French Teens Explore U.S. Culture

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Bob Herbert -- The Rampage From left to right: French exchange students Sarah Desmet and Marie Dhalluin, sophomore Grace D’Almeida and French teacher Sani Adamou work on a computer in the Media Center during one of the scheduled shadow days at RHS for the students during their visit.

Over 30 students traveled from Lille, France to visit RHS and local region from Feb. 4 to 12. The students came with the intent of gaining a first-hand experience of American culture and teaching their host families about French culture.
The French students toured D.C., where they visited the Natural History, Air and Space and American History museums, the White House and several monuments. The students also visited Baltimore, where they shopped and explored Fort McHenry.
“I loved the White House because in France we saw it on TV so to see it for real was very interesting,” exchange student Estelle Wavrant said.
The exchange students also shadowed their host siblings at RHS. This was one of the greatest culture shocks for all the French students, who said American high schools are different from theirs.
In France, students’ days start at 6 a.m. and do not end until 6 p.m. Each class period is an hour long and students also follow a strict dress code. They are not allowed to eat during class or use their phones during school hours.
“School here is really different from France and I think in France, we are more strict. There are more rules and I think that it was really a surprise to see how different it is from France,” exchange student Sarah Desmet said.
Over the weekend of Feb. 6, the hosts took their students out to see different parts of the D.C. area. Junior Maya Kim took Desmet shopping at Montgomery Mall and Rio and went bowling with other French students and their hosts. Sophomore Julien Taupenot took exchange student Th o Volckaert to Georgetown and Rockville Town Square. Volckaert said he was especially impressed with the size of the Rockville Memorial Library.
While in America, the French students were encouraged to speak English at all times. Volckaert said that while this was challenging for him, he was willing to try.
“I would like to improve my English so I was okay with that. I was really excited about getting to practice my English,” Volckaert said.
Both the host students and the French students enjoyed their time together.
“I think I learned more in a week than I ever could in a classroom. The language from person to person is so much more different and intimate than what you learn from a textbook. I talk to my exchange student every day since they’ve left as well as the other kids and we are already planning to stay with them in August,” sophomore Grace Da��Almeida said.