Correspondence and cultural exchange with Lycée Poutrain, France- 2017

2 countries, 2 institutions, 32 students, 4 teachers and a will to bring two cultures closer.

It all started in July 2016 when Indo French cultural society, Jaipur, and Lycée Poutrain, France, decided to start a student exchange, but with a difference. 16 students were selected from both these institutions to participate in an exchange of letters, movies and ideas. Little did they know, they were going to find friends for life. 

The students were assigned a pen friend each to serve as a window to the culture and the way of life of the other country.

The first phase of the program allowed students to talk about their lives, their likes, dislikes, families, festivals etc through postcards. They slowly got to know each other better and soon the postcards started being accompanied by little gifts and more feelings. 

Interestingly, the teachers decided to do things the old fashioned way and did not permit any contact on social networking sites. The students thus started to wait impatiently for their next post cards. They could only imagine what their friend looked like and could appreciate the value of the personal touch of a handwritten note.

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In the second phase, the two schools exchanged films from their respective countries. This allowed them to better understand the cultural differences between the two countries. While the French were struck by the “masala” and the dance in the Indian movies, the Indian students got a taste of the serious and artistic French cinema.

To provide a perfect end to this year-long program, 3 selected students (Rajiv Peperiya, Surbhi  Jain and Neelaxmi Jain) travelled to France with their teachers (Hina Nahta and Pankaj Khandelwal), to visit their friends. In this 13 day trip, the Indian students stayed with their French friends and families. 

They reached Saint-Jean Saint-Nicolas to a grand and warm welcome organized at the Lycée which set the tone for the upcoming week full of activities and excursions. From fairy tales and mythology to games and sports, from Bollywood dance and music to the French folk and rock music, from masala chai and besan ke laddoo to French cheese and wine, no aspect of the cultures of these two countries was left untouched.

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While the Indian students became the ambassadors of their country to share all the richness of their traditions, the French went out of their way to make this stay a memorable one by organising endless activities. They ensured that their Indian friends discovered their entire region by taking them to all the nearby towns, and even to the highest city of Europe “Briancon”, as well as a little trip to Italy. 

In the flurry of all these activities, little did everyone realize how friendships were forged and a cultural exchange project became so much more than they could have imagined. With a heavy heart and lots of memories the trip ended after a five-day stay at Paris which included visits to all its famous monuments and quartiers.

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