By: Jared McNair & Nicole Trinidad
Every year, students from halfway across the globe come to Valencia to participate in the Foreign Exchange Program. For approximately two weeks these, students are given the opportunity to get a taste of the Southern California lifestyle. The program offers an exciting experience for Tigers as well, providing a unique window into culture, language, and ideas of students from different countries. This year there were 26 students who arrived from Lyon, France.
The Foreign Exchange Program has been active for four years at VHS. While it is not school or district sponsored, the program was intended to be “a tremendous opportunity for our students to meet kids from another culture and to make friends with them, all the while showing them what life is like for teenagers in California” said organizer and Spanish teacher, Mr. Steven Picht. Students across all the foreign language classes were given the chance to host one or more of the exchange students and were introduced to them on February 13.
While on their visit, Tigers introduced the French students to a number of local hot spots in addition to experiencing the more casual life of everyday Southern California. Many of the students enjoyed going to Venice Beach and getting to bike under the sun. As well, they noticed the cultural differences, as Josephine noted, “In America, people are very kind, and you can talk to an unknown person. However, in France, you don’t necessarily see the same thing.” Tristan mentioned that “People in France are not afraid to give opinion and be blunt”. In terms of location, they noticed how the cars and roads were all different and in France, people enjoy going outside much more.
What they learned the most, besides improving their language, was how different California is from what they were used to and they were able to appreciate mixing cultures. Exposure to a whole different way of living was something so new and beautiful to be apart of. Noemie observed that, “In America, people are cozy, and accept the difference between people. In France, on the other hand, it is very difficult to accept other cultures or other religions.” From previous expectations, many of them realized the mental picture they made about America was actually confirmed when coming here and even better than what they expected.
While the French students gathered their own brand new experiences, our host students also learned more from housing them. Much of what they had to accomodate to was the language barrier. “When the students did not understand, I would think of ways to rephrase, which often solved the problem.” Anjali relayed. On another note, Ivanna explained “It was different because there’s a stranger in my house, I tried to make him feel comfortable”. However, they were able to see how much the exchange students were willing to try new things, making the stay much more enjoyable. got to take them places, and show them the lifestyle of an American high school student. Anjali described how “It was a lot of fun introducing them to new types of food, and their reaction of whether they liked it or not.” Furthermore, Ivanna enjoyed “becoming friends with him, [and] having my own cultural experience on when he liked.”
Overall, both the host and exchange students were able to enjoy the time spent with each other and teaching each other through new encounters and even getting to make a stranger into their friend. Hopefully with the exchange program integrated into Valencia’s foreign language department, more students will continue to have the pleasure of exploring beyond their own country.