Melting pot of cultures
Source: The Reporter, http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=93&cat=23&id=836918&more=
By Erin Beil
Feb 21 2007
For most high school students, worldly experiences don’t happen in Silverdale. But for forgeign exchange students Laïla Benkerroum and Corentin Charlès, the culture of the Northwest is captivating.
Benkerroum and Charlès, from Morocco and France respectively, are learning new experiences everyday, including how to handle the rainy weather.
Benkerroum, 16, traveled to the United States from RaBat, Morocco and Charlès, 15, is from Les SaBles d’ Olonne, France.
Living with the Gaskill family in Tahuyeh, both students are learning the different cultures, religions and family values of the United States. Benkerroum, who practices the Muslim religion, had the opportunity to experience both Christmas and Thanksgiving with the Gaskills.
“They’ve worked their way into the family fabric,” Host father Peyton Gaskill said. “We have been very lucky, and enjoyed our guests for the year.”
Both Benkerroum and Charlès had to work hard to come study abroad in the United States for the year. Benkerroum had to pass a series of written, oral and auditory exams before she was chosen among 3,000 students for the scholarship. Charlès’ process had a very similar examination period, with a high passing score necessary for him to travel here. Both students traveled to the United States via the Aspect, an international host program that helps students to study abroad for both high school and college.
Benkerroum came to the Gaskill family roughly two weeks before Charlès arrived. The Aspect program had to call Benkerroum’s parents before another exchange student could be adopted into the same host family.
“They are really nice,” Charlès said. “We are lucky, there are some (host) families that don’t care.”
With both able to speak French and English, Gaskill said they communicate well with each other.
“We’re used to each other now,” Benkerroum said in response to living with another exchange student. “Sometimes we speak in French to each other.”
Currently, both Benkerroum and Charlès are attending classes at Klahowya Secondary School until they have to return to their home countries in June.
“My favorite part is getting to know people ... like a melting pot,” Benkerroum said. “I think the school is a little bit smaller.”
Gaskill said that both Benkerroum and Charlès have fit into the school very well and are both involved in sports and activities. Benkerroum is participating on the girls bowling team and Charlès is working with the basketball team.
“It’s a test of the organizational skills,” Gaskill said, adding that transportation can get difficult because the students are not able to drive. “It’s a lot of coordinating between everyone.”
Along with transportation blunders, the Gaskill family also has learned new religions and observances that Benkerroum and Charlès have introduced to them. During September, Benkerroum celebrated Ramadan, a Muslim holiday.
“She comes at things from a different angle, and sometimes she looks at us a little weird,” Gaskill said.
The new living situation also has provided the opportunity for Benkerroum and Charlès to try new food. Gaskill said that he is still trying to get them to taste peanut butter, but they haven’t really taken interest.
“Laïla loves chocolate chip cookies,” Gaskill laughed, adding that she was concerned about the alcohol in the vanilla used to bake the cookies with, but was able to convince her that it cooks out. “She’s not really wild about sushi though.”
Charlès added that he doesn’t care for cranberries, but his favorite food that he has tried so far has been donuts, eggs, bacon and above all, the “American chocolate cake.”
Although both Benkerroum and Charlès said when they left it was difficult, they were both glad they took the opportunity to study in the United States. Charlès said the transition was a little difficult in the first month, but it was mainly hard for his twin sister and mother whom both remained in France.
The first of her sisters to leave home, Benkerroum said it was difficult, especially for her mother. However, she said she is thankful that she has become more independent since beginning the program.
“It will be sad to say goodbye to everything,” Benkerroum added.
Although Benkerroum and Charlès will be leaving in June, Benkerroum will miss the graduation at Klahowya by only a couple of days. However, when she returns home, she will have to continue with her schooling. Charlès, who will be present for the graduation celebration, has been taking classes at Klahowya along with correspondence courses from his school in France so he will not have to continue his studies once he goes home.
“It will be very sad to say goodbye,” Gaskill said. “But now we have foreign contacts.”
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