European Exchange 2013

The European Exchange is about developing global citizens at a young age. Why? The world is operating as if it were much smaller- with technology, social media, and online document sharing, information spreads quickly around the world. Ten years ago, who would have believed that my twitter messages sent in real time while traveling were received in Mulhouse and Vern-sur-Seiche, France, Liège,Belgium, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, NC and so many other places where they were ‘retweeted”.

This program is about developing confident, knowledgeable, young global citizens who use French to learn about their world – culture, global economics, education, international institutions such as the European Union, history and healthcare.  One of many  highlights of this 12-year exchange happened this year when we visited the bioMérieux facility in Lyon, France. We were graciously invited to learn more about the Mérieux family and the evolution of this company’s success as being the “world’s leader in microbiology” and in global healthcare.  This visit was a language educator’s dream as infectious diseases were explained in French which directly connected with the 8th grade science curriculum in North Carolina. Students asked clarifying questions in both French and English, and I knew they came home understanding that language does open doors in every curriculum.  After a gourmet lunch (served with four bottles of their best red wine -which we could not drink :-))  and a professional tour of Lyon, all of us (teachers and students) realized, we are citizens of the world, and French helps us connect in ways we never imagined before this exchange experience. Click here for pictures of the teachers and students  visiting the bioMérieux facility in Durham, N.C. and in Lyon, France.  Article on district exchange programs

Enjoy watching the students and teachers learning about Europe together! This trip was made possible by a “Getting to Know Europe” grant from the European Union and generous funding from bioMérieux.

Below you will find five short videos that tell a story of learning abroad. This story is told through the eyes of 8th and 9th grade students from Smith Middle School and two high schools. These videos capture the events of the first week:
The first video begins at the airport in Raleigh, NC and ends in Brussels – what are the students thinking? Do these students have the same worries/concerns as you?

The second video is Learning about the European Union. The students attended a seminar at the European Commission with their Belgian host students. You will learn a lot about the EU by watching this video. Please note: We were able to travel with teachers and students who needed financial help because of the “Getting to Know Europe” grant!!

The third video is all about language and discovering the “power within”- each child reaching deep to surface language skills, persevering through the unknown and appreciating the opportunity to be immersed in another culture. The student comments are nothing short of amazing. It is called “Living with a host family”

What do you think Liege is like?  Travel with the students to Liege, Belgium and learn about our pen pals’ favorite place to eat waffles, why they climb Montagne de Bueren and how some students even make personal connections with our favorite European city.


MIAM!! This video is all about CHOCOLATE and the beautiful city of Luxembourg… what did you learn?

IMPACT!  What did the students and their teachers like most about their European Experience? What did they see, taste, feel along the way?  What do you think you would like the most about visiting Belgium and France…and staying with a host family?


20 Teachers and students had an amazing day at bioMérieux on March 14. We were treated like royalty: French breakfast, educational (and engaging) tour of the facility, fantastic presentation of bioMérieux’s history by Mr.Sutherland and Ms. Shannahan and lots of exciting goodies – like bioMérieux day packs and bioMérieux buddies.
We are so fortunate to have such a company to help fund our travels and teach us about microbiology! With this visit, our amazing journey to Belgium and France has begun! Merci bioMérieux and the EU!




Smith Middle School students Our Journey to France and Belgium begins on this website – Join us![/caption]

  Two groups, 43 students and 9 teachers/ administrators will be exploring Europe, learning about the European Union, experiencing daily life in pen pal’s homes and marveling at the wonders of Paris this spring. Both trips are largely funded by the European Union’s “Getting to Know Europe” grant and corporate sponsorship from a local French company, bioMerieux. Please follow our travels as we upload video EVERY DAY on this site March 23-April 4.

Effort and Excellence Journey begins March 28.

