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Local students engage in French pen pal exchange with sister city

A student at École secondaire publique Mille-Îles responding to a letter from her pen pal in Scottsdale, Arizona. Submitted photo.

The following is an article written by Éric Galarneau, the Cultural Activities Officer for École secondaire publique Mille-Îles here in Kingston.

Last January, Grades 7 and 8 students from the École secondaire publique Mille-Îles received two packages from Arizona. In the first box were tourist guides from the city of Scottsdale. In the second package, they found about sixty letters written, in French, by their new pen pals from Arcadia High School. The correspondence program between two sister cities – Scottsdale and Kingston – was finally underway after six months of anticipation and logistics!

The package of letters from students at Arcadia High School in Scottsdale, Arizona for students at École secondaire publique Mille-Îles here in Kingston. Submitted photos.

Upon reading the initial letter, each Mille-Îles student learned interesting facts about their new friends: physical description, family unit, food preferences, favorite activities, etc.

“I think it’s very interesting to communicate with other teens living in a different country,” says Nithila, a grade 7 student.

Students wrote a short letter back, making sure to introduce themselves, answer the questions of their correspondent and without forgetting to ask questions to their new pen pal.

Yasmine, in grade 7, shares, “What I like about the pen pal project is that we can learn about others who share similar passions as we do. We are not alone in this world.” 

Her friend Alexandra adds, “I like the suspense of having to wait for the reply, imagining what my pen pal will answer. Having to wait makes me want the answer even more!”

Subsequently, the envelopes were sent to the mayor’s office at Kingston City Hall, which offers administrative support for this cultural initiative by taking care of our packages, even adding copies of the most recent Kingston tourist guide.

Enthusiastic, Rory reveals, “I can’t wait to read the next letter. I want to know what the answers to my questions are!” 

Students at École secondaire publique Mille-Îles responding to letters from their pen pals in Scottsdale, Arizona. Submitted photo.

While the twinning of Scottsdale and Kingston has been going on for over 25 years, this marks the first collaboration with the French education system. When a delegation from Scottsdale came for an artistic exchange last June, the discussions about the launching the new correspondence program began. Teachers from both cities agreed to invest in this writing project to promote the use of French language and increase Francophone space in their respective communities.

Many thanks to Suzie Austin (Scottsdale) and Sandy Berg (Kingston) for helping make the connection and getting the ball rolling.

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2 thoughts on “Local students engage in French pen pal exchange with sister city

  • March 12, 2020 at 12:13 pm
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    What a great article and pictures! I am so happy this exchange is fostering friendship and understanding between the young people in our countries!

  • March 19, 2020 at 9:21 pm
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    In this day of social media, I like the idea of real pen and paper written exchanges. The sharing of information from both sides of the border helps us to understand each other and makes this world a friendlier place. Thanks to all who worked to make this happen, Suzie and Sandy, but also the two teachers and students who continued the effort. I hope these students get their questions answered!!

    Stay safe,
    Lisa White
    Past President, Scottsdale Sister Cities

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