High School Exchange Trips
By Vilma Bibeau
As part of my teaching duties at Billerica Memorial High School I assist with the international exchange program. Over the past two years I have been very fortunate to travel to Europe and experience an international exchange trip with my students. In our first trip, in 2012, I traveled to Spain with my students. This year, assisted by a chaperone, I brought them on a trip to Italy.
The exchange program is a “relationship” between two schools from different countries. At Billerica Memorial High School, where I teach Spanish and Italian, we have a trip for each of the four languages we offer; Italian, Spanish, German, and French. It has been the practice that the “sister” school sends their students to visit us and stay with our students and families during September. After, in this year’s exchange, the groups from our school visited the students and their families in Italy (February) and France (April). Every year we alternate countries. Thus, next year we will exchange with Spanish and German students, giving all of our language students an opportunity to enjoy this opportunity.
The direct contact between our students and the host families was an extraordinary experience for all involved. My students were not just happy to be in an amazing country, visiting fantastic places, but they were thrilled to use their language skills in an authentic setting. My favorite reaction from the kids was: “Mrs. Bibeau, I can speak Italian and I understand what they say!” And my reply is: “I know. That’s what it’s all about!”
Being a foreign language teacher is an incredible job that allows you to share the world with your students. You have the opportunity to open a window to the world for them. With their acquired language skills the students are now able to enter into the international stage, where they can broaden their horizons and open their minds to other perspectives.
I believe that these exchange programs are great opportunities to expose students to a world of possibilities in terms of learning a language and its beautiful culture. They may forget other things, but they will never forget a memorable trip like this and their new friends.