Toulouse French Exchange Students Arrive at Northside
by Coraima Camacho
Exchange students from Toulouse, the capital of the southwest region of Midi-Pyrénées in France, arrived at Northside on Oct. 12 as a part of the French program’s partnership with Toulouse. As a part of the exchange program, approximately 15 French students traveled to Northside for a ten day stay with either a junior or senior host student, in an attempt to fortify their English skills and experience American culture. The students took part in a French Honors Society (SHF) welcome event and visited various Chicago landmarks and attractions including Navy Pier and the Museum of Science and Industry. Northside host students are expected to travel to Toulouse during the 2018 Spring Break, where they will in turn stay with their French host family for a ten-day span as well. While in Toulouse, Northside students will have the opportunity to sightsee and observe the French learning environment. The Hoofbeat spoke with 17-year-old Anouk Van Haverbeke to gain an insight on her experience in Chicago, as well as her impressions of the city and the Northside community.
Van Haverbeke is a senior, specializing in economics and sociology (ES) as a part of the French educational system’s “Le Baccalauréat” structure that requires high school students to focus on a specific area of study to prepare them for their intended college major. Aside from academic endeavors, Van Haverbeke is an athlete who enjoys swimming as a part of her extracurricular hobbies. She began speaking English seven years ago, at the age of ten, like many of her peers. In addition to being fluent in English, she speaks Spanish and Italian, which has enabled her to travel to countries where all three languages are predominantly spoken. Her family and she are avid travelers and well acquainted with foreign countries. They have traveled to many neighboring European countries and various other continents such as Africa and South America. She said that America is widely regarded as “a cool, huge place” in France. Similar to most Americans, she enjoys watching movies and television shows on Netflix. Among her favorite American television shows are “How I Met Your Mother,” “Stranger Things,” “Friends,” “Riverdale,” and “Freaks and Geeks.”
Van Haverbeke had never visited Chicago and was quick to mention that although she had yet to taste deep dish pizza she has developed an affinity for what she refers to as “American food shops” and American pastries such as donuts, after a particularly enlightening visit to Dunkin Donuts. Surprisingly, she noted that Chicago weather is significantly more pleasant than the weather in Toulouse. Additionally, she observed that there are similarities among the French and American culture due to American influence on trends in France. She noted that one example was the similarity between American and French fashion trends due to the French tending to copy American style and clothing items a month after they appear in America. She said that the same could be said for music genres, since the French enjoy listening to a variety of pop and rap songs by American artists. Van Haverbeke mentioned both “Stressed Out” by 21 Pilots and the “Despacito” remix by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber, as popular songs in France throughout this past summer.
Similar to other French exchange students, Van Haverbeke was amazed by the size of Northside. She describes the building as bigger and more spacious than her high school which is an older school located in downtown Toulouse, lacking the space for a campus the size of Northside. In terms of curriculum, she considers Northside students fortunate to possess the freedom to choose the majority of their classes, as well as being provided with classes that normally would not be taught prior to college in France. The French curriculum, specifically Toulouse’s, differs because they end school around four o’clock in the afternoon, have a two to three hour lunch break and separate students based on their intended majors. Additionally, she noted that Northsiders have more time to play sports in and out of P.E., while in France, most students are a part of sports teams outside of school. In terms of the community, Van Haverbeke noted that the Northside community is more tightly knit than the community at her school. Particularly, Northside students have a closer relationship with their teachers than most students do in France. This enables Northsiders to set up different meeting times for tutoring or asking teachers to sponsor clubs.
As for Van Haverbeke’s junior host student, Brianna Gonzalez, she mentioned how much she “loved the experience of hosting Anouk” and how close they have become over the course of her stay. Unlike Van Haverbeke, the furthest Gonzalez has traveled is to Mexico, therefore she expressed her enthusiasm to visit Toulouse during the upcoming Spring Break. Despite missing Van Haverbeke, she stated that she is “really excited to visit her later on” and looks forward to experiencing her culture next year.