French students belly danced, admired temporary henna tattoos, and tasted authentic Algerian treats in just 48 hours. When they weren’t experiencing north African culture, they bubbled in Scantrons, recited poetry, and played in instrumental groups.
Though it may seem as if they traveled to Morocco for a day, the 30 students were actually participants in the 49th Texas French Symposium, held April 5 – 6 at Sam Rayburn High School in Pasadena. This year’s theme was “Le Maghreb,” inspired by the formerly French-controlled countries of northwest Africa.
Though SJS has only participated in the Symposium once before, the team won second place overall out of thirty-five schools, many of which have attended for several years.
“I was so happy when I found out that our team had won second place,” French Teacher and Review Adviser Shelley Stein said. “The kids were great and so well prepared.”
Friday afternoon, students took standardized tests in grammar, vocabulary, French civilization, and listening. Thirty-four SJS students won medals or ribbons on these tests.
“One thing you know about St. John’s students — they’re great at taking tests,” sophomore Priyanka Jain said.
The students were chaperoned by French teachers Stein and Jaqueline Vest.
On Saturday, students competed in a variety of events, ranging from guided speaking to group drama to prose reading.
The beginning drama group, which consisted of four freshmen, won third place.
“The best part was performing our play successfully, even though we were initially worried about it,” freshman Alex Hammerman said. “We had a great group dynamic, though the girls in our group carried us through the practices. We came together for a strong finish.”
Students also submitted artwork to be judged. Senior Carly Rapp won third place for her Maghreb-inspired mint cake and assorted pastries, and sophomore Raina Zhang won fifth place for her pastel drawings.
“The artwork stood out as being particularly suggestive of the culture of Maghreb,” freshman Alex Daichman said.
The day ended with an awards ceremony. From over 800 attendees, three Mavericks placed in the top ten overall: Freshmen Mia Mirkovic and Sarah Bland won 5th and 6th place, respectively, and sophomore Gabe Bennett-Brandt placed seventh.
“It was a great experience. I loved the Symposium and everything about it… I felt so immersed in the culture, and I had so much fun,” Mirkovic said.
Many students also took home individual medals, including eight students who won first place in their respective categories.
A complete list of the award winners can be found here: https://www.sjs.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&nid=661300https://www.sjs.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&nid=661300.