Lakewood Ranch High School students set off to an overseas adventure to experience a bit of France and its unforgettable culture

Anticipation finally gives way to bon voyage!

Special to the HeraldOctober 15, 2012 

Months of anticipation were finally worth the wait as I was handed my round trip ticket to France for the French exchange program.

I was overwhelmed with emotion when I found out I was able to go.

I was fearful of being in a foreign country with different customs and laws and without my family, yet excited to experience a taste of French culture and way of life.

I pictured myself standing under the Eiffel tower looking up at the many flights of stairs to the top, In my imagination I could see myself walking down the streets of Paris.

I counted down the days all the way from January to June 12 when we finally left.

I remember a few days before I left, packing everything I could possibly need and double checking to make sure I had all of the necessary dual A/C converters I would need. Because of Europe's high energy efficiency in their electrical outlets, It was a necessity to bring a converter to France to use American electronic devices.

"It was so stressful trying to remember everything I would need for all 11 days of being abroad," said Lakewood Ranch High School junior and fellow exchange program participant Cassidy Nieder. "There were so many outfits I needed to create, for warm and cold weather, and gifts for the family as well as everyday necessities."

The plane ride, although only eight hours, felt like an eternity! The anxiety and excitement for the arrival to Paris sank in half way through the flight, and we could all hardly sit still in our seats. The moment the plane landed on European soil, almost all of the passengers let out a huge sigh of relief to finally be there.

Paris is amazing. The architecture is elegant. Many Parisians walk the streets and drive tiny cars. Cafes are everywhere. Crepes, baguettes, home brewed coffee, pastries, and macaroons from tiny little shops, fill the city air. The metro is quite a new experience as well.

We traveled the city taking in the Eiffel Tower, several museums like the Musee Dorsay, and famous churches and monuments like the Notre Dame.

Our destination after Paris was Laurient. When we arrived train station in southern France, our French families greeted us with a warm welcome.

Their culture is really different, I soon found out. They were all eager to teach me more about the French way of life and how things were done there. It was expected to walk everywhere or take the bus, have home cooked meals, and have a large family dinner every night.

My expectations were met with the French exchange trip, but it definitely was a lot different than I had imagined. The food was great, the people were nice, the views were amazing; definitely a change from Florida. It's a once in a lifetime thing that one just has to experience.

"Overall I think the foreign exchange students enjoyed the trip and had a wonderful experience," said LRHS French teacher and chaperone Susan McDonald.

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