French students bond with Sussex County teens over baseball

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  • French exchange students visit Sparta High School.

  • Exchange students enjoy a game of baseball.

Though one can easily see pictures of far away countries on the internet and e-mail or tweet a friend from a far away land, it isn't the same as meeting face to face. For this reason, from Oct. 10 to 18, students from The St. Louis School in Dagneux, France, came to Sussex County to live with a Sparta host family and immerse themselves in the American culture plus share some of their own.

Students traveled from Lyon, France to Newark airport where they were transported to Sparta High School for the first meeting with their host families.

"Each visitor from France was placed with a different family," said Sandra Polizzo, owner of Customized Student Tours, LLC and the coordinator of this program.

This program allows each French student to get immersed in American culture as well as a chance for each host family to learn about their guest.

The students took some day trips to various attractions including a tour of Yankee Stadium, the Empire State Building, a shopping mall, China town, the 911 Memorial and a nighttime visit to Times Square.

Locally, the students and host families had a picnic on Sunday evening at Station Park complete with a wiffle ball game. Since they don't have baseball in France, this was a huge hit to the point that when it was time to leave, the exchange students didn't want to stop playing.

"We didn't ever want to stop playing," Epitalbra said, then added in French, "C'etait incroyable" (it was incredible.)

French education

Each student gave a presentation about something that had to do with their culture to a group of Sparta students. Emma Frillic talked about shopping and her favorite clothing brands, her favorite is the California based Hollister. Other topics included French food, sports and hobbies, French songs and the typical life of a teen in France.

Jules Epitalbra and Steven Guamen also touched on the topic about what the French think about Americans including the perception that Americans eat very differently than the French especially with larger portions and more junk food. One of the things two of the students liked about their American immersion was, indeed, the food with Guamen enjoying pasta and another student commenting on how different, and delicious, the American hamburger he tasted was with a much thicker bun than in France.

Teachers in both the Sparta Middle and High Schools worked with the visiting students. High school French teacher, Serge Wessels had his students interact with the visiting students by communicating with one another speaking the others' foreign tongue.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for all involved," Wessels said.

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