Urban switches from Swiss to French exchange after debate over curriculum


Six of the 20 French exchange students spend the day at Muir Woods with two Urban hosts. Photo by Renata Miller (used with permission)

Zoe Meneghetti, Staff Writer

The Urban community values its language curriculum and prides itself on the way it is followed. For the last several years, Assistant Head for Student Life, Charlotte Worsley, Academic Dean, Geoff Ruth, Language Department Chair and French Teacher, Arnaud Finet and Outdoor Education leader, Rachel Fristedt, have been working together to change Urban’s exchange program. In the past, Urban would host Swiss students from the Kantonsschule Enge school. However, this year Urban worked to replace the Swiss exchange program with a French exchange program. This Fall, Urban validated the talk of phasing out the Swiss exchange program and instead welcomed 20 French exchange students to the school, as well as hosting three Swiss students.

“We talked about it (switching programs) on and off for a while, just because it doesn’t match with our school’s curriculum,” said Ruth. “We don’t speak Swiss, we don’t speak German, but we do speak French.”

“Since we speak French, having a French exchange program just makes more sense,” said Worsley.

However, the more perplexing question is why Urban started to do the Swiss exchange program in the first place if it does not align with Urban’s curriculum.

According to Worsley, “The decision to go with the Swiss exchange program was not a curriculum decision.”

When the Kantonsschule Engle School in Switzerland approached Urban, there were many schools such as Saint Ignatius, Branson, and UHS already participating in the program, and the Swiss school needed another school to host students.

“At the time, I think that we did not have any other exchange programs, so this was an easy one. It seemed all figured out,” said Worsley. The initial decision to participate in the Swiss exchange program was primarily based off of the fact that it was something new, and Urban’s curriculum was not fully developed. However, “The Chinese and Indian exchange programs came up, we started to develop our mission more and realized the Swiss Program did not fit,” said Worsley.

The one Swiss student who had an episode last year that contradicted school policy last year was not the reason Urban transitioned, or was it considered when Urban was deciding whether or not to switch. According to Worsley, “They (the Swiss students) are all great kids…when that student had an episode, we immediately looked at our curriculum and what we, the school, did.”

In conclusion, Urban faculty agrees that the switch from the Swiss exchange program to the French exchange program was the right choice because it supports Urban’s curriculum to a greater extent.