Granger West

 France

Hometown: East Cobb, Georgia
School: Walton
Sponsor District : District 6900
Sponsor Club: East Cobb, Georgia
Host District: 1740
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Riom/Châtel-Guyon


My Bio


Bonjour mes amis! My name is Granger West and I am 17 years old and live in East Cobb (a northwestern suburb of Atlanta) with my mom and younger sister. I am a junior at Walton High School where I am enrolled in the STEM Academy for Biomedical Sciences. Although my classes focus on preparing me for a medical career, my favorite classes are French and History. Outside of school, I am heavily involved in my Boy Scout Troop, my Church, and my Varsity Rowing. I have always been interested in various things, some of my favorite things are cooking, practicing music, discovering different cultures, trying new things, and now exploring the world... So, I am beyond stoked to be spending my senior year in France, representing district 6900 in Georgia for the first time. I can't wait to see what is in store for me on exchange and look forward to becoming bilingual, bicultural, making new friends, and creating worldwide connections. I would like to thank my friends, family, and teachers for supporting me along this journey and of course my biggest thanks to all of Rotary for making this once in a lifetime dream come true. Merci, à plus tard!

Meeting my best friends ever from Australia and New Zealand

Meeting my best friends ever from Australia and New Zealand

One of the 3 Châteaus I’ve visited since arriving

One of the 3 Châteaus I’ve visited since arriving

Riom, my little town

Riom, my little town

Arrival at Clermont-Ferrand

Arrival at Clermont-Ferrand

Orientation at Chambon-sur-lac

Orientation at Chambon-sur-lac

Haircut done myself

Haircut done myself

Mont St Michel (MSM)

Mont St Michel (MSM)

Mont St Michel (MSM)

Mont St Michel (MSM)

Mont St Michel (MSM)

Mont St Michel (MSM)

Journals: Granger-France Blog 2017-18

  • Granger, Outbound to France

    Click HERE to read more about Granger and all his blogs

    Today is my second month in France, and while the past month has been one of plenty of adventures, and its ups and downs I wanted to just briefly touch this. At the start of the month I went with my district and about half of the other ones in France to Mont-St.-Michel, an ancient monastery and little village on top of a rock island in the English Channel off the coast of Brittany. Words cannot do it justice, all I can say is look at the fairytale like pictures on my page to start to understand. Also getting to meet hundreds of other exchange students was fun and it was a great time to get PINS PINS PINS!

    The weekend after I went and visited a couple of exchange friends in Brive-la-Gaillard. To future exchange students, you’ll soon find that the other English speakers, Canadians, Aussies, and Kiwis particularly will become some of your greatest friends on the planet. You don't even have to spend a whole lot of time with them on exchange to form deep inseparable bonds. It also gives you an excuse to go visit your friends all over the world after exchange. (One quick note I’d suggest, while it’s incredibly easy to make friends with exchangies, also make sure you spend the majority of your time making friends with those of your host country)

    The next weekend began my first break “Vacances de Toussaint” I have to admit 2 week long breaks here roughly every 6 weeks of school are much appreciated. They are also much needed because French school is a lot. I have a schedule with one of the least amounts of courses and I still take 4 hours more of courses than I did in the States. (For others they go to school from 8-6 almost everyday.) But more on the vast thing called “école” another time.

    For a couple of days during break my family went on vacation to see some natural wonders in the south central part of France. I’ll let the pictures do the talking for the beauty of nature and small villages in France.

    One main thing I wanted to talk about was how I view one aspect of exchange. There are plenty, perhaps infinitely many reasons why to go on exchange but one that really struck me recently was the concept that exchange is a what I like to consider the ultimate stage and transformation into adulthood. Although we as humans are constantly learning, if we simply break our education into two parts we have childhood and adulthood. In between, there is an awkward phase known as adolescence. While many people view this as a horrible phase filled with acne and plenty of awkward moments, it is in fact an incredibly crucial phase in our development. I believe exchange is one of, if not the best way to truly shape teens and tailor them into amazing adults that they want to be.

    I’ll admit one of the big reasons I came on exchange was to explore a sense of independency, I so desperately desired. And what I found was that exchange is independency and also at the same time not. It’s breaking away from the family, school, and life where you grew up as a child, but at the same time its not the independency of a true adult. On exchange you’re still going to school and have a family and Rotary who are responsible for you. And this entirely unique environment that’s created is incredibly formative for exchange students, if they want it to be.

    I’ll use what happened this morning as an example. I had my first dispute with my host mom. It was about me wanting to do something last minute. In the states I would have been able to do, but here in France it required permission from Rotary to ensure my wellbeing. The only thing is if I were to wait for Rotary’s permission I would have missed to opportunity. And while I know that I would be fine and nothing bad would happen, it was the concept that Rotary and my host parents were responsible for me that caused me not to be able to go. Now had something like this happened back home, I would have been upset, even angry with my parents for not letting me go. And a situation like this wouldn't have arisen in the adult world, because no parent would be telling em what I can and cant do. But in this environment on exchange, I knew I couldn’t be mad with my host mother. I could clearly see she only had my safety at heart and was following protocol. Plus would getting mad with her help me on my exchange or if another similar situation arises? So what was I left to do? I used it as an opportunity to learn, to think of what I would do if something happened like this as an adult. Sure I might not have a parent telling me what I can or can’t do, but there are plenty of things in the world that our out of our hands; that we can’t control. Instead of the natural human instinct to be angry and mad or even hate the person or thing preventing us from doing something, I had the ability to work and develop a beneficial response to scenarios like that. I turned it in to a good thing, was happy, and learned from it, instead of the opposite. And before long that will hopefully become second nature.

