The French Connection


Nathaniel Kauffman, Twitter Editor

A year ago, 16 year old Baptiste Thomin never thought he would be in the middle of a foreign country hitting the “whip” with people he just met. In between taking him to the beach for the first time or with me on a college tour, we found ourselves dancing and singing for hours on end. In these moments, the so-called language barrier was nonexistent.

This opportunity came through an organization called Nacel Open Door. They operate to “set up students to live with American families where they can learn the culture and be immersed in the English language,” coordinator Karen Lindsey said.

Students come to learn and also to find opportunity, and they can come to America or students from here can go to other countries as well. After the program, some decide to continue school in the U.S. or their select country by attending a university, others come back and stay with their host families again on their own outside of the program. NOD reaches out to countries all over the world and offers three main kinds of trips: a one year academic program, a short term program, and a private school program.

This specific NOD trip was to Orlando, and it involved students exclusively from France and Spain to stay for three weeks. Of the group of students, we were designated Thomin, who lives near Paris.

Thomin came to the U.S. to get better at speaking English primarily. After six years of learning in France it still did not prepare him for a house full of people that speak a different language exclusively.

“At the beginning it was difficult to speak with my host family, but after a few days I felt more comfortable,” Thomin said.

We immediately immersed Thomin into American culture and, more accurately, my family culture. We spent a day at the lake, a day at the beach, a day at the Kennedy Space Center and a day at Disney World.

Thomin wanted to swim almost every day, as most people in France did not have backyard pools. He also loved to play sports, so we found ourselves out shooting the basketball or throwing the football (he was not so good at that) all the time.

“I loved the American sports basketball, baseball and football. My favorite part was the American way of life and the food. Americans are very friendly, everything is bigger and everyone eats a lot,” Thomin said.

Of course, we don’t have the fancy French dishes Thomin was used to, but we do have 4 Rivers Smokehouse, Five Guys and lots of pizza that kept him fed. One big surprise was his love for peanut butter. In France, peanut butter is nearly impossible to come by, so every morning he religiously ate two pieces of toast and peanut butter with a glass of orange juice, causing us to run out of both items quite frequently.

There was never a dull moment in the house with Thomin here.  Music was one thing we had in common. He loves American music, it is mostly what he listens to in France. He did, however, have a chance to show us some pretty good French music too. Our instant favorite was the song “On Verra” from French artist Nekfeu (clip under story), and although we could not understand what the lyrics meant, we did love the beat and did our best to sing along.

American television shows also differ greatly from what is available in France. The Bachelorette in particular blew his mind, as Thomin wondered, “So this girl has 20 boyfriends?” My sisters did their best to explain, but it was a valid question. He was also a part of a Netflix binge on a Marvel series called Agents of SHIELD.

Another similarity in cultures that we quickly discovered was social media. Thomin Snapchats just as frequently as your typical American teenager and was on Facebook all the time. We connected over sharing videos and pictures we found.

After the time I spend with him I learned that Thomin was a very nice kid who can be goofy at times. Thomin also loves his sister, who is the reason he was occasionally homesick. I could tell Thomin really enjoyed being around others and trying new things.

Thomin remarked that he really felt a connection to America and told me he would be sure to come back. He is even looking into coming to the states for college and maybe even one in Florida.

Throughout his stay, I learned that although we come from very different places, we are still very much the same. We may not live in paradise, as Thomin once told me, but through this program, Thomin was taken on an adventure and gained a permanent spot in my family.