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Archer Abroad trip to France, Belgium engages French students in environmental studies, language, culture

Bastien Beaufort, the director of Guyapi Paris and specialist in fair trade and indigenous plants, explains the history of the slow food movement and the organization’s efforts to bring indigenous knowledge and plant-based nutrients to French consumers. This past summer, French students traveled to France and Belgium for a sustainability-focused Archer Abroad trip June 3-10. Photo by Travis Nesbitt.

Twenty-one French students left Los Angeles June 3 for France and Belgium on an eight-day experiential learning trip with the Archer Abroad program. Students from French 3, 4 and Advanced Study: French Language and Culture courses learned about Europe’s sustainable practices and experienced French culture firsthand through guided tours and sightseeing.

Archer Abroad offers trips related to language courses and service to immerse students in unique learning opportunities. In the language course-related Archer Abroad trips, world language students travel to a Spanish, French or Chinese-speaking country, taking their learning into the real world. Director for the Archer Abroad programs and Chinese teacher Pei-Ying Gosselin worked alongside World Language Department Chair Travis Nesbitt to organize the trip since the beginning of 2023.

As the trip focused on sustainability, students traveled to various eco-friendly sites focused on sustainable food production, urban planning and environmental policymaking. At Science Po Paris, the school of political science in Paris, students met Archer alumna Chloe Hallinan (’15) and a friend of hers to discuss their immersion in the French language and Parisian culture, as well as their work in the environmental sector.

From businesses like La Recyclerie — a cafe where people can fix damaged household appliances for reuse — to traveling to a humane dairy farm in Normandy, Archer Abroad students observed solutions to the environmental issues taught in their French classes.

Junior Echo Meadows has studied French for five years at Archer and said she hopes to move to France someday. Meadows said the trip gave her newfound enthusiasm to continue learning the language.

“There’s a big difference between ‘French’ French and academic French. In France, even though my French may not be perfect, if I know just a few keywords, I can get around, whereas academic French [is] really just more focused on the grammar side of things and perfecting it,” Meadows said. “Speaking generally and knowing how to build a sentence — the two are very different.”

French teacher Laurence Clerfeuille lived in France until she was 21 and was a teacher chaperone alongside Nesbitt and French teacher Natalie Kang. Clerfeuille said, as a previous teacher of some students on the trip, she was proud to see them learn about her country and practice French in real-world scenarios.

“It made me so happy because they wanted to do it. When you want to do it, even if you’re a little scared, even if you make a tiny mistake, people [are] still going to understand, right?” Clerfeuille said. “They can try to speak in French in places, especially smaller places like Rouen or Lille, which is not that small but less used to tourists. Even if they hear that you’re American, they’ll go with French because that’s the language … I was blessed to witness that so that they [the students] know it is not just a language that doesn’t exist or that we speak in the classroom — it’s [used in] the real world, in real life.”

Throughout the trip, students documented their experiences on a blog, including pictures of sightseeing adventures, environmentally-friendly businesses, unique architecture and several group photos. This blog became the groundwork for a presentation Archer Abroad students shared with the upper school at the beginning of the school year.

In this presentation, the students who went abroad explained their new knowledge of France and Belgium’s sustainable practices and encouraged other students to participate in future Archer Abroad trips. Upper school students can participate in two new Archer Abroad trips to Kenya and the American South in the spring and summer of 2024. Nesbitt said all students are encouraged to apply, including those who receive Flexible Tuition.

“These opportunities are rare and unique, and [I would encourage students] to take advantage of them. I also really appreciate that as an institution, we want to make these courses accessible to all students and students who are part of the flexible tuition program,” Nesbitt said. “My piece of advice is don’t let the price tag deter you from applying because you don’t know until you’ve been accepted to participate and when you’re given the final total of how much it’s going cost you and if it is feasible … Don’t close the doors now because of cost because, who knows, maybe it is actually accessible to your family.”

Even though students and teachers are starting to think about future Archer Abroad trips, Meadows said the students who traveled to France and Belgium continue to recall their “amazing” experiences from the trip.

Outside of the trip’s itinerary, students had the opportunity to explore and engage with the culture on their own. They interacted with street artists, tried local specialties and observed the city’s architecture. Meadows said her favorite moments of the trip were the quiet moments the group experienced in the city.

“I think just all the quiet moments like when we would all go off as a group. There was this one day in Lille, where we had three hours to just go and do whatever. And then around 30 minutes when everyone’s supposed to start wrapping up, everyone in the group migrated towards this one grassy patch by their own volition, and we all just sat everywhere,” Meadows said. “It was nice, looking around and being in a new country, but also seeing a lot of familiar faces and just the general contentment that was there.”

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  • At the first stop of the trip, Archer alumna Chloe Hallinan (’15) shares her journey after Archer and how she is adapting to the Parisian lifestyle with Archer Abroad students. For one week, 21 sophomore to senior French students traveled to France and Belgium with a focus on global sustainability. Photo by Natalie Kang.

  • Students experience a guided tour of the architecture of Opera Garnier. Each day of the trip’s itinerary consisted of visiting several farms or environmentally-friendly sites, museums, galleries and iconic attractions. Photo by Travis Nesbitt.

  • An employee at La Recyclerie explains to students how people can fix their household appliances or borrow tools at the center. Throughout the trip, students learned about how France and Belgium put reuse, reduce, recycle to the test, such as how La Recyclerie hosts several DIY classes from theater to cooking to gardening to promote environmentally-friendly lifestyles to their customers. Photo by Travis Nesbitt.

  • An employee at La Recyclerie showcases the center’s garden and environmental programs to students. Individuals can take part in helping at the community garden, and La Recyclerie serves food sourced locally or directly from the garden. Photo by Travis Nesbitt.

  • Archer alumni Samantha Garibaldi (’23) and Helen Solis (’23) walk around the Marché d’Alligre, a farmers’ market and flea market, after purchasing some fruit and food. Outside of the itinerary, students could explore the city in groups, using their language skills to purchase food and souvenirs as well as to converse with locals. Photo by Travis Nesbitt.

  • Students and chaperones of the Archer Abroad trip gather in front of the Eiffel Tower. After a day of visiting farmers’ markets, learning about the slow food movement and gazing upon French architecture, students completed their last day in Paris. Photo by Travis Nesbitt.

  • Seniors Sabrina Walker, Audrey Chen, Eleni Karamanos and Avalon Straiton taste fresh yogurt. On a day trip to Normandy, students learned sustainable farm practices at a dairy farm and the process of creating yogurt and pudding. Photo by Travis Nesbitt.

  • Students wait in line to board a train to Lille. After visiting the countryside, students traveled by train to Lille to discover how renewable resources are used in housing and the history behind the city’s center. Photo by Travis Nesbitt.

  • An environmental engineer explains how the Royal Depot building uses renewable energy. The Royal Depot was refurbished to intake renewable energy, similarly to other buildings and parks in the area. Photo by Travis Nesbitt.

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About the Contributor
Maia Alvarez
Maia Alvarez, Features Editor
Maia Alvarez joined The Oracle as a staff reporter in 2021 and became the Multimedia Editor in 2022. In 2023, she became the Features Editor. She was on the leadership board for InvenTeam, led the Best Buddies club, and was a member of the Speech and Debate team. Outside of school, she practiced taekwondo as a second-degree black belt and volunteered as a tutor. She graduated in 2024.

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