Westwood Hosts French Exchange Students


Abrean Smith, Writer

Nineteen students from Montpellier, France were assigned to stay in the homes of Westwood students in the French program. The French students stayed from Tuesday, March 26 to Monday, April 1, and had one weekend to spend with the Westwood students. These students got to experience the daily life of a Westwood student and had the opportunity to try new foods and see new places.

During their stay, the French students “shadowed” Westwood students to see what the American school system is like. With help of Mr. Welfel, the Westwood students also organized events such as a potluck, pizza party, and a trip to Ellis Island for their pen-pals. Over the weekend, students had the opportunity to take their French students to their favorite activities such as shopping at Garden State Plaza or ice-skating at Fritz Dietl.

By participating in this exchange, Westwood students got to experience what it would be like to speak to someone completely in French. They got to see what it would be like to speak in an entirely different language on a daily basis, as well as practice their French speaking skills. This proved to be very difficult, but it showed students what it was to fluently speak the French language.

As someone who hosted a French student, I tried to think of things to do that my penpal has never done before. I wanted her to have a good experience, especially since it was her first time in America. Since she had never been to an arcade before, I took her to Dave & Busters, where she won candy, a stuffed toucan, and earrings. We also did a lot of shopping in stores such as Forever 21, H&M, Sephora, and Footlocker. Most of these stores my French student Dounia recognized.  

Another day, I took her ice skating. She and I had to keep helping my sister up when she fell on the ice and she even held my little sister’s hand to help her skate. It almost felt like she was part of the family. Afterwards, we all walked to Pompilios to have some pizza.

During this experience, I learned about the differences between French and American culture. For example, every time two French students greeted each other, or said goodbye, they would kiss each on the cheek – in America that may seem strange. It was interesting to see how people my age act around their friends.

This experience was also a little awkward at some points as well. The language barrier made it very difficult to understand each other sometimes. It was difficult to translate everything that was said to her in English, especially since I am still learning French. It was also difficult to think of things to talk about or do when we were at home. She was not very interested in video games and it was hard to teach her to play the card games I know.

Nevertheless, this is still something that I would do again. It allowed me the opportunity to not only meet someone new, but further introduce me to an entirely different culture that I barely knew anything about. I enjoyed giving Dounia a unique experience that I will cherish for a lifetime.