08/08/12 — Exchange students get a taste of U.S. in Goldsboro

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Exchange students get a taste of U.S. in Goldsboro

By Aaron Moore
Published in News on August 8, 2012 1:46 PM

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A group of high school students from France and Spain visited Goldsboro and other North Carolina cities this summer to immerse themselves in American culture. Etienne de Carville, front left, and Alvaro Gonzalez, front right, said they enjoyed the food, fun and freedom of living in a new country without their parents for a month. Both said they will return to Europe with better English and a new perspective of the U.S. as a friendly, open place. Also pictured are Gorane Barrenetxea, front center, the Spanish program chaperone, and hosts, back row from left, Wade Henderson, Eileen Henderson, Bill Buchanan.

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Etienne de Carville

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Alvaro Gonzalez

While some can't wait to load up their cars and get out of town for vacation, one group of young people would gladly stay in Goldsboro for the rest of the summer.

Several high school students from France and Spain traveled to North Carolina this summer to stay with host families and immerse themselves in American culture -- an experience "like a movie," they said.

"America is good," said Etienne de Carville, a French student who has spent the last month in Goldsboro. "It's very different than a French city. It's good and like a movie."

De Carville, 17, is from a town near Paris, where he said life is much different than in Goldsboro.

"American people like to have a big car, a big house, especially Goldsboro," De Carville said. "In France it's different. We don't like a big house. We prefer to have a small house and go on holidays to our other house in another city."

De Carville said his family has a second home on one of France's beaches.

But De Carville said he has enjoyed the American lifestyle -- especially having a big yard to play sports in.

"Actually I prefer not to watch TV because I prefer to play football with my friends," De Carville said. "Sometimes in the winter I watch TV, but if it's sunny I prefer to play football."

"Football" being soccer, of course.

Soccer, though not as popular in the U.S., is one thing that seems to bind international students together like no other, said Bill Buchanan, who has been hosting foreign students since 1999.

"They love watching," he said. "They're like Duke and Carolina fans with soccer."

Buchanan, who hosted De Carville and a Spanish student this summer, said he loves seeing young people absorb English and American culture.

And that's exactly why 16-year-old Álvaro Gonzalez from Bilbao, Spain, said he came to stay with Buchanan.

"I'm here to improve my level of English, and I came here because I like the United States," he said. "It's a different country and you have many different people from all over the world, and it's a nice way to improve the language."

In the month that they have been here, Gonzalez and De Carville said they experienced Myrtle Beach, a visit to an American jail and shooting pistols for the first time.

Firing a gun was a new experience for the teens because European laws don't allow civilians to have them.

"When you shoot you feel strong," De Carville said. "It's good. I like it."

Gonzalez said he likes the U.S.'s gun control laws.

"I think it's unfair because we can't have guns in Europe unless you are a policeman, and here you can," he said.

Buchanan said he wanted to give the teens a chance to respect what guns can do -- in a safe environment.

"A lot of Americans prefer not to have guns, and that's fine," he told them. "I'm very strict. I taught them how to be safe."

Gorane Barrenetxea, the Spanish program chaperone, said experiences like that are exactly why she brought the students to the U.S. -- to do things they would never get to do in their home countries.

"It has been incredible," she said. "They told me they are having a really good time."

Ms. Barrentxea learned to play golf while in the U.S., which is not widely played in Spain. She also visited Washington, D.C., with her own host family to see the historical monuments and a military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.

"It was great," she said. "It's a good way to see how you give a lot of value to the military and the presidents."

Eileen Henderson, who hosted Ms. Barrentxea, said it was a chance to share the honor and respect the U.S. shows toward its soldiers.

Mrs. Henderson and her husband, Wade, worked in the military for more than 20 years and said they wanted to share part of that experience with their guest.

Though they got different tastes of the U.S., Ms. Barrentxea, De Carville and Gonzalez all had one common opinion: Americans are kind.

"I've learned that American people are so friendly and polite," Gonzalez said. "As all places, you can come across rude people, but in general they're so friendly."

He said he quickly learned that Americans like to shake hands instead of kissing on the cheek, as they do in Spain.

"They take you into their homes with hands open," Ms. Barrentxea said. "It's like being in your own home."

De Carville and Gonzalez said it will be hard to say goodbye to the U.S., but they hope to come back someday.

"I told my parents I'm staying here," Gonzalez said. "I'm not going anywhere."