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Monfredo: Vive Al France at Worcester Tech

Saturday, November 24, 2018


Last week the Culinary Arts Department of Worcester Technical High School under the direction of Department Head Kevin Layton, had the pleasure for the second year in a row to host a group of exchange students from France. Two faculty members and fifteen students in the culinary arts program from Lycee des Metiers de L'Hotellerie et du Tourisme du Val de Loire came to Worcester. This school is considered “The School of Management of Hotels and Tourism,” and is located in the Loire Valley which is approximately two hours southwest of Paris in the town of Blois (pronounced BLU - Ah). The school overlooks the Loire River.

According to Mr. Layton, the exchange program started three years ago with a conference call between himself, Veronique Henry-Buisson an English teacher at the school, her administrators, and the International Center of Worcester.  From this initial conversation, Madame Buisson and Mr. Layton began a pen-pal program between the students.   They are now on the fourth round of students engaging as pen-pals. Since the initial phone call the students from both schools have participated in projects developed by the instructors.   This is also the second visit to Worcester Technical High School for the students from France.

Both schools have a great deal in common for both are involved in hospitality and culinary arts programs.  However, the school from France only concentrates on Hospitality with a culinary arts/baking component.  There are no other vocational programs offered at their school.  It’s all about hospitality and culinary arts.

There were no language barriers, for all students who participated in the exchange from France spoke English.   As with all languages, the degree of fluency is better with some than others, but they all assisted one another when translation was needed according to Mr. Layton.

The students stay was for a week and were hosted by faculty members and their families from WTHS who graciously volunteered their homes to host the students.  During their stay, they participated in classes and shop activities with their American pen pals.  The exchange students also had a chance to tour Worcester and visited such places as the Worcester Historical Museum, Table Talk Pies, various restaurants, and a tour of the Beechwood Hotel.  The group also had the opportunity to visit Boston for a day.  

Besides being good-will ambassadors, the students of WTHS found great value from this experience. They had the ability to take what they had learned about classical culinary arts and discuss (with their counterparts from France)  their likes and the differences in curriculum.  The students also had the opportunity to learn about a different culture from their French peers and both groups had the opportunity to find out that they had a lot in common.  Many of the students found out that although they are thousands of miles apart they have the same common interests and are not as different as they first imagined.  In addition, both groups found out that it’s so much more relevant getting together than looking up the information in a book or in the internet.  Besides, the French students also have the opportunity to practice their English as it not their first language.

Students from both schools loved the program and exchanged lots of hugs and high fives as they departed.   Here are some of the comments from WTHS… “Student Blessing Cisco writes, “From the moment Chef Layton told us about the program, I was filled with excitement.  I had never had a pen pal before… Having a pen pal has also given me the chance to learn about the different cultures and traditions in France… When I found out my pen pal was coming to America, I got even more excited because I was given the opportunity to actually meet her in person…This program has given me the opportunity to create a lifelong friendship with someone from across the World, and I will be forever grateful for it…”

Sheyenne Rodriquez states … “The pen pal program has enhanced my culinary arts education because it introduces me to different styles of cooking… I just loved getting to know my pen pal and her day to day life. Learning about new cultures, customs, and styles is so amazing.  It’s just an amazing program and it helps connect with people from all over the world…”

Sophia Avril acknowledged, “I am so grateful that I got to become friends with somebody from all the way across the world.  Learning about her social life and what she’s is into (KPOP) has allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and try new things. .. I have a new friend who teaches me new things.   My only wish is that I could visit her, her school, and learn even more about her culture…”

And Mariana Bracetti final remarks were, “ The exchange program here at WTHS has given me the opportunity to see and gain knowledge on how people from another country lie their daily lives… This program helps me to open my eyes and realize that there is more in this so called small world than meets the eye.”

This small sampling of students says it all for the experience of the students will last a lifetime!  When I asked what’s next?  Mr. Layton enthusiastically stated, “The one component that would make the program most valuable is if the WTHS students had the opportunity to visit France as to bring the program full cycle.”

Great idea for maybe the Worcester Public Schools can lift its ban on Foreign Travel and allow WTHS to reciprocate with a visit to France.  Stay tuned!


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