Ames students invade France

As the bus pulled up to Lycee Evariste Galois school in the Parisian suburbs, 15 Ames students exchanged terrified glances as they anticipated meeting the host families they would be staying with for the next week. The students had already endured an 8 hour trans-Atlantic flight, a day of wandering around Paris, and the realization that they were probably screwed for the trip due to their limited French vocabulary. In addition, they were losing the battle against jet-lag. When they stumbled out of the bus, they were in a general state of exhaustion and dismay as they faced the prospect of the next two weeks. Gradually, the host-students arrived and the huddling mass from Ames High dwindled into nothingness. “I think that the students were truly brave,” french teacher Stacy Dobernecker said. “They really put themselves out there. The Family stay is seen as being the most frightening part of the trip, and it can keep people from going on the trip.” Over the course of the week spent with their host families, the fears and hesitations about surviving a foreign culture disappeared, and the Ames students were gradually accepted into the French culture and the Sartrouville High School. The contact between the Ames students was limited due to the trip’s goal of total cultural immersion, but occasionally they would find each other in the high school amid the sea of foreign kids who actually knew where they were going. On occasions such as these, they would exchange a few phrases of much appreciated English before they were whisked back into French culture by the traffic in the hall way. “My host parents didn’t know know English,” junior Nia Johnson said, “they were still really nice even though they couldn’t communicate very well. My host student was normal, so that was a relief.” All too soon, the family stay was over, and the now-confident Ames High delegation boarded a bus outside the high school once again despite the goodbyes from the families and the desire to stay. There was now a new adventure awaiting them as they drove to pick up another group of high school students at the Charles De Gaulle Airport. The new group was to join the Ames students over the next week for their sight-seeing tour along the northern coast of France. The new students were from Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, but the general consensus was that they were really Canadian. With these reinforcements, the group swelled to 21 students, 3 teachers, a tour guide, and the most badass bus driver the world has ever known. Within a few short hours of meeting the Canadians, the bus arrived in the city of Rouen, and the Ames students were transformed from French high school students back into American tourists. Over the next week, the international group would visit the port city of Hornfleur, the D-Day landing beaches, the island abbey of Mont-Saint- Michelle, and the cathedral Notre Dame de Chartres to name just a few of their stops. “The tour was really fun,” junior Jessica Jacobson said. “I wish we had more free time, and I guess I liked the family stay better.” All too soon, the bus pulled up to Charles De Gaulle Airport once again. The familiar air of dismay returned as the Ames students anticipated another trans-Atlantic flight and the return to the daily grind at Ames High School. The journey home was a blur of customs officials, passport checks, full-body scanners, angry old people, and the first real American food in two weeks. As the travelers’ luggage was collected at the Des Moines Airport, the group of students once again dwindled into non-existence. Despite leaving behind new friends, places, and culture, the students took with them experiences, friendships and lessons that will last forever.