On Monday, we traveled to Lycee hotelier de Guyancourt near Versailles to learn the curriculum of an explicitly targeted group of students who want to pursue a career in the culinary arts or hotel management. We were taken my our guide, Francois Armet, who explained to us the different types of special high schools that are available to teens in France. In addition to a traditional curriculum, French teens can declare a “specialty” of study, such as business, culinary arts, or technology to give them an edge in the process of choosing careers paths or pursuing a degree at university. The trip to this hospitality school, however, absolutely blew my mind.

While at this school, we were given a full tour of how fourteen-year-olds go from traditional teen to a full professional based on a curriculum that is taken from the workforce. Students are put presented to opportunities that land them into state of the art kitchens and business classes that prepare them for a real-life scenario of running a small restaurant or running a hotel. When they complete one of two tracks, they have the choice of taking an apprenticeship or moving onto an advanced program at a local university.

At the end of our tour, we were treated to a free lunch, which was of course prepared by students that are in advanced culinary classes at the lycee. For the first time ever, I tried l’escargot, which to my surprise was quite delicious. Putting aside the fact that I was eating a slug that was killed only minutes before being put on my plate, it wasn’t as enduring as I thought it would be. Next, we were given filets that were injected with cognac, with a side of zuccinni and potatoes (self explanatory–I don’t think I need to tell you to imagine how fantastic it was). We finished the day off with a little variety plate of desserts; macaroons, raspberry ice cream, a scoop of chocolate mousse, all complimented with a small coffee.

On this day in particular, I learned how French teens may choose a distinctive career path quite early in their teenage years. If they do, they have the opportunity to pursue it. Meanwhile, they take foreign language classes, continuously preparing them for a transnational career. While we have similar education in the United States (such as ed-tech, or whatever a school district may call an interdisciplinary track of study), shouldn’t it be necessary to have such opportunities for all American students, that is, to have options to pursue alternative types of education that suits them best?

Later on, we will be sitting in on a “jury” to grade French students on their English speaking skills. The more bilingual students I meet, the more essential I believe it is for American students to start taking foreign languages more seriously. From what I have observed in local schools thus far, it should be quite impressive.

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