West high school senior, Tennessee Darby recently returned from his studies in France. Darby resided in Amiens, a city with a population of 130,000, about double the population of Hamblen county. According to Darby, while Amiens is less populated than Knoxville, however the city is much more dense. Amiens is about 2 hours away from Paris and is the former capital of the Picardie region.
Darby resided with a host family in the downtown area of Amiens. The family Darby resided with consisted of a 13 year old boy, a 16 year old boy and their father and mother. Darby recalls being fond of his host family, “I was in the same class as my older host brother, and he is very smart. He does artistic fencing and flies a sort of plane without an engine (a "planeur," I don't know the English word). It's dragged behind a real plane and left to glide, and Lilian will pilot it by himself, using updrafts and the winds to keep it afloat. My younger host brother does basketball and loves video games. My host dad likes to run, and I would often run with him on the weekends. Together, we did a race called "Le Trail des Allumés," which is a 17km (11 mi) race at night in the woods with only a headlamp to light your way. And my host mom loves dancing, especially salsa dancing. She also is part of a choir. I got along well with all of them, and I would consider them to be a second family to me.”
One of the most beautiful places visited in France by Darby was the “Chateau de Beynac.” He shared, “It was built in the 12th century atop a huge cliff, and it looks directly over the Dordogne River. There is even a whole city built into the side of the cliff down below the castle, and the views of the castle and from the castle overlooking the river valley are both breathtaking. Aside from that, the architecture in pretty much any city in France is also beautiful. Unlike in America, every city has existed for at least a millennium, and thus the architecture is very old and beautiful. It's hard to describe through words, but if you look up Paris, that's how many French cities will look.”
According to Darby, the culture was quite different from America to France. He implied, “First of all, in France, you actually do it. In America we can get away without saying hello and just launching into whatever you want to talk about. But in France, you always say hello to every person you know the first time you see them each day. Guys will do it with a handshake, say "bonjour" or "salut," depending on how formal you want to be, and ask how the person is with "ça va?" Between men and women or among women, you will do the bisous, which is the thing you've probably seen French people do on tv before with the fake kiss on each cheek.”
Furthermore, Darby feels that the French also generally do a better job about caring for their environment, even on an individual level. He shared that they sort all of their garbage, take public transportation even in rural areas, eat local produce, and take extremely short showers.
Moreover, Darby expresses the education system in France. The foreign exchange student stated, ”School is very intense in France. The school day generally goes from 8am to 6pm, though it can be less throughout the week. That is also offset by the fact that we have an hour to eat for lunch. So overall, it isn't terrible. As far as classes go, you have way more, but you don't have each one every day of the week. I had 12 different classes, but each one at most twice per week. Some classes I only had once per week.”
In addition, Darby also referred to college prep, “As far as college prep goes, they have a few of what are essentially career days. I was there for one of those sessions, and it lasted two days, all day each day. I picked out the classes I wanted to attend the week before, and there were classes on the subject of just about anything. They do a very good job preparing you for college in this regard.