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UNITED: French students welcomed with open arms

by By RICHARD MAX NAPOTNIK JR., Gazette Student News Reporter on November 15, 2013 11:00 AM

ARMAGH — In the past, United High School has hosted foreign exchange students from around the globe.

These students have come from different countries to experience both United High School and the United States. Both this year and last year exchange students from France visited us.

This year three students from France joined our school from Oct. 12-25. They learned about American culture, and we, in turn, learned about French culture.

Our exchange students this year were Domitille Gourdin, Thomas Mainguy-Sourdin and Charline Place, and their host students were Haley Gajewski, Joey Naugle and Hayley Torok.

During their stay in the U.S., the French students stayed with the families of these United students.

Overall, the three host students from United were excited and a little bit nervous about having a foreign exchange student whom they had never met living in their homes.

When asked what they liked about the experience the most, Naugle and Torok both agreed that “Learning about French culture firsthand was the best part.”

Gajewski noted that she and her French student “went shopping, out to eat and to the zoo. We also went to a lot of sports events at United.”

Overall, the host students said that the experience was an unforgettable and very positive one.

The French students had interesting things to say about both the school and our country, as well.

When asked what her favorite thing about United was, Gourdin said, “I am surprised about the relationship between teachers and students and how friendly it is.”

Mainguy-Sourdin was asked what his favorite thing about America was, and he said, “The food in this country is very good.”

Place was asked what surprised her most about the United States, and she responded, “People here are very enthusiastic about sports and there is a lot of energy put in it.”

When asked what the most surprising thing they learned about America during their time here was, Place said, “I am surprised that sports are such a big deal here.”

Gourdin responded, “People here are very patriotic, which is a good thing.”

Mainguy-Sourdin said, “I was surprised at how friendly the people here were to us.”

James Dykun, the French teacher and coordinator for the exchange program, explained the program.

“We have an exchange with a city in France called Vannes, and the school the students are from is called Lycee Saint Paul. The program has been going on for many years.”

Dykun also noted that the exchange program “is a unique opportunity for United students to learn about different cultures and to meet people from those cultures. It also helps create an understanding of their part in the global community.”

The foreign exchange program is a great program for United to be a part of. Both students here and from other countries learn about different cultures and ideas.

They also are shown that in America we are — despite misconceptions the world has about us — a hospitable and generous people. In fact, all three French students were very grateful for the hospitality that both their host families and the students and teachers of United gave them.

Perhaps this is a simple step in changing the world’s view on America into a more positive one.

PHOTO:  Three students from France visited United High School from Oct. 12 to 25. From left are James Dykun, French teacher and coordinator for the exchange program; host student Haley Gajewski; exchange students Domitille Gourdin and Thomas Mainguy-Sourdin; host students Joey Naugle and Haley Torok; and exchange student Charline Place. (Submitted photo/United High School)

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