A small group of Albion College students will celebrate the New Year with their families before boarding a plane bound for France to observe the French New Year, or le Jour de l’An.
It’s the beginning of a cultural and educational experience with Albion’s sister city of Noisy-le-Roi, just outside of Paris.
From Jan. 1-15, Albion College juniors Kyle Henry, Helen Craig, Abby Moore and Courtney Flook and senior Dan Willenberg will compare and contrast the educational systems of France and the United States, while staying with host families in Noisy-le-Roi.
Formed under the guidance of Suellyn Henke, the college’s chairwoman of education, the program requires students to pay roughly $1,000 in additional tuition for a half-credit course that affords them the opportunity to interact with students in Noisy-le-Roi middle schools, while getting in plenty of sightseeing.
Students will write papers on their exposure to the French education system when they return, but they also will be giving French youth something to take away from their interactions.
Willenberg is going to teach lessons about the historical significance of jazz music in the U.S. and how it relates to the growing jazz scene in Paris, and Flook will teach about how Amish culture has historically blended into contemporary America.
Henry, an English major who hopes to teach English and government at the secondary level one day, is going to highlight some of what he learned from his internship with the Detroit Free Press opinion/editorial team this summer.
“I am going to be teaching a lesson on political cartoons,” he said. “I want to take a look at some current events and see the difference in how they are perceived in America compared to France.”
Moore, who has aspirations of being an elementary teacher, will share insight on what camping means to many American families after she grew up with camping as a summertime staple.
She said one of the things she is most looking forward to is living with the host family and “eating plenty of French bread and brie.”
The Battle Creek native has communicated with her host family via e-mail and plans to pack some gifts to give them a taste of Michigan living.
“I’m thinking I might take some preserves, cherries or something like that — and I think I’m going to take a book on Michigan,” she said. “They also suggested we take pictures of our families … and I will definitely take pictures of my pets because the 10-year-old girl of the host family said she really likes animals.”
Henry said he has heard that teachers are “much more strict and respect is demanded” in the French schools and that there is a heavier emphasis on quality family time than in America.
He said he believes in keeping an open mind and letting his adventure write its own story.
“I think my goal is to really get lost in translation and become totally humiliated in front of the classroom — to just get nervous and translate that into what it means to me teaching in America,” he said.
That mindset applies to his time spent outside the classroom as well.
“If I’m over, why shouldn’t I try things? I’m not going to be that cliché American tourist who goes to a café to order a cheeseburger,” he said.
As published in the Jackson Citizen Patriot on Jan. 2, 2011