MI Sister City Association planning student exchange trip to France

Applications are now being accepted for journey to Thonon-les-Bains.

Stunning scenery and architecture along with fellowship with host families awaits local youth who wish to participate in a student exchange excursion to Mercer Island’s sister city of Thonon-les-Bains, France.

That above description of the city, which is nestled in the Haute Savoie region that lies near the Swiss border, was relayed to the Reporter from several Mercer Island High School (MIHS) students who partook in a 10-day trip last year. During the Mercer Island Sister City Association-organized journey, they even climbed a mountain and listened to music while soaking up the sterling sights.

Thonon-les-Bains and Mercer Island inscribed an official contract in 2000 to institute a partnership as sister cities. Thonon, which sits on Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), is home to about 35,000 residents and the Ripaille Castle, and numerous ski resorts in the French Alps are located a half hour away.

“It’s a very historic, beautiful area,” said association member Jane Meyer Brahm in a previous Reporter article.

Added Ted Weinberg, association board member and city councilmember: “It’s been a wonderful tradition. The students love it. It’s a great chance to see other parts of the world and for them to make long-term friendships and have people that they can visit when they travel to Europe as adults.”

The association is currently planning the next exchange with its French counterpart with a goal of having 20 MIHS students and three chaperones travel abroad over spring break in April of 2025 and have Thonon-les-Bains students visit the Island for a week in October of 2025, according to Weinberg. Since the partnership’s inception, students have packed their bags and gone on approximately 10 trips.

Students can apply for the upcoming trip now on the sister city site and the application deadline is Oct. 31.

Members of the association are planning to meet with MIHS students in their French classes and discuss how they can deepen their knowledge of French culture and the French language on the trip.

Alumni of the program may also be on hand to share their experiences, said Weinberg, who added, “They’ve been to France. They can tell the other students, ‘You’ve got to do this. This is so much fun.’ Tell them all about the excitement of the trip.”

Weinberg’s son, Max — who was already fluent in French from attending the French American School of Puget Sound on the Island — traveled to Thonon-les-Bains as part of the student exchange in 2015 and enjoyed interacting with his host family and skiing in the Alps.

When comté cheese hits the local store shelves during Christmas time, the Weinbergs are all over it. It’s only produced in the Thonon-les-Bains region and is shipped to the US only once a year, Ted said.

“We have a few recipes we try and make with that to remind us all of that region,” he added.

For more information and to apply for the trip, visit: https://www.mercerislandsistercity.org/sistercity