Foreign exchange students fitting right in
by Jack Deming
Oct 03, 2013 | 2849 views | 0 0 comments | 84 84 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Exchange students Tristan Delacour and Henriette Aas.
Exchange students Tristan Delacour and Henriette Aas.
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WILMINGTON- When Tristan Delacour and Henriette Aas decided to study abroad in the United States, they never expected they would end up in Vermont. Now over a month into studies at Twin Valley High School, Delacour, from Versailles, France, and Aas, from Tonesberg, Norway, have found their niche playing soccer, and an ability to relax in classes three times smaller than those they attended in Europe.

Delacour and Aas both have family members who lived in the United States, and each wanted to follow in their footsteps. Aas’ mother lived in New York state when she was 18, and Delacour’s older brother had studied in the United States. “I wanted to come to this country to discover something special during my teenage years,” said Delacour. “I wanted to do something out of the normal and learn a new language.”

Aas came to the United States after ordering brochures and signing up with a group called Explorias. A sponsor family that happened to be in Wilmington then chose Aas. “I always wanted to go to America, and get a high school experience here,” said Aas. “When I first heard I was going to Vermont I was, like, where is that? I had never heard of it but it’s really nice, and now that it’s fall, the trees are really beautiful.”

Delacour is in the United States as part of the International Rotary Club’s foreign exchange student program. The program randomly selects where to send students and Delacour was sent to the southern New Hampshire and Vermont district, and then to the home of Christa and John Gannon in Wilmington, through the Deerfield Valley chapter. The Gannons had no say in whom they would be picking up from Logan Airport, all they requested was someone who liked the outdoors.

“Vermont has a very unique culture,” said Gannon. “We get to introduce Vermont to Tristan, and we get to learn about where he came from. That’s what Rotary is all about as a worldwide organization, and this is a wonderful opportunity to share cultures.”

Those who are interested in applying to the Deerfield Valley Rotary’s exchange program don’t have to be members, but the Rotary club helps facilitate finding students as well as their sponsors. Now that the Gannons are sponsoring a yearlong student, students from Twin Valley can apply to be outbound members of the program and study abroad themselves.

According to TVHS principal Bob Morse, Rotary provides an inexpensive way to make exchanging students possible. Morse also said that the school usually has one to three students come from Spain each year for a period of 90 days. As the first year-round exchange students, Aas and Delacour are helping Twin Valley start a trend in becoming a more global school, a system that Morse hopes to expand through tuition exchange programs.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Morse. “The school gets to experience some great kids like these two and they get the experience of a school with different kinds of small classes. This school has a friendly and homey approach and I think the kids are getting an experience they wouldn’t usually get.”

In recent years, Twin Valley has also made a point of sending more of their students overseas, including a 10-day trip to Spain last year, and a trip to Paris planned for this year.

Aas is being sponsored by Chris and John Kennedy, who found her through the Council for Education Travel. The Kennedys began taking in foreign college-age workers for Mount Snow in 2004. Eventually the Kennedys switched to taking in foreign exchange high school students, and have sponsored 28 foreign students since 2004.

According to Chris Kennedy, having exchange students live with her family is a win-win situation. “It opened up my family’s eyes, and communication to other countries,” said Kennedy. “They’ve been like mentors to my children who have been able to form relationships and bond with them on a family level.”

Kennedy also said that the proximity of their house on East Main Street to the high school has made it easier for exchange students to be involved with activities. “It may be tougher for the exchange student who lives in the backwoods of Whitingham, but here they can walk to the school for soccer, use the MOOver, and go to the mountain. They have a lot of independence and they have a lot of support.”

While Delacour and Aas have adjusted well to country living, one thing they agree has helped the transition, helped them make friends, and distracted them from homesickness, is playing on the school’s soccer teams.

“I expected to be bored because it’s the country and there’s not so many things around here, but having soccer makes my days,” said Delacour. “We met people before school began which was really helpful,” said Aas. “It’s great because the first day I arrived at school I already knew people and that’s a really good thing.”

The class sizes at TVHS are another point of ease for the pair as they’re used to sitting in the same class with 30 other students every day. “ It’s school spirit week here, and there’s different activities to do. You meet more people getting to switch classes, and it’s easier to learn,” said Aas.

While they each came to the United States through different programs, Delacour and Aas both plan to take advantage of their travel programs which offer trips to California, Hawaii, and Washington, DC, where they will meet up with other international students, all the while learning and speaking English.

“I’ve never seen a small high school like this in France,” said Delacour. “When you come to another country you expect to see different things. The team spirit here is really impressive. We don’t have that in France because we pretty much don’t have sports teams.”

“I think for a small school we have a good curriculum of classes and they’re a challenge for international kids and our kids,” said Morse. “One of the best advantages (for international students coming here) is we have a lot of great kids and great staff.”

While both are able to talk to their families back home via the Internet, Aas says that there is one thing she misses: “Norwegian food.”
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