By Teresa Winchester
They will arrive in New York City on July 3 at 4:35 p.m. That's 10:35 p.m, in France, from whence they come, and they will have at least 4 more hours of travel before meeting their host families.
They hail from places we have heard of: Paris and Marseilles — and places with unfamiliar yet intriguing names: Salon de Provence, Bourg-la-Reine, Sucy en Brie.
For the most part, their names are typically French: Chloé, Héloise, Baptiste. Others are not so typical: Milo, Jordan. Their parents are doctors, nurses, lawyers, violinists, lab technicians, business people, teachers . . . Most have brothers and sisters back home.
They are a well-travelled bunch of 16-year-olds. Collectively, they have been to China, England, Spain, Ireland, Germany, Benin, the Canary Islands, Morocco, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, Canada, the Galapagos Islands, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Austria, and the Caribbean. Within the U.S., some have been to New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. — and Norfolk, Va.
For most of July, they will live among us, in Otsego County. Do they know they are coming to such a rural area? The French might think of it as "Madame Bovary Land," but the travel agency that sent them referenced their destination as "Hudson Valley." They will have to "settle" for the Susquehanna. Not a bad trade-off, if you ask me.
Geography can be a vague concept until you've actually been there. Do they know New York State is vastly different from New York City? I remember the look of concern on the faces of my Tennessee friends when I told them I was moving to "New York." I had to quickly reassure them that it was not "New York City," that I was going to a safe and tranquil place.
I am also reminded of an anecdote recounted by Ethan Friedell, whose parents, Diana and Benjamin, will be hosting Lea Benaim from Paris proper. He told me about a Russian student he had known while at SUNY-Plattsburgh. When asked what had made him come there, the Russian replied, "I thought I was coming to New York City, man!" He transferred to a New York City college the next year.