For the next two weeks, 18 high school students from France will be calling the Mississippi Gulf Coast home. They're here as part of an exchange program with Gautier High School.
At a welcome breakfast Monday, a tribute to America was the first order of business for the visitors from France. Words of welcome followed, along with a hearty meal for the hungry group of students. It was much needed after a long transatlantic flight.
Kim Sheppard has hosted students for several years.
"We enjoy having the students come stay us" Sheppard explained. "They come every other year and Gautier goes the year in between and we just have a big enough house. I have the empty nest syndrome."
For two weeks, the students will learn about America. They are ready to soak it all in. Marianne Bourillot is one of them.
"That's great," she said. "I think it will be cool. People are very friendly."
"It's so great and it's very fantastic to be here," said another student, Louis Girard.
The teachers traveling with them know the value of this program. Cathia Gaita has made the trip several times.
"We get so many things that it's quite impossible to describe. This is very unique experience for these students that they will remember all their life," Gaita said.
While these students from France and their counterparts from America have similar tastes, the tastes that typical teenagers have, there are some cultural differences, especially in education.
Shelby Knighten is in the French Club at Gautier High.
"In their school in France, it is more academic. There are no extracurricular activities. Those extracurricular activities are kind of the hallmark of American high school so there are several differences," Knighten explained. "They also study English a lot sooner than we do our foreign languages."
Two weeks in America will help those studies along.
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