A group of students, along with their chaperons Jennifer Gargano, assistant to the head of the upper school, and Kevin Williamson, the upper school dean of students, enjoyed learning about the French language and Switzerland en vivo. The following are a Gargano’s emails to the students’ parents relating the details of the trip, from their arrival to the day of their departure:
The second group of students and I just arrived in Fribourg. After 2 flights and a train ride from Geneva to Fribourg, we have arrived to the location we have all been waiting for. The buddies and their mothers were waiting anxiously to pick up Neeraj, Stephanie, and Piyush.
I am looking forward to meeting up with the entire group and hearing what all of the students did this weekend. We will be meeting as a group at 8am at the school tomorrow. We will begin our day at the school observing classes and then we will go to the town of Fribourg for the afternoon. At the end of the school day, students will then go back with their buddy for additional activities the families organized for them.
In regards to the class observations tomorrow, the school has organized a special school schedule for those who speak French so they can be a part of as many courses in French language learning as possible. I am looking forward to a fun and educational day.
We had a great first day as an entire group. After a welcome from the principal of College de Gambach, we began a rotation of classes. Each group had one session where they learned various facts about Switzerland. Who knew Romansch is the fourth official language of Switzerland after German, French, and Italian? All groups also had the opportunity to visit an English class where they participated in prompted discussions. These discussions helped the French students at College de Gambach learn more English words and gave our students an opportunity to learn more about Swiss culture. Harker students studying French also attended a French class (where German speakers learn French) and participated in many discussions in French.
All of the Harker students and their buddies then went to lunch at a restaurant called ‘Le Tunnel.” We ate delicious baked quiches that reminded the students of pizza.
In the afternoon, we had a guided walking tour of Fribourg. We did quite a bit of walking and with all of the inclined streets, we indeed got a workout. Therefore, at the end of the afternoon we went to a café where we had water or iced tea to replenish our reserves. Students then returned to the homes of their host families.
We were able to take many photos today.
Tomorrow, we spend the day in Lausanne and Lake Geneva!
We once again had a beautiful day in terms of weather, at least for the majority of the day anyway. First thing this morning, Mr. Williamson and I greeted the students at the train station before we left for Lausanne. Even at 7:45am, they were smiling and enthusiastic about the events of the day. Lausanne is the home of the International Olympic Committee so appropriately we visited the Olympic museum once we arrived. This museum, full of interactive exhibits, explained the original intent of the formal Olympics; to encourage olympism by promoting excellence, respect, and friendship. The goal essentially was to build a better world through sports, a common ‘language’ to all. We then took a boat trip to Vevey, which was a relaxing experience for the students. During the boat trip, the students had an hour to view Lake Geneva and the landscape of Switzerland while eating their lunch.
While in Vevey, the headquarters of Nestlé, we went to the Food Museum or Alimentarium. The museum was opened by the Nestlé foundation in 1985 to educate about all aspects of food and nutrition, focusing on the history of cooking, eating, and purchasing food. We first took a guided tour of the museum. Students taking French had a guided tour in French while students not taking French obviously had an English-speaking guide. At the end of the tour, the students participated in a cooking workshop whereby they were able to make French hors d’oeuvres with the guidance of a chef at the museum. The students then had a bit of time to shop in the marketplace of Vevey with their buddies before heading back to the train to Fribourg. Once we arrived back in Fribourg, it was time for the students to return home with the buddies for the evening.
Tomorrow, we head of to the Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory. From my discussions with the students this week, the chocolate tasting at the end of the factory tour is what many students are looking forward to the most!
Mr. Williamson and I both once again greeted the students at the train/bus station early this morning where we caught up with them to see how they were doing and what they had done with their buddies and families the evening before. A family meal and an occasional movie tended to be the common theme.
We then left by bus for Broc, the home of the Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory. The students were in awe of the interactive guided tour. It started with a gallery showcasing Cailler’s famous packaging graphics from 1898 until the present day and was preceded by a Willy Wonka-style 4-D presentation. Many students described it as “Disneyland-like” and some indeed said they felt like they were in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. As soon as you entered the tour, the scent of chocolate was infused into the various rooms we were led into. With each phase, doors and/or walls opened and closed automatically leading us into the next scene of the story where a voice explained each segment of the history of chocolate from 1893. The walls of the last room opened and led us into the actual factory where we were able to taste both chocolate beans and all of the chocolates sold by Cailler.
