By Sydney Comire ’21
After graduating from Winch in 2021, Sydney currently attends college locally and is pursing a BFA while working part-time. This is her second year working as an intern for The Winchendon School.
Salut Paris! Tu te souviens de moi? (Hello Paris! Do you remember me?)
Here at The Winchendon School, the annual ColLAB trip to France is one of the most talked about events of the spring season. I had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of this ColLAB in 2019, where my group traveled to two vastly different cities, Paris and Nantes. The following year, after hearing the tales of our 2019 trip, students were abuzz waiting for their chance to travel across the Atlantic, but less than a year later, the unthinkable happened. The Covid-19 Pandemic had shut down the world… and naturally, the trip was canceled.
Two years had gone by in a flash. I had finished my time at the Winchendon school and graduated in the class of 2021. Upon returning to The Winchendon School a year after my graduation (as an employee), you could imagine my excitement when I heard of the France ColLAB’s revival.
More than three years after my trip, another group of students finally had the opportunity to travel abroad. During ColLAB symposium, I spoke with some of the student presenters, curious to pick their brains about their experiences. What cities had they visited? What tours had they taken? Did they try any new foods? What did they think of escargot? Had they brought home a souvenir? Did they see the old Olympic fields from the top of the Eiffel Tower?
The trip this year was altered to fit Covid travel restrictions. No longer were the students split between two cities, but instead they stayed in Paris for the full two weeks.
In past years, including my own, students in the France ColLAB spent one week living amongst real French families in an “exchange student” like experience, and then spent the second week in Paris as a tourist. I had visited Nantes, and lived amongst a lovely French-Iranian family for a week. The parents spoke no English, and I was forced to use my French in order to communicate with them. Their daughter, who I am still friends with three and half years later, spoke perfect English, and yet she was determined to help me learn new vocabulary, like “Catcheur” (which means wrestler) and “Cuillére” (which means spoon).
This year, the “exchange student” portion was removed from the itinerary in favor of spending more time in Paris. However, for a day, the group ventured to Normandy and walked along the historic beaches where battle raged more than 76 years ago.
“My favorite part of the trip was definitely visiting Normandy”, said one student, “I’m a huge history buff, so seeing the D Day beaches firsthand was a once in a lifetime experience.”
Aside from their excursion to Normandy, the students took an abundance of guided tours around the city of love. They paid a visit to the Mona Lisa at the The Louvre and Vincent Van Gogh’s Self Portrait at the Musee d’Orsay. They stood above the streets of Paris at the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, taste tested every flavor of macaron possible, took a night cruise on the River Seine, and admired the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
“It was unforgettable”, said another student, “There was this air about the city that was just unlike anything else. It felt like the city was alive with culture.”
Since 2016, Monsieur Delorme and Madame Claude have been running the France ColLAB trip. Without them, the experience for us students wouldn’t have been the same. They were our tour guides, translators, chaperones, and historians all wrapped into one. Monsieur Delorme would tell us jokes about his previous trips and the funny situations his past students got into. Madame Claude would encourage us to try new things and to go into every store we saw in case there was something we might find interesting to take home. I asked the students this year about their adventures with Monsieur and Madame, and found that most of their stories lined up with my own experiences.
Many said the same thing: “This trip wouldn’t be the same without them.”
In 2019, I ventured out of my comfort zone for the first time to France. As a young 15yr old sophomore, this was my first trip outside of the country. Many memories were made. I had traveled to France at the height of the “Mouvement des gilets jaunes” (“Yellow Jacket Movement”). A recent addition to French history where citizens protested the government’s increase in oil/fuel taxes. I witnessed first hand a protest while in Nantes. A large crowd of people clad in yellow vests were waving around flags and chanting something I didn’t quite understand. The police were alert, but there was no violence that day. In total, I saw three yellow vest protests during my trip.
In 2022, students were exposed to a different kind of protest. They saw bits and pieces of the rapidly rising disdain for French President, Emmanuel Macron. The France trip is not just a tourist attraction. It’s a time to learn, understand, and witness history firsthand. By visiting the extravagant places of the past, students learn to understand the problems of the present.
I couldn’t encourage this trip enough to all those who are considering signing up next year. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore the history of one of Europe’s most influential powerhouses, while also receiving an immersive experience in the modern era.
J’adore la France et ça me manque! J’espère te revoir bientôt. (I adore you France and I miss you! I hope to see you again soon.)