Voices from those who experienced Europe

Since 2007, Smith Middle School has been awarded three grants from the European Union’s Getting to Know Europe grant competition.  These monetary awards ranging from $65,000-$100,000 have provided teacher professional development, community events such as the Euro-zone, Walk of Nations for the Walk for Education, and Europe Day competitions and celebrations.  The grants have also funded a unique exchange program with a middle school in Liege, Belgium where students travel abroad to stay with their pen pal’s family, attend classes at Saint-Benoit Saint-Servais and discuss global issues in French and English. Teachers accompany the group serving as knowledgeable leaders who enrich the students’ academic experience while walking the beaches of Normandy, identifying medieval architecture in Paris and investigating the critical role of the EU while attending an EU seminar in Brussels. Traditionally,  students celebrate the EU’s birthday in Brussels on March 25th by video conferencing with their American peers at Smith. Teachers and students learning together “in the field” is truly authentic education utilizing an effective apprentice-expert model of instruction.

To the former students who have traveled with this exchange program, please answer the following questions: (please free free to post a video – I would love to see how old you are now!)

  • Name (first + first initial of last name)  age,  school
  • Date of trip you attended and your favorite memory
  • How did this program change your world?
  • How has it impacted you as you mature?  personally? academically?
  • Is this program important on a societal level? Why or why not?
  • Anything else?

Thank you for your time and for staying in touch! 🙂

Mme McMahon


2 Responses so far.

  1. I have learned more about Europe in the 2 years that I have been at Smith and in French Class, than I have in the entire rest of my life. It’s not only me, my family is also quite interested in my exploits everyday

  2. Timofey Karginov says:

    In 2009, I traveled with Madame McMahon and 30 other students to France and Belgium. Now as a senior at Chapel Hill High School, I am three years removed from the experience, but am still touched by the time spent and memories. I am honored to have had Madame McMahon as a teacher who has helped her students discover a new part of themselves through the Belgian Exchange Program.
    Every student is nervous when they must speak in a different language for a whole week. English is seldom used during the trip, but communication is key to a great stay. So, as for all of us, I was mentally forced to use French at all times, whether it be with my host, adults, or classmates. The mistakes I made were – at times – embarrassing, but it became the every day communication that drove my awe with the language. Currently finished with all levels of French at Chapel Hill High School, I am pursuing my studies of French in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and am considering a Minor in the romance language.
    Although the trip took us both to France and Belgium, I was able to form a lasting connection with many of the people I encountered. My fellow classmates were just as eager and interested as I was, and I am still attached to several of them. At times we recall the emotional moments on the beaches of Normandy or the jubilant streets of Paris, where we saw the true colors of France. Belgium, however, exposed us to an unforgettable bond. My trip connected me to a new culture that included history, tradition, and unforgettable places; caverns, hills, rivers, and architectural wonders added to the already incredible trip. The desire to communicate in any way drove my host and me together, and tied his amazing family with mine. The care, the compassion, and the understanding that his family gave me still sticks with me, as does his Facebook and email. I am still in contact with my host, and hope to return someday.
    Il y a millions d’élèves autour des États-Unis qui espère pour une expérience qui peux change leur vie. Mais cette expérience n’est pas possible sans quelqu’un qui croit en les liens, la langue, et l’amour. Madame McMahon est cette personne. J’espère que chaque étudiant qui apprend le français avec Madame McMahon peux réalise les liens du monde, comme j’ai fait dans ma expérience il y a trois ans.

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