French foreign exchange students visit, learn about culture

By staying with host families in Souderton, French exchange students got a taste of everyday life in the U.S. from February 18-28.


Tara Dubois

Oh là layup…Watching a Philadelphia 76ers game on February 27, freshman Sophie Dubois (left) and French foreign exchange student Yasmine Yezid enjoy a classic American pastime.

To learn more about American schools and culture, French foreign exchange students stayed with Souderton host families and shadowed high school students throughout the month of February. After over 20 years of Alan Kane’s Student Exchanges program, the program is back from a three-year hiatus caused by COVID-19. According to French teacher Sally Cushmore, the program is a great opportunity for not only the French foreign exchange
students but also the host families. “I think it really encourages people to think outside of the Souderton mindset,” Cushmore said. The Student Exchanges program provided an opportunity for French students from Collège-Lycée Jean XXIII, a private Catholic middle school, to travel to America and “see what American life is really like,” Cushmore said. Freshman Sophie Dubois hosted a 14-year-old French foreign exchange student for 10 days during February. “I think it was beneficial,” Dubois said. “I learned more French and she really helped me with my pronunciation.”
According to Dubois, after spending the 10 days living with her exchange student, they had formed such a bond that it was like they were “sisters.” The cultural and academic learning went both ways. “It definitely helped her with her English and her grammar,” Dubois said. “My dad is French so he could communicate and help her.” The program had a positive influence on many of the students, including 14-yearold French foreign exchange student Yasmine Yezid. “It’s easy because someone else finds the host families for you, so you don’t have to do anything,” Yezid said. “I would 100%
recommend it.” For Yezid, the hardships that come with traveling abroad to a new country without her family dissolved when she met her host family. “My host family is doing their best to welcome me,” said Yezid. “They’re so considerate.” Most years, the program works both ways in the sense that after the French students come in the fall, American students get the chance to travel to France in the summer. Although this is often the case, due to COVID-19, the requirements regarding the number of students traveling were not met, meaning that American students will not be able to travel to France this summer. “I feel bad for the kids,” Cushmore said. “This might have been their only opportunity to travel like this.” Occasionally, a lack of host families participating compared to the number of exchange students arises and the students have to be paired up with French teachers. Although there is no control over this, Souderton ultimately aims to avoid this. “We want to put the students with American families that have students their age,” Cushmore said. According to Cushmore, it can make the move easier for the exchange students to have people their age that they can relate to. “If they get emotional, it can be hard,” Cushmore said, “dealing with emotions in a different language and all.” Although scary at first, the vulnerable state that traveling abroad can put French exchange students in has actually been known to deepen the connection between students and their host families. “A lot of people make really good friends for life as a result,” Cushmore said.