NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – A total of 23 North Salem High School students said au revoir on Thursday afternoon as they left to board an Air France flight to Paris, accompanied by teachers Jessie Wasserman and Heide DeMorris.
Their two-day stay in the French capital will include visits to the Louvre, the Pantheon, Notre Dame, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Eiffel Tower, a boat trip on the Seine and, perhaps more fun than anything else, a visit to a French bakery to learn how to make baguettes and French pastries.
On Sunday, the group will fly to Nice, where they will spend the week perfecting their French in morning classes and taking afternoon trips to Monaco, Cannes and other Cote d’Azur locales.
The American students will be hosted by French families, staying in their homes, joining them for breakfast and dinner and relying on their hosts to provide a French equivalent of a bag lunch for the day trips.
“I’m looking forward to Paris, definitely” said senior Madeline Lenchner, “and the food, absolutely. I want to try escargots. I’m a little nervous about interacting with a real French person. I’m worried about the language barrier.”
Most of the students have been learning French since sixth grade, said chaperone Heide DeMorris. But many have never been out of the country.
Eleventh-grader Cecilia Heffernan said she can hardly wait to go to the Louvre “because I love art.” On the other hand, 10th-grader Edwin Richter is looking forward to warmer weather and a good cup of coffee. “All European coffee is good,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to staying with my host family and practicing my French,” said Brenna Brown. “And I’m interested in the buildings and architecture. I found my host family’s house on Google Earth, and it looks so different. The windows and stonework and balconies are much more intricate.”
Phoebe Coughlin is also looking forward to interacting with a French family. “It’s better to talk and be wrong than not to talk at all,” she said. Both Brenna and Phoebe are yearning to try “the bread, the croissants and the crepes.”
The North Salem language department alternates foreign trips between France and Spain, DeMorris said. “Every host family is very carefully vetted and scrutinized,” she said. “We’ve never had a problem.”
The teenage travelers will return Saturday, March 30. They will land at JFK, where they will be greeted by signs saying “Wilkommen” and “Benvenuto” and “Bienvenue” and perhaps best of all, “Welcome Home.”