WCCHS brings back foreign exchange program after three years

WEGO students visit Germany in 2015.

Photo by Nora Wessels

WEGO students visit Germany in 2015.

By Charlotte Boorsma, Reporter

West Chicago Community High School’s World Languages division is bringing back the Student Foreign Exchange Program for spring and summer travels. 

Foreign exchange students from Spain see Cloud Gate in Chicago during their 2017 trip. (Photo by Sarah Gill)

The Foreign Exchange Program was a highlight for many students taking a language. Due to the pandemic, the program was put aside for nearly three years, finally returning this spring. WCCHS has been holding this program for over 30 years, finding sister schools all over their countries to send students to and to host students from. This program has been a high school highlight for many students, giving WEGO students opportunities to spend several weeks abroad. Teachers said they have seen their students grow as language learners and people throughout their time on the exchange program. 

“It’s great to see them making connections with students across the world,” said Sarah Gill, teacher of Spanish 1 and 3 and head of the Spanish Exchange Program. 

West Chicago has found connections with foreign schools, and through those, has been able to help students study abroad. The Simon-Marius Gymnasium in Gunzenhausen has been hosting WeGo students for nearly 42 years, starting the partnership in 1980. 

This summer, students will stay in Germany for three weeks and visit many cities, including Nürnberg and Würnburg. Students will then take a three-day trip to Munich and the Alps, later visiting the castle of Neuschwanstein and the Zugspitze mountain, the tallest mountain in Germany. 

“I think the opportunity is great for students to go and travel abroad and see another country that they might not have had the opportunity to see,” said German teacher Nora Wessels. 

Students pose in front of Notre Dame in Paris, France, in 2018. (Photo by Unknown)

The French Exchange Program has been running for 37 years with the Lycée Emmanuel Mounier school in Angers, France. Students go to Grenoble, the city that hosted the 1968 winter Olympics. Students spend three days in Paris, shopping and sightseeing, on their two-week journey in France. 

WEGO has a similar experience with the Spanish program.  They have been pairing up with their sister school in Soria, for 27 years now. 

“Even though we live in a huge world, how small it can become, just by the friendships that you build and the connections you make,” said Gill. 

Students in the latter program will travel over spring break for about ten days. They spend days enjoying the many museums, mountains, and historical sights Spain has to offer, before going to Madrid, the capital of Spain. 

“Open-mindedness is what this country needs- therefore I strongly believe traveling to Spain will better me as a student. On top of that, this opportunity will help me encourage other classroom peers to learn about new countries and their histories,” said senior Melanie Coss, a AP Spanish literature student. 

Students typically go on a trip to Costa Rica for three weeks. They visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a butterfly farm, and enjoy activities like horseback riding and ziplining through the canopy. They also visit some of Costa Rica’s volcanoes, beaches, and historical sites. This year, the trip to Costa Rica was canceled, however, for reasons unknown. 

Still, “I am more than ready to meet new people and learn from them. I cannot wait to represent the US but particularly our community, WEGO with our best attitude, persona, and character,” said Coss.