A Paint Branch High School student helped restore an ancient Roman wall, a bridge and a lavatory — and hiked the Alps — this summer in Mizoen, France.
Brett Jones, 15, was part of a two-week French immersion program led by Global Works, in partnership with the University of Colorado. Jones participated July 9 to 25 with 19 other students from across the U.S.
The group repaired an ancient Roman wall that had deteriorated through the centuries, but was still needed for the local goat farmers. They restored a bridge to transport hikers over a stream and a lavatory in the community.
They also taught American games and sports, such as football and baseball, to French youths at a local community center and worked to maintain a trail during a hike up the Alps.
The program was not only an immersion in French culture and language, but a way to help the small community of Mizoen.
The students lived in a gite, or French guest house, in Mizoen, which Brett called a “conservative and small town.”
He said it was “amazing” to see how people in the south of France live.
To him, the time spent in the small villages of Mizoen and Annecy was an interesting experience, leaving him with beautiful memories.
“It forces you to think that this is how other people live life,” Brett said.
He has been studying French since middle school, but said he encountered some language barriers during his trip.
“It wasn’t always perfect. ... But it was really interesting interacting with the local people and learning the local culture,” he said. He said the residents understood him, but he would try his best to speak French well.
Jones said that before going into the program, his French was “conversational. When he came home after the trip, he was able to say longer sentences and use more everyday words.
“My listening skills also improved,” he said.
At times, it was difficult to speak only in French, but he understood it was necessary for him to improve.
His curiosity to learn another language started in middle school, when he had to choose between Spanish or French.
“I think I wanted to try something different,” Brett said. He liked the sound of the French language.
He has earned more than 400 hours toward his service-learning requirement for school after working with A Wider Circle, a Silver Spring-based nonprofit that provides basic household items to those in need, and with Montgomery Hospice, a nonprofit that provides end-of-life care.
According to a press release, Brett is a Red Cross certified lifeguard and a member of the Paint Branch swim team.
He hopes to study international relations or foreign policy in college, but may change his mind before then.
“I might stick to French and try to master it at a higher education level,” Brett said.