“Everything is bigger and cheaper.”
Swiss exchange student Ludovic Deslisle experienced this American culture shock first hand as a part of his year-long exchange program to attend AHS. “I wanted to learn English, meet other people, try a new life, have a great experience,” Deslisle said.
Deslisle – or “Ludo,” for short – is from a small town called Orbe, with a population of about 5,000 people. The town is half an hour away from the nearest large city, Lausanne.
On his first day of school, Deslisle thought that the people were nice, but had trouble with English. “I tried to understand the teacher but he spoke too fast,” he said.
The schools in America are also very different in Switzerland. Deslisle’s native school is smaller than AHS, has 45 minute long class periods, seven periods each day, and only one classroom- instead of the students changing classes, the teachers move from room to room.
Swiss schools start at 7:30 AM, and Deslisle explains that students can’t choose their own subject. “You have history, geography, science, math, German, English, French, Latin, music, draw[ing], citizenship and P-E; you are always with the same people,” Deslisle said.
Deslisle enjoys participating in sports: in Switzerland, he was active in swimming, kickboxing, and skiing. While in Virginia, he wants to experience football. He has already been to a football game at UVA, and described it as, “awesome, very big, there is a lot of people.”
Deslisle liked the classes he took in Switzerland, but also enjoys that he can participate in sports activities at school in America. He would like to continue his sports experiences while in America, and believes that by doing so, he will come to better understand English.
Deslisle currently lives with the Dean family. Host mother Lois Dean’s first thoughts on seeing him, were, “Oh, how are we gonna keep the girls away?”
While Deslisle is in America, Dean plans on taking trips to different places; “we will definitely go skiing, and visit local areas, Washington DC…”
Junior Matt Dean is Deslisle’s new “host brother.” Host families provide a home for exchange students and help then transition to life in America. “Hosting an exchange student is probably one of the most rewarding experiences one can have,” Dean said.
Dean has an older sister at JMU, so he is used to living with another sibling. “There is not really anything different about living with Ludo than with another of my friends,” Dean explained.
Dean first asked his parents about hosting an exchange student last year. After looking through bios of different students, they “picked Ludo because we thought he matched our family the best.”
Dean and Deslisle have developed a strong bond as host siblings. “Ludo and I get along very well, just like brothers,” Dean said. “We joke around with each other and I help him out with homework and studying when he needs it.”
Exchange programs have a profound effect on both the host families and the exchange student. Dean has enjoyed the opportunities that have been given to him by hosting an exchange student. “First off, you get a chance to learn about another culture and how they live. Secondly, you get to teach them things about American life and help their English improve.”
When first seeing Virginia, Deslisle thought the state was “very pretty.” On the second day, he found out that “it was very hot and the pancakes in the restaurant were very good.” In the months ahead, Deslisle will have many more experiences to add to his American journey.