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French Exchange Student Visits McLean Household

McLean family and French exchange student discover each others' cultures through World Exchange Program.

Gus Anderson and Deborah Crouse of McLean have hosted a French exchange student, Alice Vannier, over the past three weeks.

“I’ve just always been interested in having an exchange student and we saw an ad in the paper and decided to try it,” said Anderson.

Vannier, a 17-year-old Paris native, has been studying English for four years and just graduated from high school. Some of her hobbies include riding horses, playing tennis, dancing, going out with friends and “being a regular teenager.” She has traveled the United States previously, but this was her first time staying with a

family.

“I’ve felt like I was at home here. My family was so welcoming and nice to me,” said Vannier. “They reminded me of my family in France.”

During the visit, Vannier and her host family participated in many different activities such as a trip to New York City and Times Square, going to Chincoteague Island, the Supreme Court in Washington,

D.C. (Vannier is considering law school), canoeing, and going to art museums. However, among all of these various activities, Vannier’s favorite was meeting with other teenagers in the area. Vannier’s impression of people in the United States is that, generally speaking, they are friendlier than people in France.

“American people are sillier and nicer and always very cool. They will just say ‘hi’ to someone they don’t know on the street. That doesn’t happen in France,” she said.

The host family noted a few differences between France and the United States.

“Alice is so much more fluent than most American students who have had four years of language. French schools are more intensely immersed in the language,” said Crouse.

“She was pretty sophisticated for her age,” said Anderson. Crouse added that they always had interesting conversations about politics, religion and philosophy.

Vannier also missed her home cooking. “America is great but not the food. French food is much better,” she said.

The French government has been opposed to the war in Iraq and so Anderson found Vannier’s views on politics interesting. Vannier was very interested in the Democratic National Convention and Kerry’s campaign.

Throughout the exchange, Vannier and her host family have learned new things about each other’s culture that might not have been possible without the exchange.

“I would absolutely recommend others to participate in an exchange program. It is such a rewarding experience. You share your family and knowledge with another person and you get such a wonderful feeling back. You also get to know people from other cultures who normally you wouldn’t get to meet,” said Crouse.

“I’ve always been interested in other cultures and this was a delightful experience.”

Anderson liked being able to see America through a foreigner’s eyes.

“Seeing her reactions to American culture and politics was very interesting,” he said. “Exchange programs are fantastic opportunities. From this program I got a glimpse of French culture.”

For an exchange student, the act of living with a family is one of the most informative experiences of them all. Vannier said, “America is just so different than France. I love the whole mentality of the U.S.A.”

The World Exchange Program, which has been functioning since 1985, provides opportunities for high school students ages 15-18 to travel to America to live with an American family. The countries students come from are France, Spain, Japan and Turkey, to name a few. The majority of the participants, however, are French.

The regional program director of the World Exchange Program, Wendy Ahart, said, “Really anybody interested in other cultures should participate in an exchange. It is the opportunity to experience life in another culture in the comfort of your home.”

Anyone interested in hosting an exchange student for next year may contact Wendy Ahart at 703-406-4229.