie

I’m so excited! Can you guess why? I didn’t think so. I’m excited because I know more about the EU than you. I have studied really hard, and I have learned that there are many differences between the EU and America. Just to clarify, the EU is the European Union. You will be surprised on how many differences there are between the EU and America. Lucky for you, I will not name them all. But I am going to tell you about some of the main differences. One of the big differences is space. In America people like their personal space and our houses are huge! Well, that’s different in Europe. People live small and close to each other. Their houses are sometimes even connected. In America with our big lawns and big houses, we also have a lot of junk in our houses. Most of it is unnecessary too. In the EU people have what they need. Every day they go to the market to get food. They sometimes skip the bread in the market and go to a bakery to get food. Here in America we go to the grocery store once a week and buy a week’s supply of food. That is also because we have to drive everywhere to get what we want. In Europe they walk or bike to the store and back. That makes it easier for them to go every day. I hope that you have learned from what I have just told you. And if you don’t believe me, just go to one of the countries of the European Union, and you’ll see that everything I’ve said is true. Oh…time really flies by when you’re writing. The bell is about to ring; I have to go! Bye, bye. Nathalie

Thinking About Her Sister's Trip 3 Years ago..Abby's Reflections

Four years ago my sister was given the experience of a lifetime, and ever since then I’ve wanted that experience too. Ms.McMahon has finally given me that opportunity. Before I could wrap my head around it, I would be on a plane heading to my dream destination, France. Though I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, I’ve never been more nervous and afraid at the same time. Nervous about the plane ride, and afraid of forgetting simple things that I’m going to need to know like “where is the bathroom?” and “what time is it?” I have taken three years to learn this language, all for this experience and if I get all the way to France and forget everything I’ve worked so hard to know it won’t be a pretty sight. I’ve maintained a solid “A” all year long in French, but writing French and speaking French are two completely different things. I am a better writer than a speaker, especially in front of people who grew up speaking French as their first language. I’m sure that this trip is going to be amazing, and an experience of a lifetime but I just can’t be excited when all I can think about is how I’m going to attempt to have a conversation with someone and just draw blanks. When my sister went to France she had the most amazing time, and when she came back she couldn’t stop talking about how she wanted to go back. I wish I could have that, I wish I could be excited and not scared, but I can’t. Seeing my sister in videos of her in France, talking so easily and seeing how she couldn’t stop smiling and laughing, it all just made me want it more. I know that this was going to be an amazing experience after I adjusted to the language and the culture, but until then I stick to being scared out of my mind.

.......from Jenny's heart

I’m either more worried than I should be, or less worried than what’s expected of me in situations like these. No, I’m not talking about a hostage situation or an emergency situation. This situation is traveling to Belgium in only near two weeks, and being thrust into a whole new culture that speaks a complete different language than from what I’m used to in the United States. Just thinking about it gets me a little nervous, a little worried, mostly excited, and just a tiny bit scared. I know that it’s going to be a wonderful experience, touring Paris and speaking French to native speakers. I’m also so excited that I’ll get to see my pen pal, Adrienne, and stay at her family’s home in Liège, Belgium. I always look forward to the emails I send back and forth with my Belgian pen pal, Adrienne. We’ve been communicating together since the beginning of seventh grade in 2005, and I’ve learned a lot about the modern culture and daily routines of kids who are my age who attend school and do activities just like me. Adrienne has always expressed a great hope of seeing the United States in her own eyes sometime, and she states that she would love to see the country she’s heard so much about. I only wish that after I’ve seen her country, I am able to take her to see mine! There are so many differences between the Belgians and the Americans, besides the obvious. I’d like to see how the school system and curriculum in Belgium differs from our North Carolina Standard Course of Study, what games the Belgians do for fun, and what extracurricular activities are offered. When I first signed up to take French as a language in sixth grade, I never dreamed that it would lead to this opportunity to learn more about another culture and broaden my global understanding. But yet, here I am, panicking over how many pairs of socks I’ll need in Belgium and wondering if I’ll make a taboo mistake when I’m talking in French. Another aspect of the trip I’m excited about is going to the headquarters of the EU (the European Union) and learning much more about the EU from European residents under the law of the EU. I’ve learned so, so much since I started my quest for knowledge a few months ago, and I only want to keep expanding this knowledge and put it to good use for the future. Who knows the day when the EU will surpass the United States in power? From the view today, it’s very likely that that will happen. Until March 17th, then!

