French exchange students experience two weeks in Nevada County |

French exchange students experience two weeks in Nevada County

French foreign exchange students (from left) Octave Boileau , Ambre Clerc, Colin Ducerf, and Maxime Tuet, interact with each other alongside other Seven Hills School students during a P.E. period last week.
Elias Funez/

On April 6, 13 fourth- and fifth-grade exchange students from Lyon France arrived in Nevada County. The students are accompanied by their two teachers and are staying with local host families from Seven Hills and Deer Creek.

Last year, Alicia Funk partnered with a French nonprofit organization called Ligue de L’Enseignement (League of Education). She then teamed up with the principal of Seven Hills, Sam Schug and Deer Creek, Monica Daugherty to arrange for the exchange students to stay with fourth- and fifth-grade host families and shadow students in their classes for two weeks.

“I wouldn’t have done it unless both Mr. Schug and Mrs. Daugherty, were receptive and encouraging about it,” said Funk. “They both have really welcomed the students onto the campus and been excited about the program.”

Because exchange programs in middle schools are not as common as they are in high school, educators at Seven Hills and Deer Creek are excited to give their students the opportunity to interact with children from another country, learn more about French culture and gain a more global perspective.

“I am always looking to expand their horizons, creating exposure to something new,” said Schug. “I can’t teach this out of a book, I can’t replicate having 15 French kids come and have them figure out how to communicate … the kids really have to work through those things. I want to give our kids good challenges that they can work through.”

Although the schools that send the students are bilingual and teach the students English, some are more fluent than others. It can be difficult for the students to communicate at first but, according to host student Judah Cost, it gets easier.

“They’re kind of quiet at first,” Cox said. “After a day or two you start to get to know them really well and they get really fun.”

On some days, the students shadow their host students, or “correspondents,” as the program calls them, but on other days, the students go on fun and educational field trips to locations around Nevada County like Camp Augusta and the Firehouse Museum in Nevada City, gold panning on the Yuba river and taking a walk on the Tribute Trail in Nevada City, all planned by Funk. Last year at Seven Hills, the French students helped in a school-wide tree planting to replace some of the fir trees surrounding the school.

Through these experiences, the French students get a glimpse into the life of students from the United States. According to Fifth-grade French student Ambre Clerc, American school is different from French school because students are allowed to eat on the playground and use computers.

Despite their differences, many of the students finish the program having built a strong relationship with their exchange student. Judah plans to keep in touch with his exchange student through Skype even after they return to France.

In fact, several families who hosted exchange students last year have already visited them, and a few more plan to do so this summer. Eventually, the schools hope to send a group of students to France as part of the exchange program.

“I hope this continues. I think it’s fantastic for our students,” said Daugherty. “It’s the kind of thing they look back and remember.”

Mia Belluomini is a student at Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning and intern at The Union. Contact her at

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