Once we got back to Fribourg, students were met by their buddies for a special late lunch. All of the Swiss buddies had organized a special lunch outing for the students. Assuming the Harker students would want American food by now, they took them to a restaurant with burgers and classic American faire. All of the students and their buddies then went bowling as a group before returning home to their families.
Today was a lighter day that was very enjoyable for all of the students. Tomorrow, we return to the school where the students will once again participate in language classes in the morning, followed by an afternoon visit to Morat, the capital of Fribourg.
We started our day in classes today. The first class involved all of our students and some of the Swiss students. Students were given a worksheet with the word bread written in 55 languages and groups of students competed to see which group could correctly identify the most languages. Stephanie and Mary’s group won the competition and earned a bar of chocolate for their efforts. A couple of the Swiss students then sang some contemporary songs to the class for our enjoyment.
The remainder of the classes was divided by the Harker students who speak French and those who do not. Many of these classes were English classes dedicated to interacting with the Swiss students and learning more about their culture. In one class I observed, students were asked to use the imperative form of English verbs by writing recipes they made that were representative of their cultures. Students then had to present their recipes. It was obvious our students don’t cook as much as the Swiss students as the recipes we shared were simpler, such as fruit salad or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We later had classes whereby the Harker and Swiss students had to discuss stereotypes their culture holds of the other. Unfortunately, the main American stereotype shared was that they believe most Americans are overweight. In another activity, we had to write down American words, food, celebrities, national treasures, etc. that the Swiss students might not be familiar with. When the Swiss students saw the word, they had to guess what it was. The Swiss students had to do the same for the Harker students. It was interesting to see that the Swiss students were not familiar with Oprah and FroYo (short for frozen yogurt) but they did know about Costco.
After the morning of classes, buddies once again took the Harker students out to lunch. After lunch, we all met again and left by train to Murten, the capital of the Lake District of the canton of Fribourg. The students explored the small town as they worked on a scavenger hunt that required them to look at maps or ask those in the town answers to the questions on the scavenger hunt quiz. We organized it as a contest and Justin and Kevin were the first to notify us that they completed the quiz with all of the correct answers. Students were then given a bit of time to shop in the town or explore it further. Many enjoyed the frozen gelato sold in town.
After our visit to Murten, we headed back to Fribourg by train and students then returned to their host family’s home for the remainder of the evening.
Tomorrow is our last day as a group before we head to the airport on Sunday. We will spend the morning at the school again and then go to Bern in the afternoon.
We began our day with classes at College de Gambach. For the first class, students taking French and those who are not were once again took separate classes. Those in the French class sang French songs while those in the non-French class participated in an English class where Gambach students had to translate a riddle for the Harker students to solve. It was quite involved and difficult but Molly’s group did solve it before the end of class. Prior to the riddle however, we were treated to some more singing. Bridget and Angela sang a beautiful contemporary song and a Swiss boy also sang a French song to the entire class.
After the first class, the entire Harker group met to debrief the week and to fill out evaluations. There were varied and thoughtful responses about what the students enjoyed, found unique, or found educational. Many of the students said that their favorite part was the chocolate factory; however, many also mentioned that the homestay experience was an invaluable insight into another culture. The students also enjoyed getting to know students at Gambach beyond their buddies in addition to having the opportunity to get to know the other Harker students on the trip even better. For our last class, Harker students taking Spanish attended a Spanish class where they participated in organized Spanish dialogues.
After our classes, we took the train to Bern. We began our time in Bern eating lunch as a group in a large conference room at a local hotel. Since it was our last meal as a group, Kevin and Mary spoke a bit about what the experience meant to them and thanked, on behalf of the entire Harker group, all of the buddies for their kindnesses and welcoming nature. The Swiss teachers at the lunch told me they were impressed by the words and the level of sincerity expressed. We then took a guided walking tour and saw several interesting sites including an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets as the hour turned at 2pm, a beautiful gothic cathedral, an apartment Albert Einstein lived at for several years, and the federal palace. The students and their buddies were given some free time to shop in Bern before heading back to Fribourg. Once we returned to Fribourg, students and their buddies returned home for their last day and a half together. I know many students have varied Saturday plans. Some are participating in some local intermural sports game in their towns while many others are going to the Mountains or back to Bern to explore further.
I also wanted to mention what a wonderful time Mr. Williamson and I had with your children. As I told the students this morning, my favorite part of the trip by far was getting to them know them better. This morning, I asked the students to thank you for providing them this opportunity all said they benefited from greatly, whether the benefit was increasing their French language skills or increasing their cultural awareness in general. I hope many of them take this advice and indeed do thank you.
I will see you on Sunday.