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March 27, 2017
Esteemed filmmaker Frederico Fellini once said, “A different language is a different vision of life.“ In a world where globalization spreads faster than the plague, the study of other languages becomes more and more important as some of the only barriers in international connectedness are lingual. Anthony Brassart, a 15-year-old Parisan, knows this all too well as he has studied English for ten years, before coming to Stillwater as an exchange student.
He stayed as a French exchange student for two weeks with the Morrisseys, whose daughters senior Elizabeth and junior Sarah both attend the high school. During his time in Stillwater, Brassart toured the French classes, giving a presentation on stereotypes between cultures, and taking part in the music program, both through Concert Wind Symphony and the Pony Pep Band. Although his visit was not long, it was packed with interesting activities and many new friendships.
A love of education
Brassart said, “My favorite part is the school… [going to American] school is fun.”
Although the U.S. and France have similar test scores and universities, Brassart said the high school experience was very different. He explained during one of his presentations that his school did have a band or any music programs, which was part of what fueled his involvement in the Stillwater band system, along with his lovingly involved host family. Brassart even went as far as to say that attending the school had been his very favorite part of the trip.
Stereotypes about both the French and Americans were one of the biggest surprises for Brassart. “All is big and the Americans are all friendly.” He said about which stereotypes were true.
While telling French III students about these stereotypes the French have of Americans, he said that a common one is that Americans use a lot of “gros mots,” but that it was about the same as France once he got here. Directly translated, the phrase means fat words, but according to French teacher Madame Parr, it is simply an expression that represents swearing or cursing. Brassart also commented on the happy nature of Americans, especially when it came to Valentine’s Day festivities and the outgoing activities around BLAST week.
Bilingualism takes off
Brassart is not alone in his travels and studies, however. According to Diplomatie, France is the third most attractive place to exchange students and makes up an entire seven percent of the world’s internationally mobile students. Parr said, “[hosting an exchange student] is a great way for everybody involved to practice their language skills. But it goes way beyond language skills, because we learn about each others’ culture, values and way of thinking and doing every day things. There is also the friendship that forms and that personal connection is why I continue to offer the travel and exchange opportunities. These opportunities validate why we should learn language and open ourselves up to other cultures that are not our own. One of the best ways we learn about ourselves and the world is through the connections we make with others.
In fact, Stillwater is one of many Minnesota schools in which foreign language classes offer programs for students to host other students learning English for different periods of time. Some students can stay for months, others -like Brassart- stay for a couple weeks. For a student studying another language, having a native speaker staying in their home can be an incredibly enriching experience, not to mention the value for the English learning student, as well. Becoming a host family can be a delightful experience, especially in the case of young men like Brassart, who grow close with the community they are staying in.
Music and culture come together
One particular aspect of the Stillwater community that strongly connected with Brassart was the music department. Senior Charlie Skaret was one of the many students who felt a close bond with Brassart, as they shared classes, and Brassart even cheered on his band, the Bungdungs, at Battle of the Bands. Skaret said, “[He was] such a small boy with such a pink jacket” about some of his favorite memories with Brassart.
Brassart attended Wind Symphony almost every day of his time in the U.S., and he even played bass drum for the Pony Pep Band during the pep fest of BLAST week. Brassart went to class, parties, and concerts with the friends he made in the music department, thanks to his host family’s close involvement with the program. Even during certain lunch periods, Brassart would find a quiet spot in the back band room to send messages to his friends back in France.
As Fellini vocalized, studying language is not just another subject, but it’s a way of life, and very often, it is one that leads to many new friendships and possibilities. Everyone who met Brassart was touched by his honesty, humor and endearing smile. It has even been confirmed that the upcoming French trip of 2018 will include time with Brassart in Paris, which is exciting news for all of the French students who got the chance to know and love him.
Parr said, “I really appreciated how open Anthony was about sharing his reactions, observations and feeling with me and with the others around him. He quickly made friends and felt like he was part of our school. Spending 3 weeks with us in Stillwater was a life changing event for him.”