Hi All! It’s Brooke. To summarize our first week with our French Exchange student, I have to be honest; it was not easy and not what I expected. Our student, Auriane, is extremely shy and introverted–probably the most shy person I’ve ever encountered in my entire life. At first I thought she was just probably terrified, but have come to see that besides the fear of being across the world from your family in a country where you barely speak the language, she truly is just a very timid person. I, on the other hand, am probably the most vocal, outgoing person, so our personalities really conflicted.
This became quite difficult for me. Everything I wanted to do, my exchange student did not enjoy. Where I wanted to bounce on trampolines, she preferred to silent read; where I looked forward to seeking adventure, she wanted to draw and relax. So not only could we barely communicate, we had nothing in common to communicate about. I was truly ready to give up. This wasn’t fair. This was not what I signed up for. I was done.
I was done, until the adults in my life stepped up to remind me that this experience wasn’t all about me, and I needed to look beyond myself and empathize with what Auriane was going through. My mom said everything in the universe happens for a reason and I need to learn a lesson from this.
What was the lesson? I couldn’t see it at first but think it’s finding common ground.
I had to think of something that we would both enjoy, that wouldn’t put Auriane too far out of her comfort zone, but was still exciting and fun–that’s when we thought of mini golf! Auriane had never done this before and was quite nervous, but when she saw that we were also terrible at this, she immediately relaxed. Rather than stressing about being accomplished at something, we laughed when the balls landed in the water, or ricocheted off the course. Yes, Auriane was laughing–major breakthrough!
After mini golf, we enjoyed an ice cream, which again was symbolic of the lesson we were both learning–when your ice cream topples, it’s your reaction that matters. You can pout and give up or you can smile, laugh, put life in perspective and grab another scoop!
Knowing Auriane loves to read, we decided to take her downtown to the bookstores. We bought her all of the books in a new series she loves. She was so thrilled and really appreciated us doing something that was special just for her.
I am so proud of Auriane for taking more risks. I know how hard this was for her. I am proud of myself too. I was ready to shut down, give up and view this experience as a negative one. Would we be best friends if she lived locally, perhaps not, but Auriane and I are finding out that while we are extremely different, there are so many things we can experience together if we are accepting of these differences and find a common ground.
With the support of the Share America program and the other exchange students from France, we are all trying to make Auriane have a wonderful experience here in the United States. Sometimes, in life, you have to put yourself out on a ledge and reach outside of your comfort zone–that’s exactly what we are doing!
4 thoughts on “Our French Exchange Student- Finding Common Ground”
Very cool post, Brooke, and thanks for going the extra mile for your exchange student! I was in her shoes 33 years ago and I remember how hard it was to adjust to life in the US, hardly speaking the language. And this in a time were I had to write letters home to communicate with my family and friends, as the occassional phonecall was unbelievable expensive. But I had a great family who tried their best to make me feel at home, and in the end it was one of the best years of my life and the reason I adopted the US as my second home country. Enjoy the experience and use it as a unique opportunity to grow yourself as a person! Marcus
Thank you so much. I’m hoping to have a similar opportunity abroad next summer!
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I am a French teacher and I have organized many exchange programs and experienced a couple myself. What you experienced is why we do this type of exchanges. To discover others while rediscovering ourselves and pushing our limits and boundaries. While I work in Senegal now for an International school, I am currently in Naperville visiting my in-laws with my wife and two daughters. We are going to scarved rock in a couple weeks following your other post and your advice. Merci et bonne aventure.
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Thank you for the inspirational words. Hope you enjoy your time here. How incredible to work in Senegal!