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One exchange students own words

Océane Girault relates her experiences of the past five months as an NHS student


More than 5,200 miles, that’s how far I am from home. This is the distance between France, where my family, my friends and my roots are, and the United States, where I am a Rotary exchange student. My name is Océane Girault and it’s been five months now that I learned to live differently in a new country.

I came in the United States thanks to the Rotary. Rotary clubs are all around the world and are looking for a better understanding of the world. That’s the point of the Youth Exchange Program: allow youth to spend a year abroad with one or several host families, to discover a new culture and way of life, and give them a new way to see the world.by: GARY ALLEN - Far from home - Océane Girault will graduate in June and return to her native France, where she has one more year of high school.

Being an exchange student means so many things. It means living some of the greatest times of your life, but also dealing with the hardest. It means spending family time like Christmas with people you didn’t know a few months ago, and enjoying it because you now consider them a second family. It’s learning who your real friends are back home and making new ones that forever will be a part of your life. It means becoming a patriot and defending your home country with all your heart, forgetting for a moment its bad sides, because you’re so proud of where you are from. But it’s also being thankful to your host country because it welcomed you so well. And finally, to be an exchange student means discoveries, so many discoveries at every corner and any moment of your year. You will discover new places, new habits and differences.

I think that one the biggest differences between France and United States is school. My first day as a senior at Newberg High School, I came with movie stereotypes in my head. Cheerleaders, yellow buses and short school days — all of it was real. I was particularly amazed by the possibility to have time after school to enjoy, as French school is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

But I discovered much more than what I expected. Today, I know that teachers are here not only to teach but also to listen to their students. School doesn’t have to be boring if you organize things like assemblies or dances. And more than anything, spirit is the best way to link students.

I was so surprised to see all these students come support their sports teams and it’s amazing how everyone cheers and stands for their school colors.

It’s only the first half of the year and I hope the second one will be as full of experiences. I already know that as a senior, I will participate in graduation and even though I will only receive an honors diploma, I am as excited as the other students!

I still don’t know exactly when I am leaving, but what I know is that it is going to be really hard. I have too many memories here to not miss this place. And if France will always be where I am from, the United States will always be the country that I am proud to call my second home.

Sixteen-year-old Océane Girault is a native of Thouars, a town in the west of France about four hours away from Paris. In addition to attending NHS, she competes on the swim team and upon graduation from the Newberg school will return to France for her final year of high school. Upon graduation she would like to major in oriental studies in France or Great Britain




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