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Tales from the Travelers

posted Jan 8, 2015, 10:05 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jan 8, 2015, 10:10 AM ]
KiaLynne Bland

    Those who have had Mr. Bartlett or Mrs. McIntosh as a foreign language teacher know they’ve previously traveled to a different part of the world to become an exchange student. Both have shared their memorable laughs, interesting moments, and their family life with their students. But for those who haven’t had Mr. Bartlett or Mrs. McIntosh may be unaware of their experience as an exchange student. Lucky for you, here are their stories.

French I, II, and III teacher, Mr. Bartlett, spent 2.5 months of his summer in the region of Brittany, which is located in northwestern France. Bartlett’s interest in the French culture and being surrounded by peers and family members who were also exchange students influenced his decision. “I took French in high school...that’s where it started and that’s where I got interested.”

In order to become an exchange student, Bartlett was required to have a minimum 3.0 G.P.A. and at least two years of French during high school. Paperwork was also to be filled out and sent in, and interviews with his parents and himself were to be scheduled. After the long wait, Bartlett eventually discovered he was accepted into Youth for Understanding, a program designed to exchange ideas and help people get to know others from different countries.

With his younger brother traveling to Germany to become an exchange student, Bartlett’s parents were more than willing to have him follow in his brother’s footsteps. “They (Bartlett’s parents) were very supportive. They thought it was a good experience we (his siblings and himself) should have for our education,” says Bartlett.

    Bartlett spent the first few weeks in Paris, France with his cousins. Afterwards, he took a train to Brittany to meet his French family. What he found was they were just as supportive of him as his actual family; his French father was an accountant and his mother worked part-time at a children’s hospital. He also had a French brother and sister. “We just do what the family does. We didn’t travel around a whole lot --- I went to Normandy and we traveled a little bit, but basically I just stayed with the family and did what they did.” Bartlett shared picnics on the beach with his French family and they encouraged him to speak as much French as he could.

Though Bartlett only spent the summer in France, which was more laid back than the school year, adjusting to a new life in France was still difficult at first. “You’re bombarded with a new language 24/7,” says Bartlett. “Sometimes, I’d go up to the bedroom at night just to turn on B.B.C., just so I could listen to some English.” As far as the time change, it didn’t take Bartlett too long to adjust. What took the longest adjustment was the food.  He only ate when his French family ate which was during meal times, which resulted in weight loss.

Overall, deciding to become an exchange student changed Bartlett’s life. “I’ve always liked French culture and the language and history. I think that’s why I became a French teacher,” continues Bartlett. “I enjoyed the experience of living with the family. I feel like I was a different person after that experience.” Bartlett highly recommends becoming an exchange student; you get to meet new people, try new things, and travel, while possibly earning college credits.

What do you miss most from your experience? My French family. It was cool to stay with them.

Weirdest food? Probably snails. I had never had snails before. I think we had tried those at a restaurant once and they had a laugh to my reaction. You have to take them out of the shell; it was different.

Funniest memory? Right before I left, my French brother and French sister decided we would all dress up. My French brother dressed up like a pirate and my French sister wore an outfit, and I think I dressed up like a sailor. We just walked around the town and acted goofy.

Spanish I, II, III, and III teacher, Mrs. McIntosh, traveled to Costa Rica for her junior year of high school, where her purpose was to experience studying overseas. McIntosh also journeyed to Salamanca, Spain during college, as she was majoring in Spanish. While in Spain, she attended the University of Salamanca for several months.

McIntosh’s interest in becoming an exchange student started with attending a school that was very involved with exchange students. “The area that I came from, there were three schools that were in close in proximity, like Liberty-Benton, McComb, and Van Buren, and every year, all three schools would participate in this Rhodry exchange program,” explains McIntosh. There, the Rhodry Club would annually interview and pick approximately five to nine students from the participating schools to study abroad. It then became normal to have a couple students from several grades studying in several countries; it also became normal to have exchange students attend her high school.

McIntosh originally listed Australia as her top choice, as she was required to list three areas where she was interested in. “I thought that might be kind of neat, you get a nice little accent when you’re there,” laughs McIntosh. “It would also be easy because they spoke English.” But McIntosh didn’t receive her first pick -- she was chosen to go to Costa Rica, her third option. Costa Rica was looking for students, and when they noticed that was on McIntosh’s list, they sent her there, even though it was her third choice.

Though as described as very beautiful, McIntosh’s trip to Costa Rica wasn’t exactly a vacation. “I was in school from when I got there. Right from the get go, I was put into classes, and I wasn’t fluent in all.” McIntosh took Spanish her first two years of high school, but wasn’t able to form sentences correctly right off the bat. Because of this, it made her home life and school life difficult and intense at first, as Costa Rica’s official language was Spanish. McIntosh was to learn the language on her own, and her host family wasn’t to speak English to her. In the end, she spoke very fluently in Spanish.

As far as her mission to Spain, McIntosh’s goal was to learn the Spanish language and culture more; she was also to take advance

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Spanish courses there. She and a friend planned the trip together, and then decided to go to school in Spain for several months through North Carolina State University’s program. While in Spain, McIntosh and her friend decided to live with a family. Her family’s home was much like a flat, and she shared her home with other exchange students, much like a dorm. 

McIntosh was later tested and leveled at the university in order to figure out which classes to be put in. On the weekends, she and her friend went on optional trips to explore different areas of Spain. After they completed the program, McIntosh and her friend backpacked through Europe and flew home from Italy.

All in all, both programs and experiences were beneficial to McIntosh. She was not disappointed to not get the opportunity to travel to Australia, and considers herself fortunate to get to become an exchange student in general. Her life in Costa Rica was good; she stayed with two families and shared memories with them. She learned how to surf with her host brother and sister while seeing some of the beautiful and remarkable areas of Costa Rica. If it wasn’t for getting picked to venture to Costa Rica, McIntosh wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to pursue a future with the Spanish language, and she wouldn’t have gotten the chance to travel to Spain.

What was something that was considered “normal” to them, but not to you? In Costa Rica, we had a couple of times where we had to go to certain areas of the house because they felt a very, very slight tremor, and they thought it was going to be an earthquake, so we had to prepare for that which we don’t usually have to worry about that.

Weirdest food? Different fruits. In Costa Rica, they had some different fruits that I hadn’t tried before. What I thought was really cool was that in Costa Rica, they could go out and pull a lemon off a tree, and pull a lime off a tree. That to me was crazy. We could never do that here anyway, so that was kind of neat.

Was it hard adjusting to the time change? To Costa Rica, it’s not that much of a time change. So no. It wasn’t an issue in either place, really. If you go to Europe and back, you get use to it in a day.