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Language barriers broken to create lasting friendships

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Language barriers broken to create lasting friendships

Mason students and French students pose for a photo as they say goodbye. The exchange students left on November 5. (Photo credit to Tika Wallace)

Mason students and French students pose for a photo as they say goodbye. The exchange students left on November 5. (Photo credit to Tika Wallace)

Mason students and French students pose for a photo as they say goodbye. The exchange students left on November 5. (Photo credit to Tika Wallace)

Mason students and French students pose for a photo as they say goodbye. The exchange students left on November 5. (Photo credit to Tika Wallace)

Grace Tarpgaard

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Late last month, Mason said “bonjour” and welcomed exchange students from Alexandre David Neel School in Dignes-les-Bains, in the south of France. These students traveled to the U.S. to spend ten days with a host family and experience American culture.

From touring the Capital to shadowing their host students through a normal American school day, the exchange students did it all, and enjoyed the hospitality they received while here.

“The teachers and the people [were] really friendly and welcoming. The teachers didn’t make us feel different than American students,” said French exchange student Anissa Brun (17). 

Another French student, Emanuelle Chailan (17), also reflected positively upon her experience.

“I loved [the] Library of Congress. Also Halloween, Fields of Fear, school, everything. And the American food is very, very good.”

This time of year offered a unique opportunity for the French students to take part in a very American holiday, Halloween. The holiday was mostly unknown to the French students, but in the end most enjoyed the traditions of dressing up and going trick-or-treating. This was one of the many differences the students noticed between French and American culture.

“For lifestyle, the American people are more nice and welcoming, and the streets are cleaner, people don’t smoke. Everyone can dress as they want, the women can keep their hijabs, Indian women can keep their bindi. In France, they can’t do these things,” said Brun.

They also noticed smaller things such as our use of laptops in school, free admission into Smithsonian museums, and the moment of silence every morning in school.

The friendships created between the French and their host families while on this trip proved extremely beneficial on both ends.

Gillian Murphy, a sophomore and host to two exchange students, was nervous about the experience at first.

An American student and French students hug.

Gillian Murphy (center) hugs her exchange students Anissa Brun (left) and Emanuelle Chailan (right) while Brun holds a baseball as a souvenir from her trip. (Photo credit to Tika Wallace)

“Going into it, I was wary of having two strangers come into my life for a week, but it went better than I could have ever imagined. Every single one of the French students has been kind and funny, and more than happy to try and communicate in both French and English,” Murphy said.

She went on to explain how she navigated the language barrier and became more confident in her French skills throughout the experience. By learning more about French culture and explaining aspects of our everyday lives that were foreign to her exchange students, Murphy gained a whole new perspective on life in Falls Church.

“Working on our language skills together and discovering how similar we are even though we come from two very different countries was a bonding experience, one I didn’t necessarily anticipate, but that made this week so special,” Murphy said.

Mason students bid their French counterparts a tearful goodbye on Monday morning, November 5, in the Mason cafeteria. Though their time together was brief, the friendships created between these students from different cultural backgrounds will last a lifetime. Now French and American students alike are anxiously awaiting Mason students visiting France in the spring.

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Language barriers broken to create lasting friendships