French Exchange Students Visit Switzerland


Annual French Exchange, NeuLex, plans its trip to Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Photo by Sujin Lee

From Feb. 15 to 26, a select group of Lexington High School students will live with host families in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, as part of the French exchange trip. As they travel to destinations such as Geneva, Gruyere, and the Alps, the participants hope to gain a new perspective on inclusivity and French culture, in addition to improving their linguistic abilities. 

This year, the French exchange students will focus on inclusivity throughout their trip, both in the U.S. and Switzerland. They plan to create a project based on their new discoveries from group discussions and conversations with experts. 

“We are going to visit Parliament and speak with some officials there. We are going to go to the U.N to speak with folks there,” Beckie ‘Brankin’ Rankin, French teacher and organizer of the exchange program, said.

The students will focus on specific populations, and hope to gain a deeper understanding of them. 

“There are groups of folks who are looking into different types of inclusion, like women in politics or LGBTQ+ folks in sports … Everything else that we are doing is through that lens of trying to figure out how we are going to be more inclusive,” Brankin said.

In addition to a focus on inclusivity, students hope to develop near fluency in the French language by immersing themselves with their host families.

“The biggest benefit [of the trip] is [being able] to increase our linguistic abilities. Students are fully immersed for the eleven days that we are traveling,” Brankin said. 

Their host families will also provide a sense of community in the unfamiliar environment. The LHS students have already started to develop relationships with their exchange students.

“[I am most looking forward to] meeting my exchange student because we have been talking over text since last summer and I am just really excited to see her in person,” Anushka Bhagwat, a senior participating in the French exchange trip, said. 

However, the planning of the trip has not been without challenges, especially due to the ongoing pandemic. 

“I was trying to not get my hopes up because it seemed like we might not have been able to go or maybe one school could travel and the other couldn’t,” Bhagwat said.  

The organizers of the trip hope to provide students with a formative experience, allowing them to obtain new perspectives that will resonate even after the trip’s duration. 

“The main piece of this exchange that people take on beyond their high school years is interpersonal communication—gaining someone else’s perspective and understanding that things can look differently from different angles,” Brankin said.