The Best of Both Worlds

On April 4, 28 students and two teachers travelled across the Atlantic ocean to visit the United States. For the past eight years, Madame Nathalie Gaut, CHS French teacher, has been exchanging students from France and introducing them to American culture for three weeks.

It was eight years ago that she first developed an interest in starting an exchange program.

“I called the embassies to try to find teachers in France, and finally the embassy in Atlanta called me back,” said Gaut. “I got in touch with the teacher, and I met her in France, and we decided we could work together.”

Every year Gaut has to find 28 families willing to host the French exchange students, and then the host families have priority to go to France the following year.

“You really learn about the culture… you get to live with a family and learn the language, but you also learn the culture,” said Gaut.

Cultural differences are a big part of going from one country to another; exchange student Emma
Reglin talked about how different school is here.

“It is less strict. We can wear anything we want,” said Reglin. Exchange student Marie Gagnant talked about the clothing rules in America versus in France.

“In France, when we wear shorts with a sweatshirt, everyone just thinks really bad of that,” said Gagnant.

Gagnant agreed that the rules in school are much more rigid in France.

“Our teachers are much more strict, we can’t use our phones, we can’t eat,” said Reglin. She added that it wasn’t too difficult to adjust to speaking a new language.

“We always find a way to explain what we want to say, even if we don’t know the word,” said Reglin.

Many exchange students found that their favorite part of the trip was the people that they met and how well they got along with their host families.

“[It was ] maybe too good because now it is too hard to go back to France,” said Reglin.

The host families of these students had may hopes and fears as these students arrived in Chapel Hill.

“I was worried they were going to hate me or be mean to me or not have a good time,” said host sibling Fiona Galinsky, sophomore.

Isabel Simmons, also a CHS sophomore, talked about how much she was going to miss her new friend.

“We have gotten so close. Lisa [exchange student] and I shared a room and so it was really fun,” said Simmons, “Every night before we went to bed, we’d talk about her boyfriend, the boy I like, and what happened that day.

It was really cute and fun, and I’m going to be really sad when she’s gone.”

This year’s French exchange students with their hosts