- Associated Press - Thursday, October 8, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Students from a small town in France met the American West through Cheyenne’s East High.

For the first time, 15 students from Limours, France, visited students studying French at East High. They arrived Sept. 18 and headed back to France on Sept. 28.

French teacher Paula Egan-Wright has taken her students to visit France for the past 19 years, 16 of those through East High.

Each year, her students live with host families in France, which helps the students learn about the culture and family life in the country. Egan-Wright most recently took her students to France this past spring.

Some of the students from those same French host families visted Wyoming, and many of them stayed with the families of the students they hosted earlier this year.



Egan-Wright said the visiting teens were from the Lycee Jules Verne in Limours. “Lycee” is the French word for a secondary public school.

The French teens attended classes at East High with their host students and visited Terry Bison Ranch. They also visited Fort Laramie and toured the University of Wyoming with former East High students.

The visiting students spent their first weekend with their host families and planned to do the same the second weekend. That gave the students a chance to see how American families live and experience whatever their host families might plan for them.

East High student Javaun Garcia said, “I kind of understand what they might want in their trip, how I might host them better, things they might want to do, because I was in a similar situation (in France)”

“I just think it’s kind of cool that even though they’re getting the American experience, each experience that they have is different,” Garcia said. “The experience that somebody has with Jenna (Bishop) is not the same experience that they have with me.”

Fellow student Maranda Lapinskas and Bishop said many of the students who visited France last year have stayed in touch with their former French hosts.

And it’s exactly those friendships that the French teens’ teacher, Laurence Altibelli, hopes her students’ experience will cultivate.

She said that although the main goal of the trip is for her students to improve their skills with the English language, she hopes the friendships formed will be lasting.

Garcia said he keeps in touch with his French host family through social media, along with some of the other students he met when he visited France in the spring.

The visiting students gave a presentation at East High about their lives in France. Altibelli said they also planned to share their experiences in the U.S. with their fellow students when they returned to France.

Visiting French students Coline Bergeon and Laure Cargemel said they found the American culture very surprising, from the roads to the food and schools.

Bergeon said, “The school is like a movie series: ‘High School Musical!’” She said students here have more liberty in the classroom than they have in France.

Their classmate, Elliot Ubertini, said one of the most challenging parts of the trip has been the American accents. “Sometimes we don’t understand just one word,” he said, and then they misunderstand the entire conversation.

Egan-Wright said the students have not visited from France before because the French school authorities thought it was too expensive when the students could visit England to improve their English.

But she said the students don’t have to pay for a hotel when they stay with a host family and buses were provided by the Laramie County School District 1 Transportation Department.

The schools are considering making the trips between East High and Lycee Jules Verne an annual or biennial exchange, Egan-Wright said. But she added she wasn’t sure if she would take her students to France next spring.

She said there was more planning involved in bringing the French teens to visit than she expected, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to do it again in the spring.

Another roadblock Egan-Wright said she would have to work around is the shorter spring break. In 2016, students will have only three days and the following weekend off.

Egan-Wright said she will decide in early 2016 whether to plan a trip for her students.

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Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com

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