Among the many benefits international school students receive during their time abroad, one advantage seems to stand out among the rest: the web of global connections formed at an early age. Whether it is travelling as an athlete to one of the six IASAS (Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asian Schools) schools each season or taking a week-long immersion trip through Interim semester, it is hard to avoid encountering a wide variety of cultures and people during your time as an “expat.” Living in Asia, however, does not limit Singapore American School students to exploring just Asian languages and ways of life.
Every spring break, the French Program at SAS hosts a ten day exchange program with the “Lycée Français International de Tokyo” (French International School of Tokyo) following a week of hosting the French students in Singapore. One doesn’t have to travel as far as Europe to gain awareness of foreign ways of life – that can be accomplished through the international school system within our region. This trip provided participants was the perfect opportunity.
Each student who traveled to Tokyo was hosted by a different family from the French School, giving a very unique experience to each. “My family was Serbian French, so throughout the week I got to immerse myself in two different cultures that I now have an understanding of,” said Patrick Clifford, a senior at SAS.
Not only did students like Patrick become more aware of new cultures, but they also were able to improve their fluency in French considerably. “The families spoke English, so it was easy to communicate when we were desperate, but most of the time our French was put to good use both at home and at the school, so my proficiency improved a lot,” freshman Marie Ann Patrick said.
From 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. every day, the students from Singapore would attend classes with their host family’s children. This exposure to a French school allowed the American school students to compare our educational system to theirs.
“It made me appreciate SAS a lot more because we’re much more interactive. Classes there are very quiet and you have to commit to listening to the teacher for sometimes up to two hours,” Marie Ann said.
On the other hand, Patrick enjoyed the limited use of technology in classrooms in comparison to the digital style of learning used at SAS, as students were less easily distracted. “They only use pencils and paper and it forces them to be a lot more focused in the classroom so they get a lot more out of their time than we do.”
After a morning at school, the SAS group headed out for either a French or Japanese lunch – both are some of the top cuisines found in Tokyo. Since a typical day at the French school runs until 5 p.m., the group was left to explore cultural sites around the city such as the Big Buddha, temples of Kyoto and even Mount Fuji! Finally, everyone returned to their hosts’ homes for dinner.
Patrick and Marie Ann both believe that the relationships formed between them and the French school students are ones that will last a lifetime. “They’re really fun to be around and embraced us immediately,” Marie Ann said.
Patrick agreed. “It’s easy to stay in touch through all forms of social media and the relationships will help us connect in the future,” he said.
In fact, the trip was started by Mrs. Patrick, the head of the French department at SAS, as a result of a relationship she formed years ago as an expat. Whether it’s help within the workforce, a couch to crash on, or awareness of different cultures, as a result of this exchange, students like these two have and will continue to reap the benefits for years to come.