                                                 13 students and 3 teachers will be headed to Brussels and Paris to learn about the European Union and the EU - thanks to the "Getting to Know Europe" grant and a generous sponsorship from bioMerieux

Traveling students meet on Saturdays for EURO club – to build community, share fears, concerns and excitement as well as to learn together about the EU, European/American historical ties and what to expect when staying with a Belgian family and attending  their pen pal’s school  for a week. 



Students from Smith Middle school will be traveling to Liege, Belgium to spend a week with their pen pal’s family March 23-March 31.  The students will experience daily European life, attend a Belgian school (Saint -Benoit Saint -Servais) and enjoy various excursions with their Belgian host student. Take a moment to enjoy the excitement in this video as these 8th grade students “meet” their Belgian host family on paper.  Many of the students have been “talking” with their new friends online, but this is the first time they have seen family pictures and information. How would you feel if you were going to stay with a family in a foreign country and you really have never met them face-to-face ?  What do you think these students are thinking? hoping? Please leave a comment.

Step One Getting To Know Europe

Euro Club



24 Responses so far.

  1. JC Labeye says:

    Such a pleasure to watch this video and see the happy faces of your students being so excited about the project.

    BRAVO !!

  2. Rosemary Y. says:

    Bonjour! Je m’appelle Rosemary, et je vais aller au Belgique, France, Paris. . . oui, oui! Je suis très excitée. . . et nerveux. Mais, j’ai déja appris ma famille d’acceuil – je pense qu’ils sont trés sympas, et gentils!

  3. Brendan Holly says:

    J’ai a crée cette video, mais je l’aime toujours quand je la regarde

  4. Dian Niu says:

    Je pense que ça c’est une vidéo mignonne! Aussi, nous sommes vraiment heureux et excités pour l’exchange. J’espère que vous êtes aussi bien!

  5. Katie says:

    “I have a feeling this is going to be one of the best experiences of my life.”

    “I felt surprised that I got a pen pal, and it made me feel good inside.”

    These are awesome quotes that really express how fun it is to have an overseas friend and learning about them and their culture.

  6. Max Morgan says:

    J’aime regarder ce video. Ce tres inspirational.

  7. Rebecca Z says:

    Even though I’m not going on the trip I’m excited for my classmates! It seems like an experience of a lifetime, and it is cool how all of them are so connected to their pen pals in France or Belgum. The video was very well created. It was very inspirational.

  8. Magda Parvey says:

    Thank you for sharing this video. Like many of the students, I am very excited to participate in this learning experience. The video is authentic and really demonstrates the enthusiasm our students are experiencing regarding their upcoming trip. I am thrilled to be sharing in this learning with them. It is my first trip to Europe and I believe I will be learning a great deal.

  9. Maria says:

    even though im not going im realley happy for my friends who are going. I cant wait to hear how fun the trip was! 😀

  10. Lauren says:

    This is a really cool video and I’m really excited to be a part of this amazing trip! <3

  11. Valentin Badert says:

    I am really pleased to see you all in March. Congratulations for the realization of this very nice video.

    see you soon,

    PS Thank you Brendon for your help in my English homework

  12. Bruno MERVEILLE says:

    What an exciting video showing exciting people.
    Keep dreaming and feeling good. We’ll be together soon.
    Looking forward to meeting you all.

  13. Loïck SALMON says:

    Waouw! Such a great video. I just can’t wait for next March!

    Best regards

  14. admin says:

    From a dear friend of Brendan, one of our travelers:

    I was reading about Saint Servais/Saint Benoit. As I said it was a Jesuit School that was opened in 1828 but was founded originally as the College de Ile in 1582. That is very interesting historically for many reasons

    First, as you might not know, the Jesuit or Society of Jesus order was founded by Ignatius of Loyola of Spain in 1534. Ignatius had been a soldier but was seriously wounded when he was 30 years old in 1521; during his convalescence he decided to become a priest instead. He went to the University of Paris and studied theology for 7 years. The Jesuits have become a great worldwide teaching order. There are over 150 Jesuit schools in the world now, including Boston College where John went to grad school and Georgetown University where I went for a while.