It's all about being "united in diversity"... Mme McMahon

On the surface it looks like just another funding opportunity for yet another school program. Let it sink in however, $67,000 and it has deep implications as well as benefits of equity and advocacy for students in our school district. In January of this year, the European Union awarded Smith Middle School 51,000 euros (roughly $67,000) for its “Getting to Know Europe” , a proposal I submitted after attending last summer’s EU workshop hosted by UNC’s EU Center of Excellence and World View. These dynamic international organizations invited teachers from around the state to explore and create lesson plans on the EU while sharing this grant opportunity and encouraging teachers to apply. Why has the European Union funded a public school? There are lots of reasons, but the clearest one to me lies in its name: Union. Union means bringing together, sharing knowledge, power, ideas and resources. Union means making choices for the common good. The EU has invited our American students to learn more about their institutions, their system of values that are also shared by our nation, and their being “united in diversity”- a richness of cultures brought together in one body. Nations around the world are drawing lines in the sand – demarcation lines that promote a we versus they mentality- opportunities such as this grant provides, breaks those barriers as students learn how to respect each other’s opinions, value multiple perspectives and honor international relationships while bridging the gap to understanding through language. The cover story for the December 10th issue of Time Magazine emphasizes the need for schools to enter the 21st century by teaching more about our world. Students need to learn how to be “global trade literate, sensitive to foreign cultures and conversant in different languages”. I can teach this from the front of the room, or I can take my students to host families in Belgium where they will experience European life up close and personal. Thanks to the EU grant, many students who used to “watch from the window” as their more affluent classmates boarded the plane to Europe are able to join us on this voyage of self-discovery and new cultures. Six teachers will be traveling from grant funds and are excited about bringing back new lessons for the classroom. How has our “journey of learning” progressed since we received this award? Traveling students have been meeting once a week after school or during lunches to learn not only about the European Union and its institutions but also about how life for a teen in a Europe is similar or different from life in America. With guidance from high school students who speak French well, my students can discuss many topics of EU life in French including: capital punishment, free market system and travel -friendly legislation with the introduction of the Euro. A university professor and local French speakers have visited my classroom to add depth to the studies. We have studied Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech” in French so that they can discuss his dream for human rights in America with their Belgian pen pals and compare it to the EU’s mission as well as their own personal dreams. In a few weeks Belgian and American teens will be discussing “shared values” and hopes for the future, not only for their respective countries but also for the world. My students asked, “How do we publicize what we have learned?” After discussions with my Belgian colleague and his students, “Union” came out the front runner for our T-shirts explaining that Union is the same word in English and French and shows that there is strength in unity. My students agreed, two student artists created the logos and all of us will be wearing T-shirts honoring this international friendship. The physical journey begins March 17 as twenty-nine students (26 middle school students and 4 high school students) as well as 6 teachers board the plane for Europe. At least fifteen of the travelers were fully or partially funded by the grant. One student cannot stop smiling as he whispers daily “I am going to see the Eiffel Tower” –one of several economically disadvantaged student travelers who thought that this trip was only for those who could afford it- never dreaming that the EU would pay for this experience of a lifetime. The plane lands in Paris first where we will spend three nights. We will meet our Belgian pen pals at the “Grand Place” in Brussels on the 4th day. This first meeting when the students exchange “la bise” and begin to communicate face to face is one of the most memorable days of my life. They have been corresponding by email or MSN for a few months, but actually witnessing their excitement at seeing each other makes the time and effort for this trip pale in comparison to the joy of watching these young people connect. I can feel myself saying, “ Yes, I can do this again.” With our Belgian hosts we will visit the European Parliament and return to Liege to spend four days with our international families. My students will attend classes at Saint-Benoit Saint-Servais school in Liege, participate in a “rally” of the town, visit Maastricht and the American WWII cemetery and be entertained by the Belgian students for a host-family/American “souper-spectacle” on Saturday night. The American students will return to Brussels on Friday to visit the European Commission, and we will leave Liege to spend one night in a hotel in Brussels on Sunday, March 25th, an important date in EU history because it is the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome. Thanks to the European Union, a journey of learning about international affairs, friendship and self-discovery has begun. My deepest gratitude goes to UNC’s EU Center of Excellence, to World View for all their encouragement and support and to M. Labeye, my Belgian colleague who has worked with me for ten years on this creating successful Exchange Experiences. Robin McMahon French Teacher Smith Middle School Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Willing to go the Sarah

A boring bus ride and maybe a stay over night, this is what comes to mind when you think of a 8th grade field trip. Ms. McMahon put a whole new definition in my head of the meaning of what an educational trip can be. Eight hours over seas and a ten night stay in Paris, Belgium, Brussels and many other places. This is a child hood dream that has been granted. This amazing opportunity has become open to the students taking French in Smith Middle School. There is no doubt that this trip will be full of new experiences and life long memories but it scares me out of my mind every time I think about having to talk and stay in a home with a Belgium family. No books, no teacher only what I had learned in class. I am scared that the culture shock will cause me to forget all I have learned or how to say that I DO NOT eat sea food. This only means that I have to work very hard to get the work done. I also have to dedicate lots of time to all my other classes to keep good grades so I am eligible to go. I am willing to go the distance and I am positive that it will all be worth it.