French students embark on once in a lifetime exchange trip


Giancarlo Castro

On Feb. 25, 2019, a group of 16 students departed for Vannes France for the annual French exchange trip. Directed by Madame Monique Hoffman, the group toured various historical French sites and were able to learn about the nation’s culture and way of life.
That did not mean that there were not a couple of bumps along the journey, however. Unfortunately, the students had to depart a day late due to overwhelming wind speeds and flight delays that held the trip back. However, upon arrival, the American students from Scotch Plains Fanwood High School found themselves fitting right into the way of life in the French countryside.
“The family I stayed with was extremely welcoming and graciously showed me their village and lifestyle,” senior Kaitlyn Jackmin said. “On the first day, they showed me the local bakeries and introduced me to neighbors and friends. It was a seamless transition into the lifestyle from there on out. I felt like I was a part of the family and a member of the community.”
Student were able to visit historic sites such as the fortress at Belle-Ile-en-Mer, a small island right off the coast of Brittany. They also visited the historic city of Nantes and the monumental Omaha Beach Normandy, where thousands of American veterans lost their lives in the D-Day attacks.
“It was surreal to be at the beaches in Normandy,” senior Maggie Traina said. “I’ve learned about that spot so much throughout my time in US History courses and actually stepping on the same sand that was once a battleground was eye opening.”
Along with this all, students were able to make lasting connections with the kids who live in France, regardless of cultural or language barriers. The goodbyes were solemn as the SPFHS students departed for Paris on bus on March 5.
SPFHS students had another two days to explore the landmark city of Paris, taking a cruise on the Seine River and seeing major landmarks such as the Catacombs and the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
On March 7, 2019, the students returned back to the halls of SPFHS. Although hearts were heavy to leave the beautiful nation, all the students were ecstatic that they had made lifelong friends overseas, a truly once in a lifetime opportunity.