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Hosting a French Exchange Student: Part 1!

Hosting a French Exchange Student: Part 1!

NarniaSparks is writing a short series on hosting an exchange student, and if her French skillz are any indication, things are going to get très interesting around here!—Sparkitors

"What? It'll be fun," I say to my friend, who's sitting next to me with a horrified expression on her face. I put my name down on the sign-up sheet and pass it to—oh yeah, no one else wants it; my classmates recoil at the sight of the paper. Signing up to host a French exchange student for two weeks should be no biggie, right? I scoff at their wariness and hand the sheet to my exuberant French teacher, who, by the way, has quite a back story (it involves natural disasters and unique forms of transportation). Only two names are on the sign-up sheet.

That was three months ago. Now, I've spoken to Anne-Lise through Facebook, and you know those ridiculous "You are writing to your French exchange student and want to tell her about the weather," activities in your workbooks? That is exactly how these real-Internet conversations go. By that, I mean: they are incredibly awkward. Imagine getting an email written as if it's for a job interview, with the names are written in ALL CAPS, à la internet translation services.  Oh, workbooks, how you have failed me! You've trained me to be socially awkward in Francophone environments. It's not like I need any help in the awkwardness department. In fact, I am overstocked! Thank you, Discovering French textbook.

I signed up for this program three months ago, when that cautious (read: boring) cricket in my brain was hibernating during the insanely cold winter months. Now it's warming up, and Henry, my conscience cricket, is yelling "NarniaSparks! Why didn't you think this through?"

It was last week, talking to my sister, when I really realized how bad this could all be.

Sister: So, what's her name?
Me: Anne-Lise.
Sister: What does she like to do?
Me: Uh...well, she liked "Hey, Arnold!" and "Basketball" on Facebook a couple days ago.
Sister: Is she smart? Does she like to read? What kind of music does she like?
Me: Well, you see, you would not believe how hard it is to find a good word for "band" on Google Translate.
Sister: *Stony stare*
Me: *Cringe*
Sister: You know you're screwed, right?
Me: Yeah.

Communication isn't be a piece of quiche with us, and that's when we have time to think about what we're writing. How will we speak when we're face-to-face? (Unless, of course, we have our computers present during all conversations and we don't mind a five-minute exchange becoming a miserable hour-long conversation.)

She'll be here tomorrow night, so I've been paying more attention in French class than ever before. Now that I've finished commending myself on my adventurousness, some of my friends' worries are sinking in. What if I don't like her? What if she's mean? What if she knows absolutely no English? What if I know no French? What if she forgets what side of the road we drive on and gets RUN OVER?

To calm myself down, I think of how great it could be. Being as awkward as I am, the most calming activity I could come up with was making this list.
1. I'll learn about another culture.
2. I'll get to practice my French.
3. I'll get to say, "Pardon my French!" and it will be PUNNY! (But will she get it?)
4. If she speaks English and I speak French, we'll survive. After all, my parents are immigrants; I am an expert in Butchered English.
5. I get to skip school for field trips. (Jealous?)
6. I'll get to find out how a French person feels about spray cheese. At the moment, my money is on "appalled."

There is hope for this exchange yet! And if that hope is ripped into a million pieces by mispronounced Rs and dog-eared French-to-English dictionaries, well, at least it's only for two weeks.

P.S. Does anyone know a good word for "nerd" in French?

This is going to be GREAT, we can just feel it. Have you ever hosted an exchange student?

Related post: The Dos and Don'ts of Hosting An Exchange Student

Topics: Life
Tags: awkward situations, french, culture shock, france, cultural understanding, exchange students, exchange student, speaking french

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