French Exchange Broadens World View

Sarada Symonds, Staff Writer

21 French exchange students stayed with host families in the Lamorinda area from April 27 to May 10 in order to explore the Bay Area and experience American culture, including the school system.

The “correspondents,” as they refer to themselves, all came from Paris, the capital of France, or its surrounding suburbs, according to French student Mahla Maryam.

The Parisians and their hosts took trips to San Francisco to visit attractions such as Alcatraz Prison and Pier 39. The students also attended school with their host families.  Most of the host families included high school age students enrolled in French language courses.

Maryam, one of the visiting French students is staying with senior Caroline Bell, who is currently in the French 4 class at Campolindo. Bell signed up for the program several months ago. “I wanted to practice my French, and learn about a different culture. I thought it would be a learning experience,” she said.

Maryam believes that Bell is a great host. “You don’t feel like you’re away from home. Because of Caroline’s family, it feels like home,” she said.

Maryam also commented on the differences between French and American schools. According to Maryam, in France school begins at 8 in the morning and lasts until 6 in the evening. Students must also attend school on Saturday, unless they attend a private school.

“The French schools are more strict. You are not allowed to eat, listen to music, talk, or leave class without permission from authority. It’s a lot more relaxed here,” explained Maryam. She also felt that students at Campolindo were more involved with clubs and extracurricular activities, especially since French schools don’t offer sports or other after school programs.

Maryam is staying in a guest bedroom in Bell’s home. Bell said, “She’s been so nice, and she brought us presents when she came. Her English is also really good. She eats dinner with my family. She talks to my mom a lot because my mom speaks French too.”

Maryam enjoyed her trip. “It’s a great experience. First, you can meet other people, improve your English level, and see what it’s like to be an American teen going to high school,” she said.

Senior Laura Gustafson is also hosting a French student. She said, “I thought it would be a good experience to improve my French language and culture.”

French teacher Ed Willy introduced his students to the exchange program during class. “There are so many things that are beneficial about the program. The visiting students get more out of it than the hosts. Every opportunity you get to exchange with someone from another culture changes your world view,” he said.