An ocean away from their home, 17 students from Bakersfield’s French sister city, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, are in Bakersfield as part of the city’s exchange program.

Organized by the non-profit Bakersfield Sister City Project Corporation, the trip marked the second time the French middle and high school-age students traveled with American students from Bakersfield. In June, 12 students from local schools, including Fruitvale Junior High School, traveled to Saint-Jean-de-Luz where they were welcomed in open arms.

For the last week, the French students have stayed in the homes of their Bakersfield peers. The group’s itinerary included tourist attractions in Southern California like Universal Studios and Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Locally, the students visited Grimmway Farms, where they took part in a cooking class and learned about how food is grown. They also attended a Bakersfield College football game, met with Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh, and checked out the KGET-TV 17 News studios.

“It’s really different from our city in France, so we really enjoy it,” said 8th grade student Patricia Suarez.

She said she was most impressed with the people who she met on the trip.

“They are always very friendly and very helpful at all times. That shocked us the most,” she said.

Less than four months ago, Fruitvale Junior High School student Lulu Scott traveled to France with the American delegation. were welcomed with open arms.

“I’ve made a lot of close friends,” Scott said, pointing to a peer sitting next to her. “If you experience something new, you learn so much, it just opens your eyes to see different ways, different things. It’s just amazing to get to see everything,” she continued.

Suarez said she and the delegation are already discussing a potential return to the United States.

“We’re very happy to be able to visit this amazing country and we hope to be able to come back again.”

The 17 French students and their chaperones will depart from Fruitvale Junior High School Thursday morning.