By Lily McKenna (Social Media Manager) and Halie Childress (Layout Editor)
For the 2018-2019 school year, Nease has a few exchange students from around the world. They have experienced things differently than us Nease-natives; however, they’re also normal kids just like all of us.
We decided to interview one of these students to learn about their experiences when moving to a whole new country. In addition, we have some tips on how to better welcome an exchange student to our school.
Joris Louvier, a French exchange student who is currently attending Nease for his junior year, decided to share some thoughts about his experience with the Rotary exchange program. His family isn’t new to the exchange program, as his older brother spent a year in Texas through it. They come from a French state (or “department”) in the French Alps called Haute-Savoie that borders Italy and Switzerland. Due to the geography of Europe, it’s not uncommon for many countries to border one another, creating an interesting cultural mix. This particular area, though not full of palm trees and ninety-degree weather, has its fair share of unique traits. Since it is in the Alps, temperatures can get down to -15°F; of course, it can reach the 80s in the summer, but the Florida humidity is still suffocating in comparison.
In France, the rooms are smaller and the language is only similar in terms of alphabet. Their traditions and values are decidedly much different than ours here in America. A greeting is a standard kiss on both cheeks, and food is a large part of the identity. After Joris expressed an extreme dismay for American cheese and bread, I asked him his reasons for making the very big trip to America. “There are many reasons,” he began, “but travel, meeting new people, and figuring out what I want to do in the future are the biggest ones.” Though the exchange presents an abundance of opportunity, it does have a learning curve. So far, I’ve had to explain what Build-A-Bear is to him. A large room of teddy bear corpses and Frankenstein stuffed animals must sound very strange to an outsider.
Recently cast in the fall play, Joris has already integrated himself at his new school. His character, initially written as a British man, was completely re-done as French to fit his accent, and he brings an incredible talent to our school. After pursuing his hobbies in France for many years, he decided to engage in them here as well. Though they don’t grow up here, many exchange students can be easily compared to an average kid who has. Joris told me, “I’m just trying to live like a normal American,” and so far, he is doing a perfectly fine job. He likes memes, finds the fact that his host brother constantly flexes on Snapchat a bit odd, and really hates Minions. Unfortunately, the small yellow demons managed to invade Europe. And, even though the croissants we have here don’t compare to those in France, they aren’t so bad.
The host family that has taken Joris in for the year, that of senior Jonah Paxton, has been wonderful in acclimating him to a whole new country. Though he misses his family and friends back home in France, it isn’t always easy to contact them due to time zone differences and schoolwork. “I can’t enjoy what I am doing here if I am always on my phone, talking to [family in France],” Joris says. “But they understand that. It cost a lot of money to make this exchange possible, so I’m gonna try my best to live it as much as I can.”
For now, he’s focusing on taking as much of America in as he can for the short year he has here. He knows time will fly, but is extremely grateful to have the opportunity to have this experience at such a young age. After our lunch interview wrapped up and I was on my way to 5th period, my phone lit up. It was Joris. “I forgot…I really miss baguettes.”
Joris is just one of the exchange students at Nease and as students of Nease High School it is our job to welcome them. They are new to the country and they probably don’t know anyone, which can be pretty daunting. Here are some tips on how to make an exchange student feel more welcome!
1. Give them a warm welcome.
If they do not say “Hi” first, then introduce yourself. Break the barrier, and make sure you smile so you seem welcoming. Ask for their name, and if it is hard to pronounce, ask politely how to say it and try repeating it until you understand. It’s important that they keep their culture with them!
2. Find out about their interests.
Inquire about things such as their hobbies and what their favorite subjects in school are. Ask questions that you would anyone when trying to get to know them; who knows, maybe you will even find some common interests.
3. Introduce the exchange student to you friends.
Tell the exchange student your friends’ names interests, etc. This will invite more possible friendships to the exchange student.
4. Include the them in activities.
You can include them by inviting them to sit with you at lunch, to school games, or to other activities inside and outside of school. Hang out with them and show them around their new home for the year!
5. Inform them on activities at the school.
Tell them about when games, theatre shows, and other cool events are. Tell them about sports and cool clubs they may be interested in, too. With over 50 clubs at Nease, they are bound to find something that piques their interest.
6. Give them tips about the school.
Tell them about things only students, teachers, and faculty at Nease would know about. For example, if they are going to the portables, tell them about the “one way only” hall that is quicker to use. Even little tips that may not seem helpful to you could help them out tremendously.
7. Be open and ready to help if needed.
Make sure that you are there for the exchange student if they need you, and make sure you make it clear that you are available to help them anytime. Remember: you may be a pro at being an American, but this is all new to them!
It is so much fun to learn about an exchange student and the country they come from. Remember, an exchange student is a high school student just like you. They may be different or have been born and raised in another country than ours, but that doesn’t mean that you have to treat them any differently than you would your friends that are from America. Meeting kids involved in the exchange program has been a wonderful experience. We can’t wait to see what this school year brings both us and our new Nease students from around the world!
Cover Photo Credit: Lily McKenna
Sources: “Student Tips:Going to High School” and Wikihow “How to Welcome a New Kid”