Aspen High School launches student exchange with Nantes, France |

Aspen High School launches student exchange with Nantes, France

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
A group of exchange students from Nantes, France, two teacher chaperones and Aspen High School French teacher Eric Lamb, smile outside the high school Friday afternoon.
Erica Robbie/The Aspen Times |

Traveling abroad as a teen is said to offer students invaluable cultural lessons and experiences — especially when the destination is “totally different” from one’s hometown, said Aspen High School French teacher Eric Lamb.

This is in part why Lamb, who helped facilitate Aspen High School’s first exchange with a school in Nantes, France, believes this swap is particularly beneficial for the students.

“What’s really special about this exchange compared to the Sister Cities (exchange program) is that Aspen and Nantes are so different that there’s such a value for the students,” Lamb said Friday afternoon. “One’s rural, one’s urban; one’s coastal, one’s mountainous.

“Whereas with Chamonix (one of Aspen’s Sister Cities in France), they’re both rural mountain tourist towns.”

On Monday, 14 juniors and two teacher-chaperones from Lycée Nelson Mandel, a high school in Nantes, arrived in Aspen.

The students, two boys and 12 girls, are staying with Aspen High School parents throughout their 12-day visit.

Sometime during the 2017-18 academic year, a group of 10 or so Aspen High School students will visit Nantes as part of the exchange, said Lamb, noting that the number would “depend on (their) interest level.”

While the timing of the trip next year is unknown at this point, Lamb said he hopes the exchange will become an annual occurrence, with one school visiting the other biannually.

On Friday, five days into their stay, The Aspen Times sat down with the exchange students and teacher-chaperones Olivier Tabary and Laurent Joigne to hear about their experiences, impressions and, of course, surprises thus far in America.

Capucine Barrier opened the roundtable discussion; first with a disclaimer that this is her first time in the U.S.

“I was really expecting, from the movies I saw in France, people always eating burgers,” Barrier said. “I was very surprised that people here eat a lot of healthy food, do a lot of exercise.”

Barrier and her peers laughed a bit, and she added, “I am very surprised, happily surprised, that I will not come back obese.”

The high school junior said this was “a big fear” of hers as well as her parents.

Next up was Enora Lebreton, who described Nantes as a “dynamic” metropolis that’s “really different from Aspen,” and said she has enjoyed new sights such as snow and mountains.

Naturally, and to the excitement of most, if not all, of the students in the room, the conversation quickly turned to skiing.

“The ski stations in France are quite far away, like eight hours by car from Nantes, so some of us go once every year or once ever two years,” said Arthur Medinger, one of the two boys in the group. “Here the slopes are very good, the view is actually great and it’s quite warm, so it’s perfect to ski.”

Alice Cartau shared her experience skiing for the first time at Buttermilk Mountain on Thursday:

“I was on the chairlift for the first time and it was so scary because there was all the emptiness beneath. The first time I went down the slope it was really scary because I didn’t have any control of my speed,” Cartau said with a laugh. “I was so fast I had to fall on purpose. But the next time the mother of the host of one of us taught me how to control my speed and how to turn.”

Altogether, the students and chaperones said they loved Aspen life so far and said how “friendly and helpful” people have been.

As far as any dislikes?

“What we don’t like is how expensive it is,” Joigne said.

The high school literature teacher reported a case of sticker shock upon receiving a $27 bill for a burger at lunch at the base of Buttermilk Thursday.

“But the people who work there are extremely friendly, they ask where you are from, how long you have been skiing,” he said. “But when you get the receipt…”

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