There is a little piece of Europe at EDSS this month, with three international exchange students living and going to school in Elmira.
Oscar Sarazin from Normandy, France, Santi Cerda from Valencia, Spain and Clara Du Baele from Lille, France are living with EDSS students Nate Maier, Paul Cento and Julia Baxter respectively for three months while they experience a different culture in small-town Canada.
Sarazin says the differences between his home in France and here in Elmira are pretty big.
“In this small town, everyone knows each other. There is a very good ambience and atmosphere, but everything is different,” he said. “The space, the food, and the landscape – everything is different.”
He is staying with Maier’s family while he is here, and in February, Maier will be heading to Normandy to live with Sarazin’s family for three months.
“It has been fun. It is like having another sibling with a few cultural differences. It has been great,” he said, adding that he can’t wait to get to France in the new year. “I am excited about the food, the language and just experiencing a completely different culture and immersing myself in that.”
Cerad is living with Cento’s family in Elmira and he says one of the main things he has noticed is how nice everyone in Elmira has been during his stay.
“The people are really different. They are really, really friendly here. There are some things that are the same, but the food is the biggest difference,” he said.
Cento can’t wait to experience European sports when he arrives in Valencia in February.
“I am looking forward to the food, obviously, and the architecture. Also, going to watch a soccer game – Barcelona,” he said with a laugh.
For Du Baele, one of the highlights of her stay in Elmira is the school environment.
“In France, it is very hard, very long and very horrible and here is it fun,” she said.
Baxter will be heading to stay with Du Baele’s family and she can’t wait to get there.
“I have heard the food is a lot better and all the different things you can see. Their house is near the ocean and a castle as well. It will be a big change,” she said.
Stath Paleshi teaches languages at EDSS and she says it has been great to see the exchange students growing and can’t wait for the same thing to happen for her students.
“They are on their own when they are over there, and they are on their own when they are here, and they are nobody’s brother or friend. They stand on their own two feet and that helps them grow tremendously as a person,” she said, adding there is some academic value as well. “Linguistically, since this is greatly supported by the languages department, our students come back more mature and definitely with greater language skills. We encourage them to really immerse themselves.”
As well as all the differences between the European cities and Elmira, she says there are also plenty of similarities.
“We really aren’t much that different, even if the food is different. We all have the same ambitions,” she said. “There are so many different ways that an international exchange enriches the individual and also those that are touched by it.”