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Le Voyage de Retour

The Return Trip of the World Scholars

During the February break, our 7th and 8th grade World Scholars students embarked on a journey to one of the world’s most famous cities – Paris! In an educational and life-changing experience, these students and staff explored the highlights of Paris while also learning about the ways in which people of color have enriched the history of the City of Light. In the end, the travel bug has bitten everyone, as they look forward to their next World Scholars trip. I interviewed students Daniel, Gwendolyn, Angeliz, and Nathalee as well as trip co-leaders Whitney Helton and Vida Guerrero.

How was the trip?

Gwendolyn: The trip was great! I had new experiences and tried new foods that I enjoyed. I hope to continue to have new experiences like this one.
Ms. Helton: The trip was a fantastic experience! Our students were able to engage with journalists, learn about the history of civil rights in Paris, and highlight the importance of being connected to a larger global community. It was amazing to see their faces light up while there!

What were some of your favorite moments?

Daniel: One of my favorite moments was getting the chance to go to the very top of the Eiffel Tower at night because the lights of the city were breathtaking. 

Ms. Helton: My favorite moment from the trip was experiencing the Black in Paris Tour. As a former social studies teacher, I appreciated seeing how our social justice curriculum overlaps with the history in Paris. Leaders such as Josephine Baker and James Baldwin went to Paris for freedom of expression and self when they didn’t have those rights in America. It was fascinating to learn more about their lives.

Ms. Guerrero: I also enjoyed the Black in Paris tour. It was eye opening to see how much of an influence one Black woman can have on an entire country! Another life changing moment was going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Students dressed up, and their faces were full of joy! They even called their families to share this experience with them. It was like watching their dreams come true!

How was the experience of visiting La Résidence, the restaurant created by refugee chefs? What did you learn? 

Angeliz: I enjoyed the experience of eating at La Résidence. It gave us the opportunity to learn about the chefs’ customs and ways of life that are very different from ours in the United States. I learned that they were treated as outsiders in France rather than as fellow residents. 

Ms. Guerrero: When we went to visit La Résidence, it was a major culture shock for many students as the menu was in French, the portion sizes differed depending on the dish, and there were many African flavors and dishes on the menu. This was new for some of our students, but not all. It was great to see those that were familiar with some of the cultural dishes support others.

What did you learn when you visited journalists at the Bondy Blog?

Ms. Guerrero: When we went to visit the Bondy Blog, an online media company that reports news around the Black and Brown communities as well as the immigrant population, we enjoyed learning a great deal about the similarities between the United States and France, especially how marginalized communities feel and the resources available to them. We also learned about key differences in the school system and healthcare.

Ms. Helton: Going to the Bondy Blog and meeting with young journalists was terrific. The Bondy Blog focuses on uplifting urbanized communities in France and telling their stories. It was great hearing about the passion the journalists at Bondy Blog have for being truth tellers!

How was the experience of communicating with French speakers? Did you have any trouble?

Daniel: It wasn’t very hard to communicate with French people because most of them spoke and understood English. The bigger challenge was to understand their accent. We were able to speak French to a few people as well because we had prepared for this in our program leading up to the trip.

Ms. Helton: People in France were very friendly to us, and at many restaurants people spoke English. However, facial and body expressions were also useful in communicating. Our students studied the basics of the French language for five months; they were better than the teachers!

Ms. Guerrero: When communicating, many people spoke English, because it is indeed taught in schools. However, we were trained in Duolingo before leaving, which was beneficial when communicating with someone that did not speak English.

Natalee: What we learned is that Paris is a very different place than NYC where we live because of their food, the different sites, and their way of life.

What did you learn from the whole experience overall? What was your biggest takeaway? 

Natalee: I learned that Paris is a very different place from New York where we live because of their food, the different sites, and their way of life. 

Gwendolyn: I learned about the extravagant artistic taste displayed by monuments and sites like the Louvre Museum and the Eiffel Tower. 

Ms. Helton: My biggest takeaway is that studying abroad is needed for students, especially the students of LION Charter School. I already have students and families asking about the next trip! This experience not only broadened our students’ horizons but also planted a seed of travel that they will never forget.

Ms. Guerrero: My biggest takeaway was that human connection is essential and relationship building can open many doors. There are great people, things, and places in the world that have contributed to the current “world” we know, but until we actually go out and experience some of those people, things, and places we will not fully understand it. 

Do you want to travel more in the future? If yes, where would you like to go?
Students: YES! We would love to visit Italy to view the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Jamaica because of the nice weather, Hawaii because of the ocean view, Egypt because of the Dead Sea that is so salty you can float in the water easily, and Spain because of the different sites and culture.