RCHS students and teachers traveled to Concordia Language Villages French and Spanish immersion camps in Bemidji, Minnesota in November to learn about the languages and the cultures of the countries.
By Amanda Brauchler, RCHS intern writer; photo courtesy of Alexis Savas
A group of students huddled in the snow, bags in hand, in the unfamiliar setting of the forests of Bemidji, Minnesota. Their teacher spoke the final words of English they would hear for the weekend and they crossed into the gym of their camp, immediately immersed in French and Spanish.
The group of 18 students from Rock Canyon High School (RCHS) traveled to Concordia Language Villages “Lac du Bois” or “El Lago del Bosque” camps for French and Spanish immersion. After enduring an 18-hour day of travel by plane and bus, both groups diverged into their respective camps, with the goal of learning about the language and culture.
“At RCHS, you just see people on their phones and they’re not immersed in society,” Olivia Gibson, a Castle Pines resident, and attendee of the French camp said. “It’s uncomfortable to get away and go to the freezing cold with a bunch of strangers, but then you really immerse yourself in the culture and you actually learn French.”
To completely immerse in the language, each camp required students to hand over their electronics and any books they had in English, calling the items “contraband.” Students were challenged to only speak in the language of their camp and all instructions were given exclusively in that language. With counselors from all over the world and activities that taught different aspects of culture associated with the language, students had unique opportunities unlike typical high school language classes. Students also ate food from different francophone or Spanish speaking countries, with the countries changing for each meal.
Even while participating in more lighthearted, typical camp activities, students asked and learned about cultures from around the world. While talking to the international counselors, students learned about the severity of poverty in Burkina Faso, gender differences in Senegal, and many other cultural differences than those they are exposed to in Castle Pines.
“Not everyone at RCHS understands that we’re so lucky how we have it and that other people don’t have it as good as we do,” Josh Lederman, a French student and Castle Pines resident said. “It’s important to understand other cultures because that’s how we learn new things and expand our horizons.”
Students left Concordia thinking and speaking the language they were immersed in, excited to compare stories from each camp. It was certainly an educational experience to leave the comfort and uniformity of their homes.