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What French teens did on summer vacation - Visit Hagerstown

July 25, 2006

A group of 14 French students visited the Tri-State area for most of July. The trip, organized through Compass USA, of Boulder, Colo., brought French students into the homes of local residents from Mercersburg, Pa., to Charles Town, W.Va.

Near the end of their visit, the French students met with the teen writing team for Pulse. Here are some observations of the American writers.

Sarah Johnston, 16:

If you heard a member of the Pulse writing team mutter, "Pardon my French," chances are they were not excusing a sudden outburst of profanity. Last week, Pulse writers interviewed a group of French students, and it was clear that their English was better than our French.

Conversation might have come in sporadic intervals, but laughter flowed easily between American and French teenagers. The French students were eager to share their insights and some good laughs in our cross-cultural exchange.

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For Sophie Chauvin, 17, of Crpy-en-Valois, France, school might be out for summer, but learning is still in session. Arriving under the impression that Americans are superficial, Sophie will return with a fresh perspective. "Americans are much different than I thought they would be," she said. "I respect their open-mindedness."

KeSaundra Bryant, 17:

The French students I talked with were surprised at how good we drive here. There are more accidents in France and people don't respect the laws of the road, the students said.

The French kids were surprised that everyone here was so big. Also, people in France walk more. Sports played in school are badminton, volleyball or tennis, depending on the school. Colleges are not as selective. If you apply, they take you. And French people are not as patriotic about their country.

In some of their views, Americans are rude and selfish and too busy to bother about others.

Robert Keller, 13:

The French aren't so different from Americans. French students Kevin Wimberger, 17, of Cagnes-en-Mer, and Nicolas Capel, 17, of Vaux-le-Pnil, have visited the U.S. before. Nicolas visited San Francisco, while Kevin visited New York twice before.

Kevin and Nicolas said that food is served in larger portions in America. In France, you get a small amount. Also, Hagerstown is not as crowded as big cities. The people are different, too. Some of them are a bit larger than in France.

Lindsay Foust, 17:

Talking to French kids was hard at first but so easy and so much fun in the end!

I interviewed a girl named Maroussia Laurent from Paris. She is 16. She said her favorite American foods are french fries, coke and chocolate cake. About America, she said, "I like Paris, shopping and the people. America is good but very different."

She said the shopping in Paris is inexpensive compared with America. Maroussia made me respect France even more.

Brianna Dorsey, 13:

Sophie Chauvin said she had been to America before.

Sophie said that the first difference between here and France is the food. Her favorite American food is a muffin. Her least favorite food is peanut butter.

Valentine Peyrelongue, 16, who lives in Paris, loves to go to clubs with her boyfriend at midnight and then leave at five the next morning. She says teenagers in America and France dress the same.

Hannah Tussing, 13:

Besides language, what are some of the differences between France and America? I recently had a chance to talk to a couple of French teens about this. Solene Gidee, 17, of Vergeze, said that what she really enjoyed about America was the monster trucks she saw at Hagerstown Speedway. Both she and Cathy Bal, also 17, said that they were surprised by how much Americans eat. In France, they said, people only eat breakfast, lunch and dinner; no snacks in between.

Adeline Cumpata, 14:

Fedora Copley and I talked with Lucas Szepetowski, 17, of Nice, and Maxime Avon, 16, of Brindas. Lucas said he noticed two big differences between Americans and people in France. "Here the people are much fatter than in France, and no one really smokes as much as in France," he said.

Fedora pointed out another difference: The French are more physical when greeting than Americans. They kiss on both cheeks, and sometimes hug. Lucas said, "It's our culture to kiss, and to be very close together."

Christine Brugh, 13:

I talked with four French teens, all who had varying opinions about American culture. I learned a lot about dating in France from talking with Valentine Peyrelongue and Nathalie Lemoine, 16, of Cagnes-en-Mer. They both said that they liked just being with their boyfriends, and that they didn't have to go anywhere special to have a good time. However, they both said that they enjoyed a night at a nightclub. Usually they arrive at the club around midnight and stay until 5 a.m., when public transportation starts back up.

Sarah Ofosu, 17:

Sophie Chauvin said she saw Americans as being more religious than French people.

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