Reflections from our European Exchange experience

Please watch the three videos on the European Exchange page and respond to the following questions in the comment box below.
Name: (first name and first initial of last name)
Indicate if you participated in the European Exchange as a traveler, host student, teacher chaperon or something else ( parent of traveler).

First video:
Have you traveled outside the United States? How has traveling “opened up your world”? What do you think Harrison and Haley learned from this experience? How/what organization gave financial support so this experience is available to all students who take French? What do you know about our sister school in Liege, Belgium?

Second video:
Our students visited the European Commission in Brussels and learned a lot about the European Union. What did you learn from this video?
What would you like to know about the EU? Are you going to come to Smith’s Europe Day celebration on May 9???? to eat crepes, participated in a Euro Mania jeopardy game, Walk for Unity and so much more…stay tuned!!

Third video:
What did you learn about language and cultural immersion from these three students who stayed in host families in Liege? Is this something you would like to do? Why/Why not? What did Jay learn from staying with a disabled student?

Anything else?

15 Responses so far.

  1. Lucas K. says:

    These videos I just watched have invoked a sense on nostalgia of when I had last traveled abroad, in 2011, when I traveled to Korea. The sense of wonderment and nervousness demonstrated by my peers were identical to my own feelings two years ago. While my trip was for more personal reasons, I am still jealous of the amazing experience you all have had for two weeks.
    Lucas K, Smith Middle School

  2. Kevin H. says:

    Watching this video has made me feel very nostalgic of when I last traveled which was in 2009, to Europe. Seeing these videos reminded me of the feeling of nervousness, and excitement which I felt when traveling. Though my trip was not with a school, I feel kind of sad that I could not go.
    Kevin H, Smith Middle School

  3. Matt S. says:

    I went on the Belgian Exchange and it didn’t really hit me that I was going to be gone for two weeks, until I got to the airport. We were all lined up getting all giddy and trying to talk to our friends as our parents bugged us by trying to get in some last words and ridiculing us about the things we forgot at home. We took a group picture and then we said goodbye to our families and departed for Atlanta. It was great to be with so many different people, this trip was full of people from all financial backgrounds. This is because of Biomerieux and the EU donating to our 30 person group. Once we got off the plane from Atlanta and stepped into Belgium I was surrounded by so many cultural differences. When we got past baggage claim I was almost immediately met by my pen pal and his father. For that whole week in Belgium I was taken care of by my wonderful hosts and I got to see a lot about the Belgian culture. This was my first time out of the country and it was an amazing experience to be engulfed in their wonderful culture. I had a wonderful time going to Brussels and having a seminar about the EU and it’s importance. This really showed me how important the EU is and how they have such a large influence in the world. I think that the EU shows how countries can come together and work with each other to prevent war, promote peace, and get more done. This trip showed me all about Europe, how they live, how they work, and how we us as Americans can work together to make a stronger community.

  4. Conrad M. says:

    This trip changed my life and really made me change how I live. Now I don’t eat as heavily and I don’t snack as much. I learned so much about Europe and European culture on this trip. When we visited Paris I really learned about history and I now understand how much of an impact the church had on Europe, we could never recreate what is in Europe here in America. Thank you for the big grant. It really changed all of our lives.

  5. Lauren A says:

    This trip was a life changing experience for me and I’m sad that it went by so fast. There were times during the trip when I couldn’t believe that this trip that I worked so hard for and was so beyond excited to be on was my present day. I was so used to picturing it in the future, that when I realized it was now I present I was shocked. This trip has meant so much to me and now that I’m back home, I feel different and wiser. Being with my amazing host family for a week was so different than my normal life. They are very family-oriented and spend a lot of time together compared to my family at home. I feel like we are also rushing around just moving forward in life always looking to what needs to be done next, but they made sure that they lived in the present. It was a wonderful experience and I really hope I can incorporate some of their lifestyle into my very American home.

  6. Eashwar M. says:

    I have traveled outside of the US, I have been to India quite a few times. It really did “open up my world” because, it was so different and there were so many opportunities to learn about the indian culture and style of life. The organization bioMerieux helped to fund the trip to Belgium fo the 8th and 9th graders. Our sister school ini Liege is Saint Benoit Saint Servais and we usually send penpal letters back and forth between them and every other year we go there and the next year they come here.

    I learned that the EU has 27 different countries in them and hey joined together to cooperate with each other and it also made it much easier to travel between countries without lots of passports. I would definitely like to learn what countries are doing the best in the EU and also why Switzerland isn’t in the EU. I am almost surely coming to the Europe Day celebration and I plan to possibly help out.

