Pellissippi State hosts French sports exchange students for 14th year

Pellissippi State exchange students experience water based sports on the beaches of France.

One of the things 23-year-old Marie Laure Lesigne loved most this spring was getting the opportunity to experience wakeboarding on Fort Loudon Lake. Lesigne is one of 10 French students who traveled to Pellissippi State Community College in April to get a taste of American life.

This year marked the 14th time Pellissippi State has hosted the Sports Exchange program with the Institut Universitaire de Technologie, a two-year technical school in Cherbourg, on the northwest coast of France.

The French students spent 10 days getting to know the area and the people. They stayed in the homes of Pellissippi State students and participated alongside them in a variety of sports: golf, rowing, racquetball, karate, fencing, archery, tennis, volleyball, weight lifting. Besides wakeboarding on the lake, the guests took in the Dixie Stampede, rappelled at Look Rock, whitewater rafted on the Ocoee River and danced at Cotton Eyed Joe.

“One of the main goals was for them to interact with our students and see American life firsthand, not just what they see in the movies,” said Cathy Clay. Clay is an associate professor of Physical Education at Pellissippi State and coordinator of the student exchange.

“The French students have done a lot of things they’ve never gotten to do before. We’re the same way when we go to France—getting to do things at the beach that we don’t normally do, like sailing three different sizes of boats, surfing and scuba diving, and other water and land activities.”

The exchange program between the two colleges was started by Allen Edwards, former Pellissippi State president, and the tradition continues with the support of the current president, L. Anthony Wise Jr.

Over time, the mission has remained the same, as has much of the program, but many of the French students who visited this year were older than in years past, according to Clay.

“They came with more life experience behind them, and we had 100 percent participation in every activity,” she said.

On May 4, just a couple of weeks after the visitors returned to France, the “exchange” part of the program took place. Pellissippi State students flew to Paris and took a train to Cherbourg, where they were greeted at the station by their French counterparts.

Like their French guests, the American students stayed in the homes of their Cherbourg “amis,” except during a visit to Paris. In addition to trying new outdoor activities, they visited Mont Saint-Michel and the beaches where the Allied invasion occurred in World War II in Normandy, as well as most of the major tourist attractions in Paris.

The Pellissippi State students earn 3 credit hours in Physical Education on successful completion of the exchange, and the credit transfers to most colleges as a special topics course, Clay says.

To find out more about the Sports Exchange program or Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.