Tash Wray: Immersive French Education

Tash Wray is a freshman from New York City at Wake Forest, now currently living in Pennsylvania. Tash attended the Lycée Française, an independent French-English prep school in Manhattan, from preschool to sixth grade before moving to Philadelphia and then leaving for boarding school at Lawrenceville in New Jersey. Tash reflects on her unique experience at an immersive French school and her interest in French studies here at Wake.

Her Campus: What was it like growing up speaking English at home but fluent French at school?

Tash Wray: I started going to the French school when I was only 3 years old, so at first it wasn’t strange because I didn’t notice the cultural differences between home and school. But once I got to around fourth or fifth grade, it was different because I noticed how my friends spoke French at home and were from Paris originally. They were able to get help from their parents with things like homework since they were fluent as well, whereas I could not at all. It felt like I was living in two different universes in the sense that my friends were from such a different culture. Whenever I was at one of their apartments, it felt so unrelatable since their lives were so different than the American environment I lived in. Even though my parents did not fully understand the school and my own experience because they don’t speak the language, I would not give up the experience of going to a French school and learning with students from different backgrounds.

HC: Did your siblings go to the Lycée Française too?

TW: No, I was the only one. My mom really wanted me to learn another language growing up, but honestly it was a spontaneous decision.

HC: How did living in NYC differ from your move to boarding school?

TW: Going to school in New York and going to boarding school were two very different experiences that I am grateful for that have shaped me, as cliché as it might sound. The French school ironically was so much more cut-throat, but boarding school offered me a new kind of independence. The French school taught me to be independent in a different way, learning a new language at home on my own, that ultimately prompted my decision to leave home and try out another school system at boarding school.

HC: How were your friends different at the Lycée than at a more traditional American school?

TW: When I went to their house for dinner, I would have to speak French with their families. I felt like I was so bad in French compared to them. My accent fit in with them, so I didn’t feel as American, but I felt more stressed talking to an authentic Parisian family. I felt behind in some aspects, but my teachers were really helpful, but culturally very different.

HC: How were your classes different at the Lycée Française?

TW: It was very different. On a simple level, all my classes were taught in French and all the teachers originated from France. Not to mention, we had to take Chinese while at the French School. One thing that I noticed more than anything was that the French school prioritized memorization. In American schools, there were more discussions and teaching based on understanding concepts. Whereas, at the French school, I felt like it was more based on memorization, from reciting a new poem each week by heart to memorizing the history of French kings. Even stuff like learning math in French was very difficult, having to reteach myself simple math stuff like division on my own. 

HC: How did attending the Lycée influence your love for French today?

TW: I love French culture and speaking French with natives. Speaking French almost 8 hours a day at the Lycée made me super passionate to learn the language and spend time with these French families. It became a part of who I am and my identity, and now I want to study abroad in France and even live in Paris for part of my life.