This is the next article in our series this year, ‘Opening our homes and minds: West Hartford’s AFS foreign exchange students and their host families.’
Interviewed and edited by Ruby Michtom, sophomore at Hall High School and AFS volunteer
Meet Garance Boucherie from Steenwerck, France. She is one of the AFS foreign exchange students living in West Hartford this school year.
Hi, Garance! Tell us about yourself.
I’m a senior at Conard this year, but I’m from the north of France, close to the border with Belgium, so we have a lot of Belgian culture. I live in a very rural part of France. I’m a musician and I play the flute and have been playing for around 12 years. Sport is a big part of life. I like visiting new places and I like spending time with my friends, especially doing sports. I like trying new food also.
Why did you want to be an AFS exchange student?
I had a path set out for me in life, and what I was supposed to do, but I wanted to forge a different path. I wanted to see new things and challenge myself, and I didn’t want to wait to be older or in college like people suggested for a year abroad. I want to discover who I want to be, and I think this is helping me a lot with that. I wanted to see a different perspective, a different possibility for how people live life.
What are the biggest cultural differences between France and here?
The biggest difference I noticed is that here people are more linked to technology. You use it for school and you have more social links through a phone. Where I live, we are not nearly as connected to technology. No one here would ever go somewhere without their phone. Another thing is that people give compliments a lot more than in France, they will say what they think about you.
What have you liked about Connecticut and West Hartford?
I really liked the fall, it was really pretty. I really like how open-minded it is here. I think it’s interesting how every culture is more respected. For example, in France no one ever asked me for my pronouns, but here people ask all the time. I love how it is so diverse here, at school, every teacher really seems to support every student.
What do you do outside of school here?
I did cross country in the fall, and then I did the school musical, Frozen, which was super fun. Now I have started tennis. I like having the sports linked to school because it’s the same people who you have classes with, and every day. Outside of school, I have visited a lot of museums and I’ve been to some musicals, which I didn’t see as much in France, there weren’t as many opportunities to see things like that. I’ve also been to some of the big U.S. cities, New York City and Washington D.C. I loved New York, it was like my American dream.
What would you like people reading this to know about:
France: France is a very diverse country, and a lot of people think only of Paris and the Eiffel Tower, but there is a lot of beautiful landscape too. You can go hiking in the Alps or sailing in Brittany. French people are also not mean like everyone seems to think, and people will really enjoy France.
Hosting an AFS exchange student: It’s an amazing experience, to essentially travel without leaving your home. When you host an exchange student, you learn about other cultures, and it opens your mind to how people live in other parts of the world. It shows you that your norm is not the only norm, or the norm for everybody else.
Being an AFS exchange student: It makes you grow in a way that you cannot prepare yourself for. It gives you an opportunity to meet so many amazing people and learn so much about everything, and to open so many new doors for yourself, and to make and know yourself better.
If you are interested in hosting an exchange student, or if your high-school aged student would like to participate in an AFS exchange, please contact Jamie Cohen at [email protected] or visit afsUSA.org.
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