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BRATTLEBORO - Students studying French at Brattleboro Union High School recently hosted their Swiss Exchange home-stay partners for 10 days. "We have 17 students from Geneva, the French-speaking part of western Switzerland, and their two leaders," said Suzanne Grenoble, BUHS French teacher. Local co-leaders Grenoble and Alice Charkes, French teacher at Green Street School, will take 14 BUHS students to Geneva in April 2017 for reciprocal home-stays with their Swiss hosts. The group spent a day in New York City seeing the sights, Grenoble said. They went to the top of Rockefeller Center, to Times Square, where they saw a man with a sign that read "Give me money, or I'll vote for Trump," and to Battery Park. In Brattleboro, group activities included a guided tour of the exhibits at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center and a tour of Cotton Mill Hill, where the students visited True North Granola and Tavernier Chocolates. "We were given a thorough tour, " Grenoble said, "and the students were offered samples, which they were happy to take." The Swiss students spent two days at BUHS, shadowing their American partners. Since it was homecoming weekend, which they don't have in Switzerland, the Swiss attended homecoming games and the homecoming dance. They visited BUHS English and social studies classes, and co-taught the French class at Brattleboro Area Middle School. In Grenoble's French classes, she said, the Swiss told the students about the Swiss holiday, F te de l'Escalade, which occurs in early December and celebrates the defeat of the Savoyards in 1602, when the people of Geneva threw hot soup down on the enemy troops, thus preventing them from scaling the city walls. The students explained the festival has a special candy associated with it: little soup pots made of chocolate and filled with marzipan vegetables. The day has a special song sung in a dialect of Old French. People dress up in costumes. Because of the candy and costumes, the students compared the day to Halloween. Charkes had the Swiss visit her French classes at Green Street School. "It was fantastic," she said. "I had them interview each other. My students could see concretely people who speak French. It gives my young students relevance when they meet real people who use this language. Otherwise, it's all 'Madame' when they speak to me. Plus, they see that when they're older, they can have this kind of experience." Of the BUHS students who are participating in this year's Swiss Exchange program, seven are alumni of the Green Street School K to 6 French program, Charkes noted. Maxine Stent said her daughter Olivia, now in 11th grade, had Charkes as a French teacher at Green Street School and always wanted to go to Paris. Olivia is hosting Melanie Cergneux, who "has fantastic English. She is watching the debates and movies with us and sharing what happens in Switzerland. I'm so glad we've developed this language program in our school." Kim Rock's son, Liam McNeil, is in 10th grade. Even though he is not participating in the exchange this year, he could still host. "He loves other cultures and loves to travel," she said. "He's been taking French since Green Street. He's been very helpful in organizing this." BUHS juniors Madden Beard Sullivan and Riley Beard Sullivan, twins, are hosting Ana Rey Olmos. The three have compared and contrasted their school experiences and other aspects of their respective cultures. "Vermont is a lot different from Geneva," Olmos said. "They go home for lunch," Madden said. "And they take a different class every day." "It's more like our college," Riley said. "Ana sings, and I've been teaching her to play the ukulele. It's been really fun." Robert Glennon, whose son Rhys is hosting, said an exchange like this "really opens these kids' eyes. It's an opportunity to make a different world." Janie Hawthorne, now in 11th grade at BUHS, said her brother participated in the BUHS German Exchange. She wanted to have her own experience. "I love traveling," she said, "and I want to get better at French." Jasper Reed said he was inspired to participate after talking with friends who were part of an earlier exchange. "In the spring, I'll find out what their day-to-day school is like," he said, "and how they interact with each other." This was the eighth time Catherine Conliffe, one of the Swiss leaders, has brought students to Vermont. "The kids love it," she said. "Some of them keep in contact with their home-stay partners for years. It's a wonderful program with varied activities." The other Swiss co-leader is Peter Kreuzer, a physics teacher at Coll ge Madame de Sta l. The BUHS Modern and Classical Languages department offers three home-stay exchanges for its students: French, Spanish, and German. "This is a spectacular opportunity for kids," Grenoble said, "both for our own students and the Swiss. For language development, it's an order of magnitude beyond what they could achieve if we stayed in the classroom. I can hear a real difference in their French. They come out of their shells and develop so much enthusiasm. It's what indelible memories are made of." Contact Nancy A. Olson at olsonnan47@gmail.com.