    In the third video, I really saw the differences that were present in the beginning and also the nervousness that everyone had. I think that eventually just getting used to the differences made everything seem more comfortable. I think that Jay being hosted by someone else with a disability helped them feel like they weren’t alone and they would be able to relate.

    I’m pretty sure that everyone had lots of fun and learned a lot and I hope to do the same in 9th grade.

  7. Anja Sheppard says:

    Video I
    1. Of course I have traveled outside of the U.S.! I love doing it and I can totally connect to what these kids are feeling. The sense of awe of being in a whole other COUNTRY is awesome. I can see how the exchange students struggled for words to explain what this feeling is. It is simply unexplainable.
    2. The first time I traveled abroad I was too little to remember but since then I can remember all of my experiences mushed together into one. When someone travels abroad, wherever they go, they have no idea what is in store, especially if it is their first time. You finally get to see what a different culture is like, and not just in a museum. You get to EXPERIENCE it, which opens up millions of possibilities when you are older. I know that every one of these students now have a longing of traveling abroad, as I often do. Now nothing can stop you from opening those doors to peek into the future.
    3. Harrison and Hadley have finally experienced seeing euros. The shiny piece of paper makes you think, what can I buy with this… These two students also learned how to cope in another totally different country with totally different cultures and rules. This is something everybody should get to experience. It opens up our eyes, like Hadley said, and that in itself is a extremely valuable lesson only learned when traveling abroad.
    4.Thanks a million to these organizations for sending kids abroad! Thanks to the EU for the Getting To Know Europe grant and thanks to BioMeriux! (I think I spelled that right) These organizations have helped kids experience another country for themselves, instead of sitting in a classroom learning about it.
    5. The Liege School is called College Saint-Benoit Saint-Servais and this is their 12th exchange. This is the 7th time for smith going there and the Liege students have come here 5 times.
    Video II
    1. I learned that there are 27 countries currently part of the EU, but more and more countries are deciding to join. The EU was formed in the aftermath of WWII when most everybody was afraid of another war. Some countries got together and formed an economic union to help calm down the frightened leaders of countries. There are three parts, just like the U.S.’s three branches. There is the European Commission, which addresses the EU as a whole. There is also the EU Parliament, which deals with the people. All of the people in the Parliament are elected by the citizens of the EU. Last, but not least, is the Council of the EU, which is made up of the member states’ leaders.
    2. I would like to know when the EU was formed and how quickly other countries started to join. I also would like to know which countries are currently in the EU and which countries are considering joining.
    3. Of course I am coming to Europe day! It sounds like so much fun and I will try to spread the word about it.
    Video III
    1. These three students shown in the video really explained their feelings about the culture very well. It is extremely hard to be thrown in a totally different world and be expected to cope. these students said that it was really hard at first to blend in but it got much easier after a few days. They also mentioned some small cultural things, like holding the fork in the left hand, are so important to the culture there. They said that they got much more confident and could focus on having fun and not worrying about what they are saying in French.
    2. I would love to stay in a host family’s house and learn and feel what those students learned an d felt. I have never stayed in a host family’s house before so I think it would be an amazing experience.
    3. I think that Jay learned the most important lesson of all. He learned that there are others like him. He is not alone. I am sure people have told him that a lot but you don’t really get it until you really find a friend with disabilities like you. He “got a new sense of power.”

  8. Leigh S. says:

    This was my first time traveling to France/Belgium, and it couldn’t have been better! The trip was perfect, i loved every minute i spent there. I love that this videos were made, because it gives back a little piece of the experience; a short reminder of what happened. This experience opened my eyes to a whole different way of living. It was completely different from the quiet Chapel Hill. BioMerieux and the European Union both supported us and funded majority of our journey so a big thanks to them too!!!
    I will always miss my penpal, her and i had an amazing time together. We continue to speak via facebook and Gmail, and we really have made a lasting friendship. I even got the opportunity to go to school with her which was an exciting experience. There school was so different, and the main difference to me was the number of students. At Smith i mostly know all the students here, but there it is pretty hard to know over 1000 students!!!
    I am really excited to participate in Europe Day! I remember last year’s was great even if the walk for unity had to be indoors!! The crepes were delicious, and I the other foreign foods were amazing as well!
    Those students were so lucky to participate in that, as was I! I really want to go back!!! I miss my host family so much!!! My time there was amazing, and defenintly worth all the preparation!

  9. Rachel T says:

    Watching these videos was really interesting and it was cool to see how students from Smith Middle School got to experience French/Belgium culture. Over summer I have travelled to areas of Europe and Asia. It opens your eyes to the lives of people outside the United States. Traveling changes the way you view social and politcal isssuse, by exposing you to problems around the world. It great to see how the EU has helped our school and I hope to learn more about the EU relations with the US and other countries. I am so excited about Europe Day and can’t wait to learn more about the EU.

