When junior Philippine De Saint Martin stepped outside of Tampa International Airport, she was greeted by the humid and oppressive 90 degrees so characteristic of Augusts in Florida. As she made her way to her new home from the airport with the Steffes family, her host family for the next year, she was nervous to start at a new and very large school in a foreign country.
De Saint Martin decided to participate in a foreign exchange program and come to the U.S. to perfect her English. According to her, many things are different.
“What surprised me is that everything is bigger than in France. Like, the cars, the houses, the food, the shops, everything, really,” said De Saint Martin.
School in particular has been a drastic change.
“We just have three (grades at my school in France, and it’s like 500 people,” said De Saint Martin, in comparison to the 2000 plus students at Steinbrenner. “School starts at 7:35 and finished at 5:30 or 6. And you have like 2 or 3 hours of homework. And you don’t have a choice. You can’t say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to do my homework’. [It’s] really hard.”
De Saint Martin encountered many social distinctions as well, such as the food,.
“The food is different. It’s not worse, just different.” Also, in the brief time De Saint Martin has been here, she’s observed a different relationship between kids and their parents. For example, where as numerous teens are friends with their parents on Facebook, she says that would never happen in France. And that goes for relationships as well.
“In France, usually your parents have no idea. For example, many [of my] friends, when they have boyfriend/girlfriend, their parents absolutely didn’t know that,” said De Saint Martin.
And the well established institution of teenage drivers that Americans are so accustomed to is almost non-existent in France (and most of Europe, for that matter).
“Like seeing 16 year old kids driving…it’s just really weird.” Which brings up another interesting geographical/social departure from America. Because the driving age in Europe is 18, it doesn’t affect teens nearly as much, if at all, as it does in the States.
“You don’t really need a car in France,” said De Sain Martin. “But here you can’t do anything without a car.”
In France, most people live in, or very close to, the city. Therefore, her and her friends can easily access the shops, theatres, and restaurants of Lille simply by walking. This is unlike Tampa, for example, where downtown is 20 miles from the school.
Fortunately, De Saint Martin has her own chauffeurs in the Steffes family (whose daughter, sophomore Lindsay Steffes, is a foreign exchange student in Spain for the next year.) With this, De Saint Martin should have no problem enjoying all that Tampa has to offer.
During her time here, De Saint Martin hopes to make lots of new friends and discover this country.