My Experience as an Exchange Student


Ainoha Chastang, Reporter

Hi guys! I’m Ainoha, I’m 17 and I’m a French exchange student at Spring Lake High School.  I’m gonna talk about my arrival in the US, with which program I left, my host family, etc… To show you how different Europe is from us in EVERY single thing and to show you the P.O.V. of a french student here.


My host family is the Archambaults, and I couldn’t have a best family to be honest with you. In the organization with which I came here, the family chose the host student and you can be sent all across the U.S. so thank you to the Archambaults for choosing me! You have to be prepared to go to every climate possible all over the country. You usually know where you are going approximately 10 days before you leave, which is really short to prepare everything, say goodbye to your family, friends, etc.. But it’s also a good thing because you really have no time to overthink and be scared. 


I left with a french program called Mobiliteen and my international program was ETC. They’re working together to find host families all over the country. I was supposed to leave and arrive from France to the U.S. on the 22nd of August but there were some…complications during the trip. I did Marseille-Paris on the train, and after taking the plane to do: Paris-Dublin, Dublin-Chicago and finally Chicago-Grands Rapids. I met so many incredible people during my trip because I was by myself so it really helps me to get over my shyness and go talk to people which was the best decision ever! Everyone was really kind and so nice. I’ll remember them for a very long time. 


After arriving in Chicago I had my last flight but… We had no pilot! So I was in Chicago for the first time of my life, by myself, without any connection, wifi or even a charger (because mine couldn’t work with the american plugs) to contact my host family or my family without knowing if I’ll have any other flight soon. It was actually really funny, I had so much going on at the same time that I didn’t even realize what was going on. 


While waiting, I met a grandma who was living just next to Spring Lake, so we started talking about our trip and I finally had some wifi, and she had a charger, so I could finally contact my host family, and they were already at the airport. We met another girl my age, and we finally had a flight for the next morning. We had the choice to go to a hotel or stay at the airport, so we chose to spend the night at the airport all together! It was a really short night and a really interesting first day in the U.S.!


I finally arrived after all this adventure and 48 hours of travel on the 23rd! The Archambaults were waiting for me with a really cute poster that they made, and they are the best host family I could ever have. 


When we arrived here, my first thought about America was that everything is so big! The car, the portions of food, the road — every single thing was multiplied here! It’s one of the biggest differences that I see at the moment. The culture is also really different from France: ordering food or going to restaurants, fast food etc is not usual at all. We usually cook our meal every day but here, that’s common! Also, the American accent! I thought I would feel really lost and that I would not understand anything but it’s actually really simple. On the other hand, expressing myself was way more complicated because of my accent, even though I know the words, my accent isn’t understood by everyone. But living here really helps you increase your skills so fast, and learning about a new culture and getting to know new people is one of the best things here. I can’t wait to see the rest.