Students and teachers from Lycee Hugues Capet in Senlis, France, visited Oklahoma City in April as part of an ongoing annual exchange program with Harding Charter Preparatory High School and Casady School.
The program matches students with their foreign peers and live as they do for two weeks, attending class, social events and experiencing family life. Each year it focuses on a theme that allows students to learn about each other. Among areas they've examined include each other's justice system, the relationship between France and the U.S. during World War II and musical arts.
The Oklahoman asked two students and two teachers to give their impressions of Oklahoma and tell us five things they learned during their visit.
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1. We've learned about the history of this country and this state with the Native American tribes' history and “The Trail of Tears,” and how so many tribes still live here.
2. We've learned from our visit to the Chisholm Trail Museum in Kingfisher that Ma Dalton and the Dalton Gang really existed. We saw the replica of her log cabin. She is no longer for us just a comic book character that we read in the comic book “Lucky Luke.”
3. We've learned about the April 19, 1995, bombing and how through the bombing memorial Oklahomans have never forgotten this tragedy and have built a very moving place of commemoration and resilience.
4. We've learned about cultural differences with, for example, how the driving distances are calculated: in kilometers for Europeans whereas in minutes or hours for Americans!
5. We've learned about the real meaning of many “ships” — that is, partnerships between three schools: French Lycee Hugues Capet in Senlis and Americans in Oklahoma City's Casady School and Harding Charter Prep, but also friendships, both for students and teachers; and, most importantly, successful and enriching relationships between two cultures.
1. Some people were happily surprised to buy souvenirs cheaper here than in France. In this way, French students bought a lot of clothes at brands like Hollister and Abercrombie. But sometimes they forgot that they have to add the tax to the price.
2. In the states, you don't seem to have a specific time to do things. You can have lunch at 4 p.m. or go to the supermarket at 1 a.m. We experimented, me and for the major part of our group, this new way of life. We were very surprised; it was unusual!
3. One of the first things that impressed me was the size of everything here. The city is spread out, thanks to the space you have. But when we went to the top of the Devon Tower, we saw that a lot of blocks were still empty!
4. During our trip in Oklahoma we visited the Chisholm Trail Museum. We learned many things about the Land Run of the 1890s during which people raced to find a new place to settle. It's a weird paradox that Oklahomans ran to get their territories when today nobody walks to get where they need to go. Everyone drives.
5. In France, we appreciate and watch the NBA. It's very famous! We were happy to see that everyone here is proud of the Thunder team! There are so many Thunder flags and clothes all around the city. We got tickets to go to the game against the Sacramento Kings! What an amazing atmosphere inside the arena!
1. In Oklahoma, people are really friendly; they don't have a lot of prejudices. I have seen that rich people can be friends with poor ones. Here, it's not difficult for me to speak with people who do not know me.
2. I was impressed by the cars in Oklahoma. They are adapted to the size of the country: Huge! I've learned that it is usual to have a V-6 or a V-8 engine in your car, whereas it is reserved in France for luxury and foreign cars. I love American cars because they are cheaper and more cool than in France.
3. Oklahoma has an unusual climate: The weather changes are the fastest that I've ever seen. In France, we have a logical set of the seasons. Here, it can be 80 degrees at 4 p.m. and change to 45 degrees, with rain, by 5 p.m. In one week, there are big thunderstorms, tornadoes and earthquakes.
4. Here in Oklahoma City, I've learned that a lot of people don't have sensibility to the environment: Oklahomans use fossil energy every day in huge quantities and act like they don't know that the actual problem of pollution is a direct consequence of their way of life.
5. Finally, I've learned an important thing: Oklahomans love France. A lot of people have little Eiffel towers in their houses; other people say that we have great wine and everybody says that France is a charming country. I think it's pretty cool to be French here because everyone likes talking to me.