Building world peace comes down to building one-on-one rapport through cultural exchange and experience.
The Foxboro High School French Exchange recently hosted 20 French students and three chaperones from Longjumeau, France. They are students at le Lycée Jacques Prévert.
Debra Grant, a French teacher at Foxboro High School who has been involved in the program for 11 years, said a great group of students participated this year.
“It is very beneficial in the development and progress of their language skills and they can learn about other cultures. They bond very quickly with their French counterparts and learn about diversity and tolerance first hand. It is very satisfying to see the cultures merge and to see such profound friendships blossom,” Grant said.
Bo Canfield, 15, a sophomore at Foxboro High school, hosted Antoine Robineau, a student from France.
“It was an exciting and unforgettable experience to form a connection with someone from a completely different culture. The best memory would have to be the car rides where I would blast American music and we would all sing along,” he said. “Antoine has shown me that it is possible to form a very strong bond with someone despite not knowing them for very long. He was very open to anything that came his way, and that’s something I admire.”
Robineau, 16, a 12th grader from Jacques Prévert high school in Longjumeau, lives in a little town near Paris, called La Ville Du Bois. It was the first time he traveled outside of Europe.
In an email interview, Robineau said he enjoyed his time with the Canfield family.
“They hosted me like a family member, and they had a great state of mind. They were open, understanding, and joyful. I was lucky to get to this fabulous house,” said Robineau, who thought Foxboro was a beautiful place.
His best memory is the night of his arrival.
“We traveled by night, with trees and silence around us, and it was beautiful. And when I came into the house, around 20 people were having a musical rehearsal (Mama Mia) and I already had to speak and think in English the whole evening, because they were all coming to speak a little with me. So the first contact was a discovery and I loved it,” Robineau said.
He said he especially relished the opportunity to try a pumpkin pancake since he was at the Canfield’s home just before Halloween.
“At the end of the travel, we were friends and had been building a powerful relation based on sharing the same place every day, learning from each other a different but valuable way of life,” Robineau said.
Rob Canfield, Bo’s father, said the family had a wonderful time hosting their student.
“He was a welcome addition to our household for the 10 days and he was very eager to just experience how an American family lives,” he said. “I was amazed at how all of the students, American and French, seemed to know each other the minute the students arrived in Foxboro and the spirit with which the entire group of kids, teachers, and families greeted each other.”
Laura Canfield, Bo’s mother, said getting to know someone new and learning another way of life was fun.
“Antoine spoke English very well. He didn’t want us to alter anything we did or say. He wanted to be fully immersed in our lives,” she said. “Antoine was an absolute pleasure. He was a great fit for our family. It was like we had known him for years. We miss him very much and I am so happy that Bo will be going to France next year and staying with such a great person.”
Beverley Lord, a retired Foxboro High School world language teacher, originally started the exchange program in 1983.
Lord said the program continues because of the commitment of the world language teachers who encourage proficiency in speaking another language and understanding another culture.
Lord thinks the program encourages young people to be ready for the global world.
“The invaluable home stay permits them to experience immersion in the language, see the culture from a family point of view. With time spent at school and sightseeing an awareness and appreciation of another culture develops. Lifelong friendships are created,” said Lord, adding, “The town of Foxboro is enriched when people open their homes to the French and Spanish exchange students. They never watch world news again in the same way.”
Shamus and Michelle Kenney hosted Raphaël Marot, 17, a senior. Their son, David Kenney, 16, a sophomore at Foxboro High said the experience was truly unforgettable.
“It not only improved my French skills, but it also created a very strong friendship between people living on different continents. I am very inspired to learn more French. I would like to improve my skills to hopefully travel to France in the spring with FHS and be able to communicate with Raphaël and his family while I’m there,” said David Kenney.
His mother Michelle said it was a very positive experience.
“We enjoyed hosting Raphaël and some of the other students for get-togethers at our house. All the students were very respectful and appreciative of us. Raphaël was very easy-going and seemed to enjoy everything he and David did together. Every night before Raphaël would go to his room to sleep, I heard him thank David. I loved watching them interact as they ate together, sang and danced to French music and just enjoyed each other’s company,” she said.