Program Brings Together Students From Kansas, France

Thursday, April 13th 2017, 6:41 pm

You wouldn't think the small town of Sedan, Kansas would have much in common with a city in France, but you’d be surprised.

Woolaroc's nature preserve and museum was busy with high school students Thursday afternoon - 19 of them were from France.  They're here with their high school; part of a program their English teacher started in 2015. She wanted her students to not only learn the language, but also the American culture.

“I thought, we learn in books, couldn't we learn with real people and exchange,' and I mean wide spaces and we started the project with this notion," 
 teacher Christelle Malvy said.

They used technology to connect with high school students in Sedan, Kansas. They picked the small town because it's named after the French city of Sedan where the students live, though they say it a little different over there.

They used Skype, Facebook and email to learn about each other and the different things each country offers.

"The first Skype in 2015 was really, really weird," Malvy said. "We started with stereotypes and cliche. They asked if we ate French baguettes and wear berets."

But it didn't take long for friendships to form. Within a year, the French students started raising money to make a trip to the U.S. to see their Kansas friends in person.

“We wanted so much to see them in reality,” said 16-year-old Yann Nival.

They met face to face for the first time on Saturday.

Sedan High School junior Megan Brown said, "I think all of us were kind of in shock that this actually happened. We made it happen. It was a sweet moment."

Every moment since has been special. The American teenagers have introduced the French students life in the Midwest with bonfires, hayrides and cookouts. 

"Oh, it's pretty awesome. The hamburger. The sodas and big food," 17-year-old Guillaume Staine said laughing. "I just think French fries are a lot better in France."

But it's not the food, it's the people that have made the biggest impact. Both sets of students have learned things from each other that could have never been taught in a classroom.

"The warmth of people. The people here are very human. I think this is probably the thing I would take home," Nival said. 

“They talk about the warmth of our people, but the warmth of their people is amazing - and just the love they have it's very contagious,” said Brown.

It seems the biggest lesson they've learned is that even though they come from different worlds, the students from the towns of Sedan are not that different. And when they head back to France, the students say they'll be leaving a new family behind.

“I think we are more than friends, we create a family, I think. We talk a lot. I think friendship is not enough to qualify our relationships,” Nival said.

The students from Kansas will start raising money soon so they can visit their friends in France next March.