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    Posted March 14, 2014 by
    Denver, Colorado
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama

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    Sending an 11-year-old to France?

    As my 11-year-old daughter bounded down the passenger ramp and onto the airplane with a cheerful wave, I let the tears come. I had managed, with some difficulty, to wait until she couldn't see me before I started really crying. Off to France all by herself for eight weeks. This was going to be hard.

    That day I traced the arc of the airplane over the Atlantic on my computer screen. Now she's over Nova Scotia, now Ireland. Late that evening, my husband got a text with a picture of our daughter standing in front of the Eiffel Tower in the morning sunlight. The next day I got a photo of my daughter having breakfast with her French brother and sister at their home in Brittany (Bretagne). "Hot cocoa and bread for breakfast!" I thought. "She's going to love France."

    As we received updates and photos from the French parents, I realized something important: she was not alone. She was with a family-- a family that was increasingly becoming a second family to her. There were brothers and sisters and cousins and grandparents. Our daughter was not all by herself in France after all.

    When she came back home eight weeks later, she had built relationships and learned to speak basic French, but most importantly, she understood in a very real way that there is a world outside of the U.S. Foods, customs, even daily schedules are different-- not better or worse, just different. She had also gained an increased confidence and independence. Our daughter knew that when challenges arise, she will be able to rise to meet them.

    Next came the fun part for us as parents: we were able to host her French sister. The two girls flew back on the same airplane together. Partway over the Atlantic, they shifted their conversation from French into English. Now it was her French sister’s turn for a new language and a new culture. Here in Colorado we went to a baseball game, rode roller coasters, and took a road trip to the Grand Canyon.

    But that was last summer. This summer my daughter and her French sister are going to visit each other again. My daughter is hoping to get her verb tenses down correctly in French. I am looking forward to the continuation of their international friendship.

    Note: This exchange was done through Adolesco (www.adolesco.org). Adolesco is a non-profit organization dedicated to the idea that foreign linguistic and cultural exchanges offer participating children and families extraordinary benefits: Learning a new language, understanding another culture, and growing beyond our cultural boundaries benefits ourselves, our families, and our world. They facilitate exchanges for children aged 9 to 17.
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