When you wake up in France . . . you’re going to school abroad!



Paris, France at night.

After struggling to find her class and schedule, Angelique Pinto arrives late on her first day of school. Clutching her books to her chest, she scans the classroom for an open seat. She can’t find an open chair so stands at a table near the front.

Once the teacher arrives, everyone takes a seat except for Angelique. Immediately noticing, two boys spring up to find a chair and place it at a table beside a girl with short brown hair and glasses. Struck by their kindness, she takes a seat and glances at the girl beside her, immediately noticing the Harry Potter binder. Angelique takes a deep breath and reminds herself that everything is going to be OK.

Throughout her childhood, Angelique had often heard about the Lycée Lakanal from her mother, French teacher Nouna Pinto. Nouna is a proud alumna of Lycée Lakanal. 

 “As I often say to my students, my greatest pride is to be able to share my passion for my native culture and language so that they will want to go live in a French-speaking country,” Nouna said.

As far back as sixth grade, Angelique wanted to attend Lycée Lakanal in Sceaux, a suburb of Paris. During the six month admission process, the coronavirus outbreak forced her to pause her plans. However,  Angelique held tight to her dream and eventually made it to France.

“I’m very thankful to everyone who did everything in their power to make this dream come true — my parents, for their unfaltering support; my grandparents, for opening their home and hearts to me,” Angelique said.

In the summer of 2020, the Miramonte student relocated to France, getting situated in her grandparents’ house, which was only 15 minutes from Lycée Lakanal. Only when her mother flew back to California did the gravity of the situation hit both of them. “We all miss her very much. If it weren’t for Skype, I would have never let her go!” Nouna said.

Angelique quickly realized that life with her grandparents was different from life with her California family. Surprisingly, she misses the chaos of family life. 

Her grandparents don’t cook; instead, they get their meals from a caterer. Due to Angelique’s allergies, she is limited with what she can eat thus she cooks and shops for herself. She shops at local small businesses and artisans where she gathers delicious fresh produce, meats, and cheeses. Angelique loves the increased independence and freedom that France provides. Over her two years in France, Angelique feels more prepared for life after high school.

In September 2020, Angelique began her education at Lycée Lakanal. She entered Lycée Lakanal in grade seconde, comparable to sophomore year in the United States. Despite speaking French in her home previously, Angelique struggled to keep up with the language in the classroom, having to write down words she didn’t understand and researching them later. Being immersed in the language, she quickly learned and translating became easy.

Her education at Lycée Lakanal is different from Miramonte being more akin to college. She has 11 courses, 10 of which are mandatory classes. Each has a number of mandatory hours per week which are different for each class. For example, math had a mandatory 5 hours per week while P.E. only requires 2 hours per week. Her schedule is varied,  with some days starting at 8:00 and ending at 5:30 and other days starting at 10:00 and ending at 12:00.

The student culture at Lycée Lakanal is different from that of Miramonte. At the Lycée Lakanal, groups of 35 students have classes in common, except their electives. This creates a tight-knit community of students, because of this, you don’t need to be someone’s friend to share work, congratulate them, or work together, all of which is necessary in such a difficult environment.

Under the French education system, Angelique has thrived. Originally, she planned to only study at Lycée Lakanal for one year; however, after her first year, she decided to stay. 

       “Even though school is very demanding, I appreciate the relationships I have built with my classmates last year and this year.” Angelique said. Angelique and her fellow students have almost become a family.

Angelique plans to return to the United States this summer to see her family for the first time in two years.