Strasbourg Amities USA

Notre souhait : promouvoir la pratique de la langue anglaise.

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A taste of America

Five teachers (PE, Economics and ESL) have created an organization called Strasbourg Amitiés USA (Strasbourg, Friendship USA) to help students practise English. They organize trips to the USA and drama and sports camps in Alsace.

Being able to go and spend two weeks with an American family and spending only the expense of the plane ticket is a concept that many French families whose children are learning English might be interested in. This is one of the aims of the organization Strasbourg Amitiés USA which was launched last June, thanks to a handful of teachers who want to promote the English language outside of the regular classroom.

“In fifteen minutes, all the spots were filled”

Michèle Huntz, a PE teacher in a Strasbourg High School who is the book keeper of the organization, says “I have a childhood friend who lives in the USA. My eldest daughter has been going there every since she was in grade 9. She’s spent several summers there and I’ve come to realize that it was a huge opportunity for us to have a personal contact in the USA.

Now, this young lady is ending  her third year of law school in Uppsala, Sweden where all the classes are taught exclusively in English.

The organization wants to extend what the mother did for her daughter to a greater scale in the Strasbourg area.

19 kids will fly off to North Carolina over Spring Break. “In fifteen minutes, all the spots were filled”. Another exchange is planned over the summer.

“We asked the families to pay 980€, knowing that the plane ticket only costs 865€.” The goal for future trips is to find direct destinations with no connecting flights, which should lower the price even more, around 500€. A private company would ask for about 2500€ for the same service.

“We don’t want to be in competition with companies doing this as a business. We want to help kids travel, families who couldn’t afford it through a private company. Apart from the obvious low cost, working with a local organization is also very reassuring for the families.

In order to insure this low cost, the teachers have called on their personal relations in the USA. The hosting families that have been selected are willing to host a French student for the sheer pleasure of it and the American students will get a chance to travel to France if they so want.

Michèle Huntz says “ we hope that some of them will come,” but she ads on a sceptical tone that “ few Americans own a passport to travel overseas and for some of them, going to Florida is like going across the world.”

While they stay in North Carolina, the French students won’t attend English classes with another bunch of French kids. They will experience a total immersion with their hosting families and share only a few activities together such as a cook out on the beach, a tour of the One Tree Hill studios and two full days attending classes in a high school with their hosting student. “The hosting families have set all this up, we were not even asking for so much. They are outstanding!”

“ A drama camp started this adventure”

The aim is to have the students SPEAK English and lose part of their inhibition when speaking in a foreign language. “In a class, there are about 35 students and little chance to actually speak the language. When they stay with a hosting families, the kids use what they know of English and get by somehow. And thus improve their level,” convincingly hammers Michèle Huntz with a smile.

The organization doesn’t only set up trips. Indeed, a drama camp in Strasbourg last June started up this whole adventure, involving about 50 kids. The PE teacher says “it was awesome! We had two American teachers coming over, one who teaches drama and the other one English. There, drama is part of the regular curriculum.” This experience will be renewed this year in June.

Michèle would also like to offer a sports camp all in English, and , why not, if some Americans in Strasbourg want to join the organization, some parties and other cultural activities all year around. Another way to get to speak English…

First Fund Raising

The first party set up by Strasbourg Amitiés USA brought together about 130 people last Saturday. They met up at the Ancienne Douane in Strasbourg and got a chance to learn line dancing thanks to the Holtzheim Country Line Dance Club. “The response was amazing and people (kids and adults) mingled together as we had not expected,” end Michèle enthusiastically. Some sort of melting pot, undoubtedly.

Charlotte Dorn.

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