French Exchange student explores new culture

Maxence Vukovic is whisked into countless new experiences as she visits the States


Andrew Tilken

Maxence Vukovic (top right) and her host family, the Tilkens. When asked about her first experiences in such a different environment, Vukovic explains, “At first… when you arrive in your host family, you [think] ‘I don’t know if I can do that’ but…they want you in your home, and for it to be your home.”

Four thousand, two hundred miles away from home. That’s four thousand, two hundred miles away from family, friends, and everything Maxence Vukovic (‘21) has grown up with. Now she’s in a new country; here to live with people she’s never met before, to make friends, to study, to learn, and to understand a culture much different from her own. Vukovic describes the change at school thus far as, “For the first week, it’s very hard because you know zero people, and you don’t know where anything is.” At home it’s different: “With my family, it was just amazing since the first day, [but it was] just hard to communicate at the beginning because of the language.” Vukovic loves her host family, but sometimes when she is trying to communicate with them it is a little bit difficult, but they find a way to overcome that obstacle. For her, this host family has been a new experience because, at home, all she has are older siblings, whereas her host siblings are both younger than her. Her host family consists of two young boys, Austin (age 11) and Alex (age 8) as well as her host parents, Andrew and Kari.

Vukovic came to the United States for an exchange year from Casteide-Candau, France, on August 23, to be an exchange student at our very own high school. She describes the adjustment from France to the United States as “Difficult. Everything is very different from France, the language and culture are very different, but that is easy, you just need to change.” Although such a huge change was not easy, she is enjoying her time here and learning what we do and how we do it.

Vukovic will remain in the United States for roughly nine months, as of the publication of this article. Vukovic tells us that she has the opportunity to head back to France whenever she wants, but so far would like to stay in the States for the full duration of her trip. While she is here, she wants to “learn everything, the language, and the culture…and everything else.” While she has been in the states, she has traveled to many places such as Chicago, Camp Randall, Peninsula State Park, Sister Bay County Park, and Milwaukee. For her, it is much easier to get around and explore the city because many of her friends own cars, which is not something allowed in France until the age of 18. From experiences like this, Vukovic decides that the States are “Very different from the movies,” and very different from France.

Additionally, Vukovic points out one thing that she was surprised to see in our high school. “I live in a very small town, and my high school is very small, but here, the high school is very big. We don’t have a swimming pool inside the school or the gym in my high school back in France. We’ll leave [the school] if I want to go to the swimming pool, and walk for 20 minutes.” Even though some things are different from what she expected, many characteristics of the United States are still fitting to our stereotypes, such as our love of U.S-only sports, like football and baseball. as well as our love for fast food.
Thus far, Vukovic hasn’t experienced any sort of homesickness. She portrays her situation as, “I can stop [being] an exchange student if I am sad, or I want to go back to [my] family, but no, I like it… I call my mom and friends.” For her, she hasn’t wanted to go back home just yet. She still wants to be in the States, and learn as much as she can in the time she has here.

Throughout Vukovic’s journey from Casteide-Candau France, to Chicago, to Brookfield Central, she has only one piece of advice for all of us: “It may be hard to adjust at first, but you will get used to it and you will have fun!”