Indianapolis students build relationships through exchange program

Guillaume is one of the students visiting from France.
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One north side Indianapolis school has seen a sudden increase in attendance recently, and it all has to do with an annual tradition.

It's gym class at St. Richard's Episcopal School on the near north side, but some of the students here had a much longer ride to school than others.

"Marseilles to Munich - 2 hours. Munich to Chicago - 8 hours in plane," said Guillaume.

Guillaume is among a group of fifth graders who hopped on a flight to Indianapolis from Marseilles, France.

Each year, French students come to visit St. Richards School. Then St. Richards students travel to France. It's called the Back to Back program.

Fifth grader Sarah Koenig will soon go to Marseilles. She will stay with the family of the French student now staying with her.

"I'm looking forward to meeting her family and seeing how she lives in Marseilles and meeting her cat, Apple," said Sarah.

The Back to Back program has been underway since the early 1990's. There are 20 French students who are spending two and a half weeks here in the Indianapolis area. In May, some thirty fifth graders from St. Richards will visit France.

Zach Schalk says he'll never forget his trip as a student 12 years ago.

"It was a really big experience of just having confidence in yourself and realizing you can just do things without your parents," he said.

"I think it's the human experience, being away from home, sharing time, the life of an American school child for three weeks," said Isabelle Savy, French chaperone.

"Overall, it really is a growing experience for our students, as they enter the middle school years. They learn about the world in ways the classroom cannot always convey," said Kate Boehm, Back to Back program coordinator.

Organizers say the trip across the Atlantic helps make the French program at St. Richard's among the best in the nation.

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