The French Exchange

O'Neal Students Sarah McInnis and Andrew Phan
            “Qu’est-ce que signifie ‘apprivoiser’? »
            “C’est une chose trop oubliée,” dit le renard. “Ça signifie « créer des liens. »”
            This quote from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry can be translated as:
“What is the meaning of ‘to tame or to win over’?” “It is something too often
 forgotten,” said the fox. “It means to create ties.” The French exchange program between Collège St. Michel of Bourgoin-Jallieu and The O’Neal School of Southern Pines, NC creates those ties. There have been five exchanges since the start of the program. Recently, French students from St. Michel came to America from February 6-22, 2015, to experience the American way of life and also to allow O’Neal students to be exposed to the French language and culture. The students that came to O’Neal were Aymeric Cuilleret, Délia Manzo De Zuniga, Hugo Saillard, Léa Piccolo, Luisa Grebici, Margaux Janson, Rémi Guenet, Romain Dieu-Guillot, Titouan Oger, and Victor Gauthier. They were hosted by Ally Baldelli, Andrew Lewis, Calli McIntyre, Caylee Neidenthal, James Edward Taylor, Juliana Grimm, Nolan Meese, Reese Dickerhoff, and Walker Bell. The exchange program is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the people involved got to see America through another pair of eyes.

“Courage might be defined as either the ability or the willing choice to draw upon inner strengths in order to face something that is frightening or challenging, be it an emotional or physical challenge. Certainly to choose to leave the security of one’s home to venture to an unknown experience requires a certain level of courage,” according to our own Madame Cagle. Courage was demonstrated by the French exchange students, their hosts, and the host families. To start, the French students shadowed their hosts in hopes of adapting to the American middle school experience. After following their host students around for the first three days, the French students went off on their own adventures. They went to the following classes: art and theater, but they mainly focused on science class in order to prepare for their Science Olympiad Competition with Mr. Boyd Grayson. Not only did the French students experience the American school life, but they were also immersed in our Southern lifestyle. Some of the places the exchange students visited were our country’s capital, Washington, D.C.; Asheville, North Carolina; Paraclete XP Sky Adventure; Wilmington, NC; and skiing in the mountains. To summarize their experiences, two days before their departure, the French students were asked the following questions: “What were your favorite American foods?” “What three words would you use to describe your host families?” Rémi, Hugo, and Victor all agreed hamburgers were their favorite food, while Luisa, Délia, and Léa liked Chick-fil-A better. Margaux, Titou, Délia, and Aymeric, all had different tastes and liked cheese fries, Philly cheese steaks, grits, and chicken wings. In addition, even though they all used different words, they all described their host families as nice, funny, and generous. Whether or not the French students are in America or France, they will always remember the friendships they made during their visit and the courage it took to make the trip.

"Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness,” said Napoleon Hill. Even though the exchange created a life-long bond between the hosts and French students, the host students had to adapt to living with another family member, and, likewise, the host families had to adapt to the French students. Neither could be selfish; both had to make some sacrifices. By combining the French student’s schedule with the host student’s, it made the hosts become more responsible and better with time management. The Friday before the exchange students left, the hosts answered two questions: “When and where did you truly connect with your exchange student?” “What was your first impression of him or her?” All of the host families connected with their exchange students during the first major activity done together. The hosts basically all said that their first impression was that the French students were short, polite, and shy. Even though they had to balance a lot, both French students and hosts were able to create friendships they know will last forever.

 “A family is a little world created by love.” The author of this quote is unknown, but it applies to the exchange.  The host families took on the responsibility of having to house another child, and this experience taught them to enjoy the simple pleasures in life and to understand that even though the students came from different backgrounds, they were still just teenagers. The host families found that even though language caused some complications, it was nice to establish a relationship with a foreign student. When they were interviewed, they were asked two questions: “What was the hardest part?” What was their first impression?” Overall, the parents agreed the hardest part was trying to fill the needs and expectations of the students and to know if the exchange students needed or wanted something. Most of their first impressions of the French students were that they spoke English well and that they were all very enthusiastic about coming to America. While language was a barrier, taking in another child was an experience the host families will cherish forever.

 “I will always love my American sister,” said Margaux Janson. Through this experience, bonds were created that will last a lifetime. The French students got to experience many different aspects of American culture such as food, architecture, wildlife, and strong student/teacher relationships. The exchange was also a good way for the O’Neal French students to experience a small portion of the French way of life. Being a host or an exchange student is a once in a lifetime experience. Each person will have cherished memories to hold on to forever, and friendships and a second family that they will always love and remember.
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The O’Neal School
3300 Airport Road
Southern Pines, NC 28387

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