Aero: Ayla Sandifur – France 2015 – Life at School


Aero: Ayla Sandifur – France 2015 – Life at School
Creative Commons Image via The LEAF Project

Aero: Ayla Sandifur – France 2015 – Life at School


Ayla Sandifur

I knew we would eventually be attending school the second week of the trip. At first, I wasn’t so nervous since it’s just high school. But then, the first morning we were actually going to school my stomach was in an uproar. The very little bread and orange juice I had just minutes before walking out the door was not helping my nerves. Approaching the school I had immediately noticed there are many teachers and young students lined up on the sidewalk smoking cigarettes. My host student and I were dropped off where her two younger sisters go to school, so we had to walk to get to the high school. There were so many students who were younger that traveled in packs, I thought it was worse than the metro station. The streets were extremely busy. Between parents dropping off their children and kids walking in the opposite direction, I couldn’t just focus and look straight ahead. I was constantly getting bumped into and bumping into other students trying to get out of the way. I would immediately apologize in English. When we were standing in front of the school waiting for the other girls and their host student, I saw this extremely tall, black gate that traced the front yard of the school. I have never seen an extremely large school with an even bigger entrance gate. I thought maybe this is normal for schools in France. Walking to the doors to enter inside the school, I saw students standing in groups and sitting on benches talking and hanging out. It seemed to me that students have much more free time before classes start.

My host student explained to me that classes start at 8:30 in the morning and her first class was sports. She told me that her class has been doing 3×5 relays from track and field. While our host students were in their first morning class, Kimberly, Kelsey and I all went to the library together and stayed there for the duration of their first class which is 2 hours. We sat down together at a big round table and got out our journals. Looking around the library, I could see almost every student had out this kind of graph like paper with numbers and letters all over. Looked foreign to me since I only comprehend very basic math. If a student wasn’t working on classwork or homework, they were sitting by this wooden case of books. Also, there are these smaller rooms in the library called presentation rooms. There was a small group of students in the room and there was a PowerPoint being projected onto the whiteboard. I assumed by the appearance of the school that they had a decent budget, but I realized there wasn’t any smart boards in the library. There was very few posters pinned on the wall, the walls were colored an off white and the lighting was extremely bright. Once our host students returned from their class, we hung out by the lockers for the 10 minutes before their next class.

The students are dressed very tastefully. Even if the student and their family doesn’t have much money, everyone looked very presentable and fashionable. I really admire the way the French dress and wish the same trends and style would travel to America. When we start heading to the second class of the day, there was students lined up at the door until the teacher either comes by or the teacher unlocks the door from the inside. I found this very different from the way it is in America. Walking into the classroom, I was really astonished by the appearance of the classroom. This was the first classroom I had ever seen in the school and my expectations were completely different from what I saw. I was expecting to see a very old fashioned classroom with the wooden seats and desk connected.  There was yellow painted walls tables that had about 4 or 5 chairs per table and they were placed in rows of 2 or 3. There was enough room for students and the teacher to walk up and down between the rows. The classroom had a whiteboard and there was two very long tables that lined the back of the room’s wall with desktops and chairs. The teacher also had her own desktop. It was very odd that the school had windows Vista with how updated technology is. The teacher was very strict from the way she talked and acted. It felt so odd to be an environment where I was around people not much younger than me and I couldn’t understand anything they were saying. A few students would speak to me in English, but then I was looked at like I wasn’t human or something. For once I didn’t fit in around my surroundings and I wasn’t sure about how this made me feel. If any of the students were talking or whispering, she would say something and they would immediately stop talking. Close to the end of class the students would not pack up their belongings. They always waited for the teacher to give the assignment and tell them when class is over. In America, students always pack up their class material before the teacher tells them. This is why in America, we hear the teacher say “The bell does not dismiss the class, the teacher dismisses the class.”


ML@FLCC France 2015 Flickr Photo Gallery

After we left Marie’s math class, it was lunch time. When we walked into the cafeteria I couldn’t believe how long the lines were to get your food. All the students had these cards that they swiped and then their lunch tray was released from this automatic machine. In America, a lot of students receive free meals or pay a small amount for their meal based on household income. Something that their school cafeteria and my high school cafeteria have in common is the “speedy line.” This was the only line in the cafeteria that was designed for students who don’t have much time for lunch and need to get their food quickly. There’s so many students eating lunch at the same time, there is separate dining halls for students. There was something mounted on the wall that I thought was a clock, but it was keeping a count of how many students have gotten lunch. Last count I remember seeing was over 1,500 students.

The way the school is structured is very confusing from living in America. They split up the students at different points in school than we do in America. Most high schools in America are students in grades 9-12th grade. In France, high school students are between the ages of 16 and 18. Once a student has passed through high school, they move on to the program that they study for their career. They often live in an apartment on their own and come home on the weekends. Usually in America, students choose once they have graduated high school if they will commute to school, live on campus or off campus but nearby. It’s crazy to think that America has a more laid back education system when you compare it to another country.

Ayla Sandifur
LEAF Contributor