FAIRFIELD — Maria-Alejandra Jaramillo, 23, is hoping to soak up some French culture in the next 14 days.
She spent Sunday packing for the trip that will give her and several other French students from Solano Community College a chance to practice their French and learn firsthand about the French by staying in homes around Paris.
The packing was going to be simple, Jaramillo said.
“The weather is going to be hot, so (I) don’t have to worry about scarves and boots,” she said.
The group is diverse, with some students proficient in French and others, such as Jaramillo, just completing their first year of the language. Jaramillo has been to Europe before, as well as Latin America. Others, such as Reggie Potts, 28, will experience their first time overseas as they head out of the country on Monday.
The group of 13 met recently for the last time at foreign language instructor Lorna Marlow-Munoz’s home in Suisun City to hammer out last-minute plans for the trip that would take them from the suburbs of Paris, into Paris, Versailles and Chartres.
They discussed cellphone apps that would help them keep in touch, tips on money conversion, customs, passport stamps, and what to do if they get lost, delayed or left behind.
“That’s why you need to have all my numbers in case something happens,” Marlow-Munoz said to the group.
They also discussed gifts for the host families, with Marlow-Munoz showing examples of types of “American” gifts the French enjoy – they don’t have Tide sticks in France, Marlow-Munoz said.
Each student had an identical small notebook depicting the Eiffel Tower. There they kept pertinent information and many were quickly taking notes in the book while Marlow-Munoz spoke. They were also instructed to keep track of typical French-speaking “isms” that they would not normally hear or learn in a French class.
The French families are found through a friend of Marlow-Munoz – who said that she’s been to France so many times she’s lost count – who works at a high school. Most families and the Solano College students have already been communicating through Facebook with each other, Marlow-Munoz said.
“I want them to do this so they establish a relationship with the families,” she said.
Potts is staying with a family who lives in Chilly Mazarin, south of Paris, he said. He’s been talking to his host family about once a week. The learning, he said, goes both ways, with the Solano College students speaking French to the families, and the families speaking back in English.
He’s looking forward to learning about the daily life of the French, and since he’s majoring in agriculture, he said he’s interested in anything to do with eating and cooking.
Jaramillo is looking forward to immersing herself in the culture, adding that it is so much more than just visiting museums.
“We’re learning the language and I think the culture is important to learn with that,” she said.
Solano Community College students are offered the trip every two or three years and most have had French language instruction for two years. Along with the cultural exchange component, they will play typical tourists and visit places such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Musee d’Orsay, the Louvre, Notre Dame and take a ride on the Bateau Mouche.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.