Clockwise: Mateja Lund, Karen Rocha, Park City High School French teacher Bernard Rizzotto, Rebeca Gonzalez and Jayla Lundstrom spoke about flying to
Clockwise: Mateja Lund, Karen Rocha, Park City High School French teacher Bernard Rizzotto, Rebeca Gonzalez and Jayla Lundstrom spoke about flying to Courchevel, France, where they will be participating in a foreign exchange program. They will spend a quarter, which is 40-45 days, at a French high school, immersing themselves completely in the language and the culture. Christopher Reeves/Park Record.
Four young women in Bernard Rizzotto's Advanced Placement French class at Park City High School will be venturing to Courchevel, France as part of a long-running exchange program that takes place every two years. They are scheduled to leave Saturday, Jan. 11, and will spend a quarter with four different French families, attending the school nearby. Park City and Courchevel adopted each other as sister cities in the 1980s.

Jayla Lundstrom, a junior, and Karen Rocha, Mateja Lund and Rebeca Gonzalez, all seniors, are the four students Rizzotto said are the best, reliable students in his class and are open-minded and adventurous. They will spend 40-45 days at the French high school, and Park City High School Principal Bob O'Connor said it will be a lot for them to take on.

"They will be back for the end of the quarter here to complete exams, so they are going to have a tough time taking on that course load in France while maintaining their classes here," O'Connor said. "Fortunately, we have students willing to be brave and courageous to do so."

While Gonzalez and Rizzotto traveled to France for a week last year, Rizzotto said he wanted students to return for an extended event. Luckily, he said, they found a partnership with a high school in nearby Courchevel to take the students in for a whole quarter. "We wanted it to be more meaningful for the students," he said.

While the four young women said they are nervous about taking on additional work, Lund said they will be taking junior year courses. She said senior year courses are notoriously difficult, and they all want to be able to excel.

Aside from experiencing the French education system, all four students said they are most excited to immerse themselves in the language and the culture.

"I want to go to become more culturally rich," Rocha said as the other three students nodded their heads in agreement. "I come from a Hispanic heritage, so I know Spanish and English. French is my third language, so I want to be fluent in it and become more part of the world."

Lundstrom said she is hoping the trip will help her connect with her mother's side of the family more. They speak French and have lived in France, so she said she wants to learn the language more thoroughly.

Lund is eager to ski in the French Alps, and Gonzalez is looking forward to seeing the family she stayed with last year again. There were other families that were willing to house Gonzalez while she was in France, but she said she wanted to stay with the family she stayed with last year since they "got so close."

Rizzotto said the foreign exchange "brings out the best in people." The exchange families, who sent their children to Park City in the summer, not only house the students traveling to France but accompany them to the mountain to ski, feed them authentic French food and provide opportunities for them they would not have otherwise without the program.

Lundstrom and Rocha each hosted a young man back in August while Lund and Gonzalez each hosted a young woman. They helped them to experience Park City by taking them to participate in outdoor activities and showing them all the town had to offer. Now they are looking forward to what their host families have in store for them in France. "The food," Rocha said. "I'm excited to have some real French bread and cheese."

Meanwhile, the three seniors are making sure everything is taken care of when it comes to college applications before they leave the country. Lund and Gonzalez have completed their applications, but Rocha is still working on hers.

She said she would like to attend Weber State or Westminster College to major in psychology and minor in French. Lund wants to go to the University of Vermont or the University of Portland to either major in pre-med with a focus on physical therapy or business project management. Gonzalez said she is hoping to attend the University of Utah or Westminster College to major in business and minor in French or Spanish and then go into teaching.

Rizzotto said he is glad his students will get to travel abroad before they leave for college, because it is something they may not be able to experience later on in life.

"So many people say, 'I'll travel out of the country in college or after college,' but how many times does that actually happen? All they had to do was pay for airfare, because everything else is taken care of for them by the host families," he said. "These girls are going to have an amazing experience, and now is the time to have it."