Taiwanese, French students experience Lab through exchange program


Matt Petres

Senior Lena Stole and an exchange student dance at the welcome assembly for the Taiwanese exchange students in the Assembly Hall. For the first time in four years, French and Taiwanese exchange students are staying with their host families for a week and a half.

Erich Raumann, Deputy Managing Editor

From ceramics class to ice skating, and eating tacos to viewing Chicago’s skyline, exchange students from Taiwan and France paired up with U-High students to experience American culture for a week and a half, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 11. Due to the pandemic and other constraints, this was the first time in four years that exchange students were able to come to Lab.

During their stay, the exchange students lived with host families, shadowed their host student’s classes and spent time exploring the culture of Chicago, both with their host families and as a group. 

“It was a combination of both being really tired and having a lot of fun,” said senior Amelie Liu, who hosted an exchange student from Taiwan. “I was very surprised to be so tired by the end of it — I didn’t realize you kind of have to be on every single moment at home, always making sure your guest is comfortable.”

Some exchange students struggled at first living in a culture and speaking a language completely different from their native one, but eventually they were able to start feeling more assimilated in American culture. 

“It was hard at first,” Amelie said, talking about her Taiwaneese exchange student, Stephanie Liu (no relation). “There was a little bit of a language barrier. She was nervous because she didn’t think her English was very good, but in reality her English was exponentially better than my Chinese. She did an amazing job adapting to the environment and keeping up with conversations. As the trip went on she got more and more talkative.”

The French exchange students, who came from the city of La Rochelle, much smaller and warmer than Chicago, had a similar experience.

“Chicago is a beautiful city, with so many buildings,” said Emie Pacreau, a French exchange student paired with 10th grader Orly Eggener. “In my city, we don’t have as many buildings, or even snow. It’s different and very beautiful.”

Exchange students also attended and participated in their host student’s classes, sometimes being able to study or work along depending on the class.

“I loved [ceramics] class,” Emie said. “In France, we can’t just do things like that — the things we want to do — in school.”