French Classes Go Virtual for this Year’s Exchange Program


Alexandra Koch provided by pixbaby

Gathering on Zoom, students meet with their exchange partner, and other students, once a week for whole group discussions and activities.

Skipping every other stair with excitement, I started talking before my feet even hit the floor. I rushed to the kitchen, partly out of breath, sharing about my first French virtual exchange Zoom meeting.
FHS French teacher Nicole Goepper wanted to provide an opportunity to her French students to replace this year’s fall exchange trip. Along with Global Virtual Student Exchanges Director Rene Piard, she provided a virtual exchange. “Usually this is a life-changing experience where you have made lifelong friends in France, and we all just have a lot of fun. I was hoping to recreate a small piece of that,” said Goepper.
A total of 94 American students from LHS, KRHS and FHS, ranging in skills from French II to Advanced French, are paired with 94 French students from La Caousou, a school in Toulouse, France. Students have the ability to connect separately and through Wednesday group meetings, using French and English to communicate with one another. “Although some people were nervous about speaking, it was really easy to make mistakes without being judged. I didn’t feel too pressured to speak French the whole time,” said sophomore Martine Hutt.
In the group meetings, there will be cooking classes, dancing, music contests, holiday tradition discussions and other activities. So far, topics discussed include Veteran’s Day, elections and home lifestyles. According to juniors Julia Karns and Mimi Benjelloun, one of the best parts was meeting new people.
Piard and Goepper have been planning the virtual exchange since early last summer after the spring exchange was canceled. “The owner of the tour company that organizes the exchanges mentioned it to me, I told him how the Language Governor’s Schools were trying a virtual program, and from there, we started planning it together,” said Goepper.
For Goepper there were two main struggles with this event, one being expense which was resolved through the Title IV grant and scholarships. The other is participation in zoom meetings on Wednesdays and being responsive to emails.
The exchange will run until winter break and Goepper encourages students to stay in contact with their friends.