    Saint Servais is interesting for another reason. Why was a Spanish school opening in Leige you ask? Well What is now belgium was one of the 17 provinces of the Netherlands at the time and the catholic King Philip II of Spain had become the ruler of The Netherlands in 1555. Philip had been born in Spain but his father Charles was actually of the House of Habsburg of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor at that time. Spain was the most powerful country in the world at that time – with the discoveries of Columbus and Pizarro and other explorers it had become very wealthy because of all the gold found in the New World.

    What is most interesting to me about this historical snapshot is how the countries and peoples of Europe were all connected in the 1500’s. This is evident by how easy it was for all these people to move around. Ignatius the Spanish soldier studying theology in Paris, a Habsburg German becoming King of Spain and getting to rule the Netherlands (which included Belgium.) It is important for us to think about this now because Europe is uniting again – more united than at any time in the past 400 years and this will only increase in your lifetime And the school that you will be visiting is connected to all that history and is still going strong producing the young people who will lead as Europe reunites. Very exciting to think about.

    • admin says:

      Cher monsieur,
      Thank you for sharing your research on the history of the school we will be visiting – I appreciate your comment ” Europe is uniting again…and this will only increase in your lifetime.” I will ask all the travelers to read this….merci beaucoup! Robin McMahon

  15. Bocaccio says:

    French is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. John Pringle says:

    Dear Students and Mme. McMahon:

    This afternoon I was writing to you to send good wishes when your wonderful new video arrived. Thank you very much. I loved seeing it.

    As I said earlier, I wish to thank Mme. McMahon because she is the one who makes ALL OF THIS happen. Without her, there would be no trips to Europe, no classes on economics and finance, and none of the other opportunities to learn about Europe that she has created.

    Thank you Mme. McMahon!

    I know you will have a wonderful trip and I’m so sorry that I cannot go with you. When you go to the American graveyard at Normandy, and you see those 9,300 white crosses and Stars of David, please thank all those young men for what they did for us and for the world.

    Then have a wonderful time in Brussels, Paris, and the other beautiful European cities that you will visit. In addition to thanking Lafayette for helping us in our struggle for independence, when you leave, please tell him that we love France and that we will be back soon.

    BON VOYAGE, be safe and have a great trip. I will follow you on the website.

    With very best wishes from your friend,
    John Pringle

  17. Valentin Badert says:

    Et déjà arrivés que vous repartez.Cette expérience a été riche en échanges lingusitique, culturel et social. Nous avons passé un e agréable semaine avec vous tous et nous nous réjouissons de venir vous voir en croline du Nord.

    See you soon Brendan

  18. Eric Vereecken says:

    Nous avons été vraiment très heureux de pouvoir accueillir un de vos élèves ! C’était une expérience très enrichissante, même si elle a été courte ! Félicitations pour votre programme et l’excellente organisation !

    A big “hello” to Matt !

  19. Nick P says:

    I can relate with some of travel anxiety shown in the videos, as I have many fears and worries when traveling.

  20. Arun Chakrabarty says:

    It is so cool to be able to travel and experience so many fun things. Also it’s awesome to go visit abroad, and learn about others’ life

  21. Maria Danger Pavic says:

    I truly enjoyed the videos, they were very engaging and i have traveled abroad before, like i was practically born mid-flight, so its funny to see how some of the “first time fliers” reacted. I definitely regret not going because it seems like such an amazing learning experience because you are using your french first hand. I loved seeing people i knew in France because some of them have never been out of the country! Its amazing to see how easily people bonded with their host families, believe it or not i’m extremely shy when it comes to meeting new people so if i was there i feel like my host would hate me. Sorry if this comment is too long. I definitely think we should keep the exchange going because its literally one of the best things about this school, if not the best. its amazing to see my friends in a different country.

  22. badert says:

    I am really pleased to see you all in April.


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