Hosting a foreign exchange student is definitely not for everyone. Having someone living in your home with a different set of cultural norms and who possibly may not actually like you, or you them, can be a challenge at best, and a nightmare in worst cases. We were extraordinary lucky that our beloved Jule from Marseille fit perfectly into our loud, slightly-chaotic, dog-ridden, people-coming-and-going, colorful little household, like an escargot fits in its shell…before being wrenched out and bathed in butter. In homage to our chère Jule, qui nous adorons et à qui nous pensons tout le temps…
Top Five Reasons to Host an Exchange Student
5. A Built-In Partner in Crime
Abundantly useful in shopping excursions, salsa lessons, pulling pranks, buying pearls, singing songs with two or more main parts, à la Moulin Rouge or Les Misérables, splitting meals, playing dress-up and often, getting into trouble.
Because no one else in the house would be caught dead watching The Bachelor; American Idol or The Bachelorette, or hours upon hours of classic chick-flicks like Funny Girl (people who need people), Meet Me in St. Louis (…louie, meet me at the fair), The World of Suzie Wong (Ohfohgoonesssake, Lobert), Out of Africa (oh my god, the music), Sleepless in Seattle (Is that you, Jonah?) – well – anything with Meg, truthfully.
3. Familiarizing Them with the Local Vernacular
Knowing how to express oneself in the local vernacular – whether spoken or gestured, is a key element to survival in any culture. Within 24-hours of her arrival, I taught Jule – a quick study – the necessary art of “flipping the bird”, making her an enthusiastic and effective passenger in L.A. traffic. As for swearing, she grew fond of the adage “Don’t bullshit a bullshitter”, which never failed to bring great whoops of laughter to anyone who heard her say it.
In this case, it was finding Jule’s pain threshold for scary movies, which my son Cooper and I watch incessantly. After countless attempts to get a reaction, covering the gamut of the genre – slasher to vampire to ghost to murderer, we finally hit pay dirt. About halfway into The Blair Witch Project, Jule quietly stood up, and without saying a word, went downstairs to bed. Possibly because I had told her it all really happened. Nevertheless, it was a triumphant moment for Cooper and me!
1. Unparalleled Practical Joke Opportunities
Opportunities for pranks abound – whether its ” of course, honey, everyone wears their pajamas to school on Mondays” or picking them up from the movies wearing a long dark wig so that when they open the car door, they jump a mile into the air. Our particular favorite was this photo. Taken Thanksgiving at my Mom’s home, Jule is wearing a bat head piece left over from Halloween, which just happened to be laying around at my Mom’s, and which she was led to believe was appropriate and respectful to wear when visiting someone’s home for the first time. This stayed on for a full half hour, very possibly a record, until her customary squeal, so loud and high-pitched it could deafen you for days, “Ohhhhh, Lesleeeeeee!”, told us she had worked out the prank.