Americans + amis


Photo by Julia Knoll

The French American Exchange Program (FRAME) pairs KHS students with students from Lyon, France.

Excited whispers fill the empty Dougherty Ferry parking lot as the moment everyone has waited months for finally arrives. The bus tires hit the wet concrete as 20 students from Lyon, France step out ready to greet their new roommates for the week. Most of these students had been getting to know their partners through DM’s and snapchats during the months leading up to the trip. Including Audrey Scherr, junior, who started talking to Elodie, her partner, through Instagram. 

The French American Exchange Program (FRAME) pairs KHS students with students from Lyon, France. After being paired, both groups visited each others’ homes for a week, Lyon students visiting Kirkwood in April and Kirkwood visiting Lyon in June. 

“[My partner Elodie] followed me on Instagram and I was like ‘Oh that’s weird, a French girl is following me,’” Scherr said. “So, we got to talking and she was like ‘Hey, I’m your partner.’ We got each other’s Snapchats and we started talking at least once a week leading up to when she came [to Kirkwood] and before [the Americans] went to France.”

Although most of the partners had talked leading up to the trip, according to Elizabeth Button, junior, some students felt awkward about meeting before the trip started. However, that awkwardness quickly wore off as they got to know each other, Button said. Along with the developing friendships between partners, the KHS students also bonded with other French students.

“We got closer to each other when I got to France,” Scherr said. “But for the first couple of days when she got [to Kirkwood] she was shy and tired. We developed a really close friendship over time. I also began to make friendships with the other French students who were her friends so we had our little friend group, and then once we got to France it was really easy to just start right where we left off.”

Along with new friendships came new and unique experiences, Scherr said. Button said French schools were different from KHS, especially in the behaviors of the students. 

“School was the most surprising part of the trip,” Button said. “Maybe because it was the last month of school they were going through, but all of the students there did not care about school. They were really hyper and talked all the time during class. It’s a regular high school but the behaviors were just different.”

Although some students joined FRAME to improve their language, for most students it developed into more than that after getting to know each other. According to Button, the down time during the Lyon portion of the trip included bonding and getting to know her partners family and her better. 

It felt like having another friend for a while instead of someone who’s just trying to learn a language,”

— Button

“[Joséphine, my partner], as well as her family, were so nice and sweet. With the family, we went on a lot of walks and hikes around Lyon. They were all so fun to be around.”

 Anna Kalfus, French teacher, said while traveling, most KHS students gained her trust. That trust is what led Kalfus to allow the students more freedom during their time in France. 

“We had a great group of self-sufficient kids, which made it easier on us to have this genuine French experience,” Kalfus said. “We could always count on [the students] which made us not worry too much about [them]. I remember one rainy night we let everyone go out for dinner in small groups and said ‘You can get dinner between the Eiffel Tower and our hotel.’ I was very pleased that we could trust everyone with that responsibility.”

According to Kalfus, the positive relationships, along with how great everything went with the students during the trip, made the teachers very proud. It was one of the reasons she considered this trip such a success. 

“We were super pleased with our students on this trip,” Kalfus said. “For us, it was so reaffirming to our program that students put in a lot of time to prepare for this trip. You can tell from the beginning that there are the kids who are obviously all-in, and those kids tend to grow the most. What I’m hoping for next year is that students will be more confident and less afraid to make mistakes. Overall, this trip was better than we could have expected.”