The city of Saint-Omer, west of Lille and south of Calais. is at the entrance of the Audomarois marshes and wetlands recently named a UNESCO world heritage site. Flemish influences made it a major trading town by the 1300’s and by the 1600’s as an important seat of scholarly study. The College of Saint-Omer was established in 1593 to educate English Catholics. The Jesuit Chapel was built from 1615 to 1640. The restoration of the former Jesuit college chapel, which received a grant from French Heritage Society, is part of a larger cooperation project to renew educational and cultural links between France and the United States.
There were more American students at Saint Omer at the beginning of the 16th century than at Oxford. Three of America’s Founding Fathers were educated in Saint-Omer: Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, Daniel Carroll, one of only two Catholic signers of the Constitution, and John Carroll who became America’s first Catholic Bishop and founded Georgetown University.
300 years later, transatlantic exchanges still continue. Each summer, as part of an exchange program with the universities of Georgetown, Harvard, and Chicago, American students are able to take part in an internship program with Saint-Omer businesses and government services.