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Exchange student visit rewarding

By: Amanda Calzada, Placer Herald Correspondent
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What is that called?” he asked in his crisp French accent. “Sidewalk,” I said. “Ohh, sidewalk,” he repeated slowly, savoring the word. There is no experience quite comparable to that of exchanging languages with someone from a different country, while walking down the streets of Hollywood in the summer. Likewise, there is no experience comparable to that of hosting a foreign exchange student. Last summer, I had the opportunity to host a foreign exchange student through the American Discovery Foreign Exchange program and experienced a real cultural connection in my own house. My student was Robin, a 17-year-old youth from a southern region of France called Savoie, who studied scientific subjects. His command of English was so strong; he could express his every thought clearly. All of the cultural projects I had completed in my foreign language classes did not even reveal half the culture he brought into my family’s home. Originally, I didn’t think participation in American Discovery was something my parents would consider. I vaguely remember scribbling my name down on a sheet along with my phone number and passing the paper to the next person. Mrs. Marilyn Brown had come in to present information about hosting a foreign exchange student through American Discovery. She said that if you couldn’t go to Europe that summer, she could bring Europe to you. She was right. The entire responsibility was not bad at all: the students stay for three weeks. They arrive with their own spending money, and they are required to abide by household rules during their stay. They just want to be integrated into an American household for three weeks to experience our culture and improve their English. As a foreign language enthusiast, hosting a foreign exchange student was the ultimate reward. And even those who aren’t foreign language enthusiasts like me relished the adventures shared “between the ‘Ricans and French,’” as Robin would put it. Having a foreign exchange student is fun, but having a friend host a student is even better. At the last minute, I talked one of my friends into hosting a foreign exchange student and her decision not only made unforgettable memories, but also made our friendship stronger. From Six Flags to San Francisco to Sun Splash, American Discovery also plans trips for the students and invites the families to join them. Plus, if the students felt like they were forgetting their French, they had an automatic friend. Perhaps one of the most memorable parts of the students’ stay was hearing them say how much they loved California and the promising future it offers. The majority of the students had already selected universities in the U.S. to attend after finishing their years at the lycée (high school). Even though Robin and the other French students’ stay was only three weeks, the entire experience is continuous, as the host families and French students are friends on Facebook and plan to visit each other again. In the meantime, I am looking forward to sharing worlds again with Robin this summer, as he is returning to California. Those interested in hosting a student can contact Mrs. Marilyn Brown at mlgbrown@yahoo.com or (916) 315-8451 or visit americandiscovery.net. Dates for the French students are July 10-30 and July 30-August 19 (with a tour of California during the second week).