In college, many students studying world languages will get the opportunity to travel abroad to practice their skills.
The cost of travel, and the inability to take a semester off from high school to dedicate to learning a language often prevents high school students from having a cultural immersion experience.
However, once out of the school year, French language students can experience cultural immersion through an event called Congrès.
Through French activities and the promotion of conversation between French students around the Greater Richmond area, Congrès provides students with an opportunity to speak French and listen to the French language with each other.
“Congrès is an annual French conference and competition that was started 19 years ago. They hold different competitions between students as they celebrate the language and culture,” said Godwin French teacher Kayla Soltis-Katella.
On March 3 at Congrès, 29 French students from Godwin joined 450 students from other schools across Henrico and Chesterfield County, as well as the city of Richmond to celebrate their love of French.
Hosted this year by Matoaca High School in Chesterfield County, the competition offered cuisine, culture, and art contests.
“The whole day is about speaking French and communicate with other students. When they sell items in the market, they have conversations with buyers and sellers,” said Godwin French teacher Laura Pearson.
“I found the experience quite fun and enriching. Being able to be surrounded by French culture in such a fun way is a wonderful experience,” said junior Jake Breeden.
According to Soltis-Katella, the most popular competitions were art reproductions, French Idol, which is a singing contest, trivia competitions, and fashion creations.
“I enjoyed the marchè, where each school made a booth to sell a sort of commodity or game that students buy with their tickets. I also played a French piece on the piano, made my own crêpes, and learned about the French film festival,” said Breeden.
Freshman Grace Sadler also attended Congrès and participated in the French Idol competition, coming in second place.
“My favorite part by far was performing in front of all of those people at the French Idol competition. I had so much fun up there,” said Sadler. “The experience was amazing. It felt like one big immersion project and I met so many new people.”