Posted on Dec 10, 2018
Lea Lafond lives in Saint-Raphael located in Southern France between Nice and Marseille where the weather is always “perfect”. Don’t ask how she is enjoying our lake effect blasts in northern Ohio!
Lea graduated from high school in science in three years and will study graphic arts at Haute Ecole Albert Jacquard in Belgium after attending Hudson High School for a year. Passionate about photography, Lea publishes her nature pictures on a Facebook page. She also enjoys dance competition, playing the cello and the piano, drawing and writing.
Hoping to become more independent, confident and cultured during her stay in the USA, Lea also looks forward to becoming accomplished in our language. Her stepfather is her role model, currently president of the youngest Rotary Club in France created in 2007.
Interviewed by a Rotary Club of Hudson member, Lea offered her thoughts in response to the following questions:
Q. What cultural differences do you notice in Hudson high school life compared to France?
A. “I am really glad to have relationships with my teachers at HHS and can talk to them about everything. France is totally different: it’s a formal relationship in which teachers teach and that’s all. There is no more conversation when the class ends. The school day is longer in France, not finishing until 5 or 6 p.m.”
Q.  Are high school teaching methods different?
A.  “Yes, very different. Unlike HHS where you can take journalism, graphic arts, psychology and photography, in France the courses are basic math, history, science and languages. Computers are not allowed in French schools and the courses are very hard.In France, there is just one math teacher, compared to separate classes for geometry, algebra and trigonometry at HHS.”
Q.  Describe living with a host family. What are you learning from them?
A.  “I was an only child living just with my mother in France. My host family has two sisters and  two big dogs requiring me to adapt to five members’ wishes instead of my own independent desires. I had to change my behavior to become patient and more mature, in so little time.”
Q.  What observations have you made regarding Hudson students, teachers and parents?
A.  “I thought there would be no culture shock, but things are really different. Teenagers are very social and open minded. I can speak to my classmates about anything. My sociology teacher Mr. Zustin, loves his job, is fascinated with teaching and will help kids in or outside of school. I am happy that so many of my teachers at HHS are like this. Parents aren’t very different from those in France.”
Q.  What advice would you offer to future exchange students?
A.  "An exchange is not perfect. There will be moments when it is very complicated--you don’t have your family and friends and you don’t know places or the language, at first. We are here and have imperatives, we must be serious and not think that it is a year-long holiday. Sometimes it is really complicated, but it is a great opportunity to learn a new culture, meet new people and become more mature and independent. Be courageous, understand the stakes and never lose faith.”
Q.  How do the Rotary activities in France compare to that of Hudson?
A.  “My Rotary club is dynamic and enthusiastic and never stops improving. We are coupled with a club in Cameroon where we help with vehicles, medical supplies and school equipment. Every year in France we have a walk to fight polio, an artists auction for breast cancer, a Disney preview movie to provide brain disease research and dances to subsidize Alzheimer care or help autism.”
Q.  Where have you visited in the USA and what has most impressed you?
A.  “I have never been in the USA and would like to see so much. I enjoyed a Thanksgiving trip to Colorado and have a bus tour of California next Spring. And, I have an invitation to take a hike in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park so I can I can take nature photos to post on my website.”
Rotary International is a global network of more than 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders and problem-solvers coming together to make positive, lasting change in communities at home and abroad. If you are interested in hosting a future Rotary Club of Hudson exchange student, please contact Joe Avella at