Twenty-six (26) Mercer Island High School students recently returned from a 10-day spring break student exchange to Mercer Island’s sister city, Thonon-les-Bains, France. The student exchange was organized by the Mercer Island Sister Association (MISCA).
MISCA was started in 2000 to advance educational, cultural and other relationships between Mercer Island and Thonon les Bains, France. In addition to organizing the student exchanges, MISCA hosts French movie nights, French conversation groups, French art lectures and other French-related events. It will be organizing an adult delegation to Thonon in 2020 to celebrate the organization’s 20th anniversary.
During its student exchange from April 5-15, Mercer Island students stayed with French high school students and their families. The Islanders attended high school classes with their French hosts and spent three days touring the interesting historic and tourist sites in and around Thonon.
The student exchange is the first half of a family-to-family exchange program. In October, the French students will come to Mercer Island to stay in the homes of their correspondents, completing the exchange and deepening the connection between the two cities.
“The amazing thing about this trip is how clear the differences are between a normal tourist trip like going to Paris (which I’ve done before) and coming to a place like Thonon where the experience is much more cultural and in-depth, “ Simon Hermelee said in a statement. “It’s been an amazing trip – and I’ve seen a lot of really cool stuff.”
In addition to touring Thonon and its historic highlights, the students toured the Evian water factory and took a boat ride to Lausanne, Switzerland, where they visited the Olympic Museum and the Charlie Chaplin museum. They were welcomed by the mayor of Thonon at an official reception in the Hotel de Ville, and enjoyed a raclette dinner with all the students and families. On the weekends with their families, they went on excursions, some of them skiing in Chamonix or snowshoeing in the French Alps.
“Thonon’s really a beautiful city,” Aimee Graesser said in a press release. “There are flowers everywhere. A lot of the old buildings have been really well-preserved. Many have been turned into cool museums and things like that. It’s really cool getting to know the history of the town.”
Students on the trip include: Dyani Aguila, Irene Argenti, Caitlyn Barber, Callahan Dawson, Morgan Dawson, Luca Debray, Norah Evans, Harry Gollin, Kate Gormley, Aimee Graeser, Mackenzie Hamilton, Eleanor Hargraft, Simon Hermelee, Carolina Keith, Grace Lenington, Anna Perry, Colson Rimmer, Sean Ronaldson, Bennett Samuelly, Jarrett Sato, Caden Schreuder, Katie Stoops, Madeline “Maddy” way, Bill Wang, Kieran Watson and Tessa Werdel.