Trip of a lifetime

Minot High School-Magic City Campus French students spent part of the summer in France. Several of them wrote about their experiences during the trip:


To describe the many unique, cultural and educational things that I, as a part of the Minot High School France Abroad program, took part in is a difficult task for just a short article. The best way to put it would be a little bit of everything.

We visited museums and read up on the artists. We took tours around the towns seeing the many historical sites. We spent time in the crowded French streets, and stayed with host families who were very generous with sharing their lives with us.

They helped us develop stronger skills in our French, sharpening our listening skills. I personally learned many new vocabulary words, picked up on some French grammar skills and learned to appreciate different cultures for their own unique styles of getting things done.

My personal favorite place to go would have to be the Gorge du Verdon, a luscious green canyon of sorts with an even more spectacular and sparkling river running right through the center. It was a thrilling sight when seen from standing on the edge of a massive drop.

All I can say now after experiencing what I have, is thank you to my friends and family for encouraging me to go. And a special thanks to Madame Anne Olafson for organizing the trip and teaching me the skills I needed to fully be immersed into the French culture.


I remember being very tired when we got back to the United States.

We had experienced three weeks of non-stop exploration, discovery and food. I definitely ate a lot food. I also made lots of unforgettable memories. Like the ones about our time spent wandering the streets in Nice, or the one about our scenic bus ride through the mountains, or even the one about our strawberry and whipped cream party in our hotel room.

There are so many, in fact, that I can’t write them all down. So, I guess I’ll share a few of my favorite ones.

One of my first memories is one that I made while we were in Cannes, a tourist town right on the Mediterranean coast. While we were there, we noticed that there were some people parasailing over the ocean. Parasailing is basically gliding through the air wearing an open parachute being towed by a boat. Naturally, this interested us a lot, so we asked at the tourist information center, and figured out where we should go. It was a breathtaking experience. The view was panoramic and since we were pretty high up, everything was really calm and quiet. The effect is what I could only describe as serene. I remember coming down and not being able to wipe the smile off my face.

Another one of my favorite memories is when I stayed in the home of a French family. I have got to say that that might have been one of the best experiences of my life. My family was very charming and I absolutely loved them. The family consisted of the parents, two teenage girls, one little sister and a 5-year-old brother.

Over the course of the week I went wall climbing; went to a concert; ran half of a 10k race; rode in an ambulance after getting asthma from running half a 10k race; found out what it’s like to be the most popular kid in school when I went to elementary school with the 7-year-old little sister of the family; went biking; and showered under a waterfall.

I even managed to fit in a few hours of sleep. I had so much fun with the whole family. One of the last memories I have with my family is of my 14-year-old French sister Camille, and two of her friends, making me crepes at 3 in the morning, four hours before I was supposed to leave. Four hours later, I almost started crying. I really did not want to leave. I felt like a week wasn’t enough.

Along with being jam-packed with fun, this was also a very eye-opening experience. It showed me French culture on a whole different level. An experience like this shows you France from a different point of view than the touristy side we usually see. It really shows the differences and similarities between American culture and French culture. I would definitely do this again.

When I got home, one thing that everybody was interested in hearing about was my time spent in Paris. Paris is not only a beautiful city, but one rich with history. The monuments are all amazing, but even more so when you learn a bit about them. For example, the Palace of Versailles is gorgeous, with huge murals on the ceilings and lavish drapes and life-sized statues decorating the entire building. Yet, when an elite few lived in this palace, on the other sides of the gold covered gates, people were dying of hunger and poverty.

Another landmark that I really enjoyed was the Catacombes. It gave the same feeling as a dark forest might; it had a haunting effect. It’s the sort of thing that silences you when you see it. Row after row of human bones went on and on. It’s chilling, really. What made it even scarier were the inscriptions that accompanied the bones. “Arrete! C’est ici l’empire de la mort” or “Stop! This Is the empire of death” said the inscription above the doorway of the entrance. I kid you not, that is what it says. I was scared before we even went in. But Paris isn’t all monuments. There are plenty of little winding streets to get yourself lost in, and there’s always a Metro stop close so you’re never really lost.

France is really just an incredible place. Although the trip only lasted three weeks, I’ll have these memories for the rest of my life. Writing this article has made me realize that I kind of miss France: the people, the country and the food. I suppose it’s like what a lot of people call homesickness, except what I have is France-sickness!


France is a diverse and beautiful country; the people are skinny and the food abundant. The Minot High French Club discovered that for themselves this past June while they spent three weeks immersed in the French culture. The real France is much different than the stereotypical Eiffel Tower and baguette, while those are still very much a part of the culture. Europeans live in a much simpler, much more natural lifestyle while also taking advantage of every opportunity. Much to their surprise, the French, especially the younger generation, watch American shows, listen to American music, and wear American clothes. As Americans, we are so ignorant to the impact we have on the world. The Club’s travelers, however, were shocked to realized the truth. The trip encouraged students to make revelations such as this, to get a real insight on how their French counterparts live their daily lives, and to understand the world outside of their own. The travelers stayed with French families and learned how much simpler the French live their lives: they do not depend on a car all the time, teens are not nearly as independent as American teens, and food is bought fresh daily. There is a drastic difference between European culture and that of America, but the culture is so natural it is easy to adapt to and gives a good perspective to any traveler on how to live a good life with both American and French aspects. The families generally spoke English well enough to communicate, but travelers were encouraged to speak French all the time, significantly improving their vocabulary and accents. Total immersion is the most important aspect of becoming fluent in a language. The travelers got just that, sending them off with an amazing start to becoming fluent in a second language, and for some inspiring them to learn a third.


Today there was a very yummy breakfast of cheese and fresh fruit and hard-boiled eggs and, of course, coffee.

We boarded the bus right after breakfast for Chamonix. It was an hour-and-a-half drive, winding through the beautiful towns of Annecy and Chamonix and the Alps.

We arrived in the much chillier Chamonix and boarded one of two tramcars that would take us to the top of the mountains. The view was stunning at the top of the first stop!

But then as we climbed up to the top, the view quickly disappeared into the clouds that surrounded the mountains. Unfortunately it was sort of anticlimactic because we could hardly see four feet in front of us. We hiked around and took pictures and still managed to have fun on top of the chilly mountain.

After we made our way back down, we were allowed an hour and a half to find some lunch. Haley and I stumbled upon a hole-in-the-wall little creperie called Poco Loco. We each had a savory crepe and then of course a sweet Nutella crepe while writing out more postcards to family and friends.

We then boarded the bus for the ride back and once in Annecy, the driver was so kind as to give us a tour and tell us about the city!

Back at the hotel we had a few hours to kill before our group dinner. Even though it was a chilly cloudy day, I talked Haley into paddle boating out on Lake Annecy. Oh, my goodness, it was so fun and it was a great way to take awesome pictures.

We then decided to go to a little cafe where we ordered coffee and then sat and read for an hour and a half. That is my version of an awesome vacation – reading, people watching, and of course coffee!

Back at the hotel we spiffed ourselves up a bit and then met the group in the lobby. We ate at a really interesting restaurant where the waiters brought you raclette, plates of melted cheese (like fondue) and then meat and bread and potatoes and vegetables which were on the table to be eaten with the cheese.

The cool thing about France is how dog-friendly it is. This lady brought in her huge Burmese mountain dog and he lay quietly on the floor the whole time she ate. Crazy how well behaved they are.

Haley and I then made it our after dinner mission to track down an ATM once we realized yet again that we didn’t have enough cash to buy gelato. We went back to our hotel early as it was very chilly outside. So excited for Paris tomorrow!