Language & Friendship program opens doors

By: Daphne Becker

My stomach started to stir watching the greyhound bus pull into the McDonalds parking lot. I held up a sign with the name of a person I had never met, a person who now would be living with me for the next month. I barely spoke her language, and I had no idea what to expect.

I found out about Language and Friendship in my French 2 class sophomore year. Something about the whole thing really intrigued me, and I begged and begged to do it.

My parents originally wanted nothing to do with it. They had heard all these awful horror stories about foreign exchange students coming and being total pains, but this would only be four weeks. If she was awful, we would only have to live with her for four weeks.

The first time I met Melanie, it was kind of awkward. She had been awake for somewhere around 36 hours and neither my family nor her knew what we were supposed to do or say, so because I’m a big softy, I went in for a hug. What I forgot was that she was used to the customary cheek kiss. I think you all can imagine what a trainwreck that was.

The car ride home we tried to ask her a few questions like was she hungry and how was the trip, but from exhaustion she was in no place to really hold a conversation in a language foreign to her.

When we got home, we discovered she had brought us gifts from her home country to greet us with. Tired and delighted, we each took these sweet offerings as a good sign.

The rest of the month flew by. Before I knew it, Melanie became one of my best friends. We did live together after all. She was funny and energetic, and I can’t even tell you how many guys I had ask me if I could give them her number. Yeah, like she’s going to text you from France.

The night before my 16th birthday on June 25, we stayed up late watching movies. It was exactly two weeks before she was going to leave. It felt like she had been there forever in a good way, and I didn’t want her to go. The moment the clock struck 12, she ran up the stairs to her room and brought me a necklace with the letter D on it for Daphne. She had the matching M.

I have countless memories with Melanie from this summer, but this one I know I will never forget.

Not all experiences having a foreign exchange student live with you are going to be great, and I am very willing to say that I know that I had an unique experience with Melanie. She is truly one in a million, but for some of these students, this is the trip of a lifetime, and it is an opportunity to show people a different side of America that they don’t see in the movies.

Not only did Melanie learn new things, but we did too. Not much French, but the whole point of them coming is to learn English not teach French, and I learned what is different culturally. Having her come made it clear to me that I want to pursue French in my future and can hopefully speak to Melanie fluently without accidentally saying the word for condom instead of jam.

Language and friendship provided me with an experience I will never forget, and for that I am extremely grateful.

I highly recommend anyone interested in hosting this summer to do so. There are a mix of French and Spanish speaking students coming to the United States who would love to have a place to stay. If anyone might be interested, I suggest talking to your language teacher or going on the language and friendship website [ http://languageandfriendship.com/]. Also, if you want to know more about my time having a French exchange student and how it impacted my life, feel free to email me at my personal email beckrdaphne@gmail.com.

I left Melanie just how I met her, standing in a McDonald’s parking lot next to a greyhound bus, but this time I was crying and saying goodbye to a best friend.

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