Foreign Exchange Student Leaves MHS


Media by Carter Van Buskirk

Anaïs Razafitsalama [Left], French foreign exchange student, poses with Victorien Bouvet [Right], exchange student, after their presentation delivered to French students.

For the past month, MHS has hosted Anaïs Razafitsalama, foreign exchange student.

Razafitsalama, who is from the outskirts of Paris, immersed herself into MHS life through a foreign exchange program called Language and Friendship,serves language teachers and students through educational programs including short-term travels, language-immersion family stays and hosting opportunities.

As a facilitator for the exchange, Della Thompson, French teacher played a key role in finding an adequate home for Razafitsalama.

Thompson spoke to students, hung flyers and made announcements to make sure a home would be found for Razafitsalama. After a family expressed interest, Thompson paid several visits to make sure the home was suitable for an exchange.

“For the families, the hardest thing is making sure they include the student in their activities and they think about things to do with them,” Thompson said.”I typically look for that.”

Emmy Warren, sophomore, and her family fit the description. Warren said Thompson visited the family several times and interviewed neighbors to determine if they were fit to accommodate Razafitselama.

“We thought it would be a good cultural experience and nice to help someone who wants to learn about America and our way of life,” Warren said. “Language and Friendship sent us a list of students’ profiles and we found Razafitsalama.”

On Feb. 2, Warren’s family welcomed Razafitsalama into their home.

The goodbyes were really heartbreaking. But my exchange was one of my best journeys ever.”

— Anaïs Razafitsalama

“It took a little time to get used to having someone we just met living with us,” Warren said. “Though she spoke English really well, we had to adapt by slowing down our rate of speech and making sure she understood what we were saying. After a few days these weren’t really issues anymore.”

At school, Razafitsalama found the vernacular of students to be challenging. Many students used jargon Razafitsalama had never heard so she said it made things challenging for her, but it also made her experience more authentic and natural.

Around the house, Razafitsalama was involved in cooking dinner, playing games and other rudiments of American life.

On a visit to the Delmar Loop, Razafitsalama noted that she walked around the area and ate a meal at Fitz’s, a bar and grill distinctive to St. Louis. She said it was good to see a unique side of St. Louis and what it had to offer.

Warren said Razafitsalama learned a lot about the American lifestyle, but, likewise, she learned plenty about French culture including making authentic crêpes, playing French card games and learning about life in France.

“I couldn’t dream of a better family. When you go abroad, the most common fear is not being ‘part of the family’,” Razafitsalama said. “They were compassionate and always made sure I was doing well.”

Razafitselama said she learned a lot during her exchange.

“I learned the typical American teenager’s life. It was really cool because it was way different from the French life,” Razafitsalama said. “Studying abroad is definitely something I recommend because it makes you more open minded. I learned so much about St. Louis history and sports.”

At the end of Razafitsalama’s exchange, she delivered a presentation to Thompson’s French students where she talked about life in France and the exchange to the United States.

“It was hard to make a presentation in front of so many people that you don’t know and if they are interested or not,” she said. “But it was good to get my story out.”

Finally, on Feb. 22, Razarfitsalama said goodbye to Warren.

“The goodbyes were really heartbreaking,” Razafitsalama said. “But my exchange was one of my best journeys ever.”