MICDS Welcomes 21 French Exchange Students

Twenty-one French exchange students from our sister school in France, Institution Sainte-Marie-Caen, immersed themselves in our School and in St. Louis over the past two weeks for an incredible global learning opportunity. The visiting students arrived on Sunday, October 9, and stayed through Thursday, October 20. Come spring, our own students will embark on the reverse trip, visiting their new French exchange friends in France.

This exchange was coordinated by Erin Hamill, Director of Global Learning and was the first visit from one of our partner schools since the COVID-19 pandemic. “We were so happy to resume the French exchange this year,” Ms. Hamill shared. “After so many years of not being able to travel or visit with others, this visit truly felt extra special and meaningful. So many of the students from both schools and our hosting families created very strong connections that I anticipate will last a very long time; many talked of future visits. These friendships and opportunities to learn about other cultures, understand our differences, and appreciate our similarities, are what make exchanges so important in helping our students on their journey to becoming global citizens. We look forward to traveling to France in March to reconnect with our new friends!”

Each French exchange student was paired up with an MICDS buddy and a Rams host family, and everyone enjoyed a busy schedule that was thoughtfully planned to help the guests best experience life in St. Louis and education at an American school. The agenda included the following highlights:

  • A Welcome Reception/Orientation
  • Five days of attending classes while shadowing MICDS students in the Upper and Middle Schools, including one day which included the Fête de la Gastronomie (French Food Festival)
  • Joining in the Middle & Upper School French food units (talking about types of food, eating habits, and where French people shop for food) and partaking in discussions about technology (social media, cell phone use and how its banned in French classrooms)
  • Living with an MICDS family for 11 days and experiencing what St. Louis and home life has to offer from the host family’s perspective—host families planned a bonfire at Eckert’s where they cooked hotdogs and made s’mores
  • A field trip for the French exchange students to Cathedral Basilica, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the St. Louis Art Museum
  • A field trip with their exchange buddies to the Missouri History Museum, St. Louis City Foundry, and the Mastermind Room Escape
  • A field trip for the French exchange students to the St. Louis Arch and St. Louis Zoo
  • A Farewell Dinner on the eve of the visiting students’ return back to France

Reflecting on how the exchange went throughout the community, one teacher loved how their work in French class was brought to life. “The seventh-grade MICDS students got a chance to not only practice French in real life, but they also got to chat with the French students about topics they were all interested in,” said Zuowei Chang, Middle School French and Mandarin Teacher. “This experience is meaningful and motivational for students in the way that it brings the language learning inside the classroom to real-life communication.”

Upper School French Teacher Steven Crumb agrees. “I love that our exchanges allow students to interact with French buddies both in and out of the classroom,” he said. “There’s really no replacement for having the opportunity to interact live with native French speakers, and it was great to see my juniors talking knowledgeably with the French exchange students after we’d spent a few weeks in class learning about how the high school experience is similar and different in France.” Middle and Upper School French Teacher Jean-Jacques Poucel was excited to see the connections being formed. “These exchange programs have the potential to transform our student’s relationship to the language, but they can also set the foundation for a lifelong friendship that brings families and their communities into closer contact and greater mutual understanding,” he shared.

Check out photos below of the exchange trip. From solving problems together while speaking in French in the escape rooms (all five groups escaped!) to coloring St. Louis together at the History Museum, everyone had a great time and learned a lot from one another!

Field Trip & Host Family Experiences Gallery

Gallery of Exchange Students at the Middle School

Fête de la Gastronomie Recap & Gallery

On Wednesday, October 19, the French exchange students were a special part of our 7th annual Fête de la Gastronomie (French Food Festival) in Upper School French classes. For this international celebration, students prepared classic dishes from France or other French-speaking regions in West Africa and the Maghreb (North Africa) to share with their classmates. Some of the dishes prepared were: Moroccan chicken bastilla, apple tarte tatin tartelettes, Lebanese meat pie, baguettes from scratch, strawberry macarons, and saka-saka (a Congolese comfort food). “It was great to have the French exchange students join us for the Fête de la Gastronomie where they recommended music, helped make crepes, played a trivia game about food from around the French-speaking world, and just had a chance to casually interact with a wide range of our students,” added Dr. Crumb. In each class, awards were given out for the best presentation, most audacious dessert, and best overall dessert. Faculty and staff joined as tasting judges to determine the winners of these coveted awards.

“Now that we’re in our food unit, juniors are exploring how well our ideas of French food culture and eating habits align with reality,” Dr. Crumb elaborated, “and it was fun both to see the French students react to American stereotypes of French food and to see our students’ reaction to the French ideas about American food. My hope is that students from both cultures came away with a healthy suspicion of stereotypes and a genuine curiosity to learn more about each other.”

“At the end of the day, learning languages and cultures is about forging connections and making meaningful relationships, so it’s always incredibly gratifying to see our students form lasting friendships across cultures that they often carry on for many years.” ~Dr. Steven Crumb, Upper School French Teacher

A couple of our host students shared a bit about the exchange program from their perspectives:

  • “I LOVED hosting with the exchange program! I got to visit so many different places in St.Louis, and I enjoyed being able to share these experiences with someone who was working on learning the language. I think it was especially fun to be able to see how shocked they would be at some more cliche things in America. For example, on a walk to school in the morning, my student was ecstatic to see a squirrel speeding through the grass. She then continued to say that in France, she doesn’t see squirrels so casually. Being able to host has also made me see things that I overlooked previously and helped me to really see how beautiful the US is and how privileged I am to take part and be able to share such an incredible society.” ~Delaney Janes ’26
  • “I went to the Meramec Cave with my exchange partner and we went looking for squirrels. We also did more activities, such as baking bread at home…Also, I loved my partner; she was so sweet and fun, and I already miss her. I’m excited to go to France and see her again!” ~Meg David ’25

Thank you to our Middle and Upper School French teachers, Ms. Hamill, the gracious MICDS host families, and to the following MICDS students who were all involved in this exchange:

  • Ashley Benoist ’23
  • Ella Brauer ’24
  • Maggie Gonzalez Navarrine ’24
  • Sonia Oulamine ’24
  • Sophie Reed ’24
  • Savannah Whittle ’24
  • Natalie Benoist ’25
  • Emery Chamberlain ’25
  • Noah Coen ’25
  • Carter Connors ’25
  • Meg David ’25
  • Abby Derdeyn ’25
  • Melina Finnegan ’25
  • Sophia Huddleston ’25
  • Ella Moses ’25
  • Carli Salazar-Estrada ’25
  • Revathi Warrier ’25
  • Max Charnond ’25
  • Ellie Chen ’26
  • Delaney Janes ’26
  • Lilia Oulamine ’26

Until our students fly out to visit their exchange student counterparts in France, au revoir!