Alejandra, an exchange student from Mexico, posing with bread during lunch, Sept. 12, 2018. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Alejandra, an exchange student from Mexico, posing with bread during lunch, Sept. 12, 2018. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Bridget Abroad: Not your average school lunch

In France, school lunch is not just a meal, it’s an event.

In France, school lunch is not just a meal, it’s an event. Every day, we are served an appetizer, bread, the main meal, more bread and dessert. Yesterday, for instance, my lunch was chicken, ratatouille, couscous and yogurt. The most interesting thing I’ve eaten was pâté and “concombre a la creme,” (a little like pudding made with cucumbers). We do not go through a cafeteria line, but kitchen staff serves lunch at our tables on china plates with stainless steel platters and forks, knives and spoons. In the cafeteria, there are long tables with chairs and benches. Water pitchers and glasses are at each place. There are so many students that every table fills up, so we have to reserve a place with friends each day before school. This took a while to get used to.

On my first day at school, I noticed that the students dressed differently than my Juneau-Douglas High School friends. Leather jackets and jeans replaced Patagonia and sweatpants. Everyone seemed to be wearing the latest Nike shoes. There weren’t a pair of Xtratufs in sight.

My class is 32 students, who have been welcoming and helpful since the beginning. I stay with the same group of kids throughout the day. Classes, taught in French, are really difficult for me, but I’m understanding more every day. Subjects like Biology and Physical Science are familiar because we are learning some of the same things I learned in Juneau. In class, we use iPads instead of textbooks. I was really impressed by that. The French kids didn’t understand why I was impressed.

My classes are all really interesting, even if I don’t understand them completely. A few times a week, I have English class — my favorite! I am the star student, and can help the teacher with certain pronunciations, or explain things like a “GPA.” In History/Geography, the professor asked me to use Google Maps to show the class where I live. They were curious to see that Juneau is surrounded by water, mountains and glaciers. My classmates want to visit me in Alaska some day, but think it will be too cold. They don’t believe me when I say it’s not cold all year. I showed them a picture of JDHS, and they said it’s a beautiful, modern school, and were fascinated by the bear in the glass case.

Well, I must get back to studying. Studying the menu for tomorrow’s lunch, that is. Shall I have the “poisson” or the “saucisse”?


• Bridget McTague is a Juneau-Douglas High School student who is spending her junior year abroad in Cholet, France, as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange. Follow along with her travel adventures by reading her bimonthly column “Bridget Abroad” in the Juneau Empire.


Outside view of the cafeteria and the building where I have most of my classes on Sept. 7, 2018. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Outside view of the cafeteria and the building where I have most of my classes on Sept. 7, 2018. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Sunrise walking to the track for sports class on Sept. 18, 2018. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Sunrise walking to the track for sports class on Sept. 18, 2018. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Exchange students at my school participating in a scavenger hunt to explore Cholet, France on Sept. 14, 2018. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Exchange students at my school participating in a scavenger hunt to explore Cholet, France on Sept. 14, 2018. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Bridget McTague

Bridget McTague

More in Neighbors

Fred LaPlante is the pastor at the Juneau Church of the Nazarene. (Photo courtesy of Fred LaPlante)
Living and Growing: Be a blessing

Years ago, I learned a great acronym, B.L.E.S.S. “B” stands for “Begin… Continue reading

Salad ingredients ready to assemble. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Mexican corn and bean salad

Several years ago, I ate at a wonderful Mexican restaurant in Los… Continue reading

The interior of the Pipeline Skate Park on Dec. 7, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Neighbors briefs

Join interactive design meeting for Jackie Renninger Park on May 21 CBJ… Continue reading

A new online dictionary features Lingít, X̱aad Kíl, Shm’algyack and English. (Mircea Brown / Courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute)
Neighbors: Sealaska Heritage Institute debuts multilingual online Alaska Native dictionary with audio

Platform includes resources for Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian languages.

Brent Merten is the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Juneau, a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. (Photo courtesy of Brent Merten)
Living and Growing: Your room is waiting

Thursday, May 9, is a very special day. Although most calendars don’t… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Living and Growing: Twisting Scripture to suit themselves

Ever wonder why so many different people say so many different things… Continue reading

The Ward Lake Recreation Area in the Tongass National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service photo)
Neighbors: Public input sought as Tongass begins revising 25-year-old forest plan

Initial phase focuses on listening, informing, and gathering feedback.

Sister Sadria Akina, Elder Tanner Christensen and Elder Bronson Forsberg, all missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, collect litter on April 22, 2023, in the Lemon Creek area. It was their first time partaking in Juneau’s communitywide cleanup. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file photo)
Neighbors briefs

Annual Litter Free citywide cleanup on Saturday Saturday is set for Litter… Continue reading

Tortilla beef casserole ready to serve. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Tortilla beef casserole for Cinco de Maya

When my kids were growing up their appetites were insatiable. Every night… Continue reading

An aging outhouse on the pier extending out from the fire station that’s purportedly the only public toilet in Tenakee Springs in August of 2022. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Gimme a Smile: Is it artificial intelligence or just automatic?

Our nation is obsessed with AI these days. Artificial intelligence is writing… Continue reading

Adam Bauer of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Bahá’ís of Juneau.
Living and Growing: Embracing progress while honoring Our roots

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that we are… Continue reading

Maj. Gina Halverson is co-leader of The Salvation Army Juneau Corps. (Robert DeBerry/The Salvation Army)
Living and Growing: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Ever have to say goodbye unexpectedly? A car accident, a drug overdose,… Continue reading