French Foreign Exchange Student Navigates New Culture


Gaelle with her host family.

Chloe Loberg and Preston Schamens

Moving from a city of over 2 million people to the seemingly small city of Neenah is a drastic change of pace. For foreign exchange student Gaelle Tronche, this change has been her reality for the past few months. Tronche is from the capital of France — Paris, a dream destination for many. According to CultureGrams, a well-respected research website, France attracts more tourists than any other country in the world. Tronche, however, clarifies the way Paris is romanticized in media is different from reality, saying, “It’s not pink. It’s very, very different.” 

For example, the school day in France is different than a day in America. Making friends in America has proven to be more difficult, Tronche says, because of an alternating schedule and many different classes. In France, Gaelle stays with one class throughout the entire day, with breaks throughout and an hour-long lunch. 

Even though the schedule in Paris may be simpler, Tronche says the classes are not. Classes in France are more difficult, and her private school in Paris is quite strict. Aside from educational reasons, a foreign exchange experience is like the key to a trove of culture. Known for its exquisite food and prestigious art, France is a hub for culture. America may not be known for its cuisine like Paris, but Tronche says, with a laugh, that her favorite food so far is Flaming Hot Cheetos

Common reasons why students choose to become foreign exchange students are education, experience, and culture; but for Tronche, the answer is simple: “The American Dream.” 

Despite her unfamiliar surroundings which may intimidate her, Tronche says the people in America are kind and patient. During her time in America, she is staying with the Jones family, but she still misses her family, friends and dog back home. Tronche says one part of America she enjoys is “the tradition,” which she will experience when she goes to prom later in the year, something her school in France does not have. Until then, she still has a generous amount of time left to explore and learn what Wisconsin has to offer.