December 21, 2011 - By Olivia Shumaker
Special Writer for The Review
France is paying a visit to Lake Orion this year, thanks to Stanislas (Stan) Betend, a sophomore exchange student.
Betend is learning about the United States and teaching others, from his host to friends and family, a little bit about his own culture.
Originating from the Alps, near Geneva, Betend has an advantage that many other Lake Orion exchange students lack: nearby family.
His aunt and cousins have lived across the street from his host, Patricia Kay, for years and, according to Betend, he already knew her through his aunt.
"When it came time for him to come over here as an exchange student, the state department does not allow family members to be host families," Kay explained. "So I said he can stay here. Why not?"
The chance to come to America was particularly appealing for Betend. Though he had studied English for three years before coming and took an English test in order to qualify, French students have greater employability if they can speak English.
Being bilingual in any language helps, but English specifically opens the door to better job opportunities back in France, he said.
Lake Orion High School provides many opportunities for Betend, not only because he can improve his English there. Betend has taught Lake Orion students about life in another country by explaining how the school in France works.
At home, school runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Like the five German exchange students here, Betend's school follows a system in which students have a different schedule each day, repeated on a weekly cycle. By comparison, Lake Orion's 10 week schedule may seem slow, but Betend seems to be adjusting.
Unfortunately, Betend's year in the United States, as with many exchange students, does not count as a grade level year back home. When he returns to France, Betend will have to repeat this year over.
In addition, Betend and Kay have been traveling. Over Thanksgiving break, they took a trip to New York City, visiting the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and the Ground Zero memorial, among other sites. They also toured the United Nations, visited Manhattan and saw the Blue Man Group.
Kay explained how she was hesitant to bring Betend to a performance because, unlike a movie, it requires a fairly thorough understanding of the language. "In Blue Man Group, they don't speak at all," Kay said. "There's music and there's a lot of pantomime—it's three guys all painted blue. They did have some screens that came down with English written on them."
The day Betend first arrived, Kay went grocery shopping with his counsin here to make sure she had food her guest would like. Since then, while the student is often with his aunt and cousins, he and Kay are learning to communicate better and interact.
Betend has even taught Kay how to make crepes and French bread.
"There's more of an emphasis on subtlety in food than there is here," Kay explained.
Between food, family, school, and various adventures, Kay and Betend are planning to make the most of the year he spends here.
"Not having any children of my own, I went from zero to teenager with a trip to the airport," Kay said. "But it's been fine. It's been great."