  10. Rosemary y says:

    This was my first time going to belgium, although I had already gone to France once. It really opened my eyes up to the European life style. I had a totally diferent experience than a regular tourist– i got to stay in an actual house, not hotel, in addition, I got to know my host family well, and I went to an actual school! So many other things are present in Europe, however, ensuring the country’s harmony and peace, in the case of the EU, and promoting international health, in the case of Biomerieux. I got the oppurtunity to tour the headquarters of both global organizations, and, I got to tour many locations of both historical and cultural importance. A great big thank you to the EU and Biomerieux for sponsoring us, and thank you to Ms. Mcmahon and all of the chaperones! I’m so glad I went on this trip, and I miss my host family so much!!!!!!!

  11. Annie H says:

    Although I did not get to go on the Belgium trip, I felt like I was there with the other students when I was watching the videos which were awesome and inspiring. It was cool to watch Smith and Chapel Hill High students experience this trip. I have traveled outside of the US and it really opened my eyes to see the culture of another country. More knowledge is gained when students travel to another place as well, and I would really like to learn more about the EU and France and Belgium. I learned that the EU has 27 countries currently but more are considering of joining them. It looks like all of these students had fun staying with their host families and learning how to interact with other people and having their views changed on issues going on in the world. I am really excited for Europe Day and cannot wait for it!

  12. Rebecca Z. says:

    I have traveled out of the US before but that was a long time ago. I’ve been to china and although it was a while ago the experience was really great and it was a big eye opener, seeing somewhere with different cultures, around you. The videos are really interesting, and it’s cool how the students that did go can share their experience with others. It’s cool how they learned the french customs. Also I bet it’s a completely different experience how they got to stay with hosts families. It would really cool to do something like that especially if your host family lives on a farm. The goats in the video are so cute! It’s great how the Eu funded the trip especially because they have such a great cause. They promote peace and stability across Europe. I excited learning more about the Eu and Europe at Europe day! I’m definitely going!

  13. Angela C. says:

    I went on the Effort & Excellence trip with twelve other students, and three other adults and it was actually my second time going to France but my first time going to Belgium. I have noticed from past experience going to another country can help you a lot with learning the language. I have been to China and noticed that my Chinese has improved. Traveling abroad definitely helps expand your learning experience and it was great to do that outside of the classroom. I feel like the trip was perfect and i’m very glad that these videos were created so those that haven’t been to France/Belgium or weren’t able to go on the trip will be able to learn too. Even if I have been to Paris before it was still very hard to believe I was standing right in front of the Eiffel Tower! I hope that other students will be able to experience and learn what I did in the future.

  14. Emmy S. says:

    I have traveled outside the country to France and I know that it is the experience of a lifetime! It’s very interesting to see the similarities and differences between different countries. It’s a great experience because we learn more about each other and it “opens our eyes.” I’m sure that Harrison, Hadley, and the others realized that French culture is very different from our own. Biomerieux gives support to all people. I know this because my dad taught for that company a while ago. I know that our pen pal school in Liege, Belgium is an amazing school. I have heard that our French students have gone there 5 times! I have learned that the European Union consists of 27 countries. I would like to know how it first formed and why. Of course I am coming to Europe day! I’m planning to perform a poem with my friend. I recognize the students’ nervousness and anxiety about arriving at a pen pal’s house. However I can see that they all had a great time together. I would love to have the chance to do this because it would be an opportunity of a lifetime. It would improve my french and my pen pal’s english. Jay learned many things by staying with a disabled student. He learned that he is not alone. Salut!

  15. Lara R says:

    1)I am in the seventh grade french class. I have never been out of the US but i would love to travel outside of the US. I think that Haley and Harrison learned about different cultures. They explained how it is different in Belgium/France. Biomerieux funded our exchange and gives financial support to other exchanges and causes. I learned that our sister school is Saint-Benoit Saint-Servais and this is our twelfth exchange with them.
    2)I earned that the EU has 27 countries. I also learned about the architecture in Europe. It is a mix between old architecture styles and new ones. I am defiantly coming to Europe day to eat crepes and learn about the EU.
    3)By watching the video I learned that even if you don’t do as good as you would like in class that you can still speak french and make conversation. The students were very nervous, I would be too, and even though they were nervous they were still able to make conversation in french. I would love to do this to learn about how french culture is different from American culture. We have learned about it in class but I would love to experience it. Jay learned that he is not alone by staying with a disabled student. I think it made his experience better because they were able to interact with each other and have a good connection.
    (Smith Middle School)

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