A New Culture is brought to Indianapolis

Excitement, anxiety and trepidation. In anticipation for her French exchange student to arrive, Gabi Hanahan, junior at Cathedral High School, felt the eagerness engulf her.

Hanahan’s French exchange student, Marie, is from Lyon, France, and stayed with Hanahan and her family for two and a half weeks in April.

“My mom was really nervous about our exchange student coming because we have never done anything like that,” Hanahan said.

She has always aspired to host a French exchange student, but she had planned to be involved in the program during her junior or senior year. However, she ended up hosting Marie her sophomore year because it was the right time for Hanahan’s family, and it felt academically easier for Hanahan.

Marie and many other French students shadowed their hosts through their school classes everyday.

“I felt anxious about spending time with (Marie), but it was really nice and easy getting to know her,” Hanahan said.

Hanahan has spoken French for the past two years. She felt nervous about Marie’s English speaking, but she was surprised at how good it was. She could understand almost everything Marie spoke in English down to the syllable, but other times Hanahan could only respond to Marie with merely a smile, laugh or nod.

“It was amazing how much Marie improved (her English) throughout the experience,” she said.

During the French students’ visit, they experienced the skyline-reaching skyscrapers and striking architecture the “Windy City” has to offer.

For Hanahan’s birthday, they traveled to Chicago, Illinois, one of the United States’ largest cities. Marie desired to visit Chicago because of its iconic skyscrapers and shopping opportunities. They experienced the architecture by attending a river boat cruise.

Along with seeing Chicago’s architecture, Hanahan, Marie and another French exchange student visited Cloud Gate, which is a public sculpture and is commonly referred to as “The Bean.”

“It was really fun interacting with the French kids because once I got to talk to them they were all extremely friendly, and they would all give me a hug every time they saw me,” Hanahan said.

She felt overjoyed about how easy it was to talk to them.

“Marie and I became close really quickly,” Hanahan said.

As their new friendship arose, Marie gave Hanahan a red bracelet connected by a single silver circle, which, according to Hanahan, was a popular trend in France to wear. Marie also witnessed the experience of Hanahan receiving her first car.

“I did not see this coming at all. My mom was driving us home from school and said she felt sick, so she asked to pull over. I thought she was going to throw up, but then she just handed me the keys to her car (which is now mine) and walks away,” Hanahan said.

It was a wonderful experience for her, and she was happy she could share it with Marie.

Building such a strong bond together and experiencing memories that would last forever, it was very difficult for both Hanahan and Marie to say goodbye.

Hanahan still remembered the familiar scent Marie had even after she left. She said all the French exchange students gushed tears at the airport before their departure, and Marie was sad and missed Hanahan for a while upon returning home.

“(Marie and I) FaceTime and occasionally I’ll hear from her but not super often,” Hanahan said.

The host families, including the Hanahan’s, want to plan another trip so that the French students can visit their host families and friends again.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to experience a new culture within the comfort of my home, and I hope to push my comfort limits to explore France someday.”