    Exchange allows you to respond, develop, and practice those skills you learned from school, organizations, culture, and even Rotary Orientations in a real life situation. Until now all the things I had learned, I’ve only really gotten a chance to practice in made up controlled scenarios. When you learn something you tend to practice it right after and you know how to respond. But the correct response never becomes second nature. On exchange you are challenged with those same scenarios often times, but at completely random times when you’re not expecting it. Our nature is to respond with our instinct when were caught of guard and not with maybe a better practice that we’ve been taught. Exchange fosters us to make those best practices second nature and thus make us better adults and humans searching for a better world.

    I’ll give a couple other examples. The smartest and most successful people say listening is perhaps the best skill you can develop. You want to learn how to listen? Well when your learning a new language you always understand the language before your able to speak it. When your forced to listen, because you can’t respond yet, you develop this ability to listen to others.

    Or another one. When I desperately needed a haircut (and usually do once a month) but my host parents told me it was my responsibility to pay. I also found out that haircuts were about 20 euros more than my monthly allowance from Rotary. So I was forced to think what’s a way I can solve this? Maybe spend 20 euros on a hair clipper and cut my hair myself? I was a little nervous but it turned out great (see pictures). Not only were the problem solving skills used but doing things that are out of my comfort zone allow me to stretch and extend my comfort zone constantly. With more things I’m comfortable with I’m wont have as many problems trying different things and being flexible as an adult.

    The vast majority of those who don’t go on exchange, are left to the change between childhood and adulthood when they move out of home and go to college. They never really get the chance to test out skills in a safe environment with parents but also with out your real ones, who your to comfortable with and know how they will respond. This unique environment creates incredible people who are truly changing the world and making strides towards peace.

    Rotary’s goal in sending students on exchange is to foster world peace, and I couldn’t truly explain how well it works. I’m reminded of a metaphor for World Peace I like to use. Imagine the earth with a big chain and padlock on it. If we can unlock the lock we would have world peace. Well if you can imagine a chain and lock on the earth, it probably has to be massive. And if the lock’s massive the key must be too. The key to peace is not small or hidden away, we know where it is. It’s big and right in front of us. The key to peace is not some mysterious recipe that’s extremely elaborate that we have to do just right to achieve world peace. Its quite simple to achieve world peace we just need to understand others, to listen, and love them without reserve because of difference in thought or culture. So why don’t we already have world peace? Because we need every person on the planet to lift up that big key and turn it.

    That’s the challenge. Trying to get people to actually practice those principals. Not just saying they’re practicing them but actually practice them. To the point where it’s second nature.

    That’s what exchange allows.

    So if your interested in exchange, know that you would be joining a family of teens (of course having fun and doing millions of things) but working to bring peace among the world. If your a current exchange student, don’t let yourself get down. Keep focused on using all of your challenges as learning experiences; it’s not going to come passively. And to the Rotarians and parents, know us exchange students are doing incredible things so let us do them, but please please also challenge, test us, keep us on our feet to improve. Wow, what an incredible program to be a part of!

    À tout à l’heure

  • Granger, Outbound to France

    Click HERE to read ore about Granger and all his blogs

    Time is flying, wow it doesn't feel like I've been here for a month today. I've done so much but here's just a brief rundown that’s happened in the last 3 weeks.

    * Made my family dinner (lemon garlic grilled chicken, potatoes de Provence, French green beans, and an apple tart... not very American... but they think its is)

    * Got sick (not because of my food)

    * Broke my toe

    * Visited Châtel-Guyon

    * Saw another Château

    * Tried Archery

    * Tried Fencing

    * Visited Clermont-Ferrand

    * Ate my first French crêpe

    * Ate at my first French restaurant (it was a burger place)

    * Had my first "French" fries (there better)

    * Made friends with most of my classsmates

    * Took my first train (very confused at first)

    * Went shopping in Clermont-Ferrand with Jasmine (my Aussie friend)

    * Failed my first English assignment (2/20 but I had to write in French)

    * Improved on my second getting 16/20, still writing in French)

    * Took my first History test (didn't understand a thing that was going on so different from the States)

    * Started new “good” habits

    * Fallen in love with fromage blanc (like yogurt but better) and every type of french bread especially brioche and pain au chocolats

    * Watched my first French movie and understood a good majority of it

    * Become familiar with my daily routine

    * Answered about 100 questions for my History teacher about America's Involvement in WW2

    * Explained the US's Higher Education System, Court System, stance on Global Warming and the Paris Accords, and foreign policy on North Korea (in French)

    * Become conversive in French (not fluent yet but making strides each day)

    * Learned to make La Madeleines and crêpes (another thing I've fallen in love with)

    * Took my first History and Math tests

    * Went on my first camping trip with Scouting in France

    * Had my first French Pique-Nique (picnic)

    * Attempted my first Philosophical Dissertation, did not go well...

    * Made dinner for my host family again

    * Learned the heavy cream here is different and thus ruined my desert I was trying to make

    * Went to the park with my class

    Last time wrote, I was experiencing my first culture shock. While I still am shocked at some new things from time to time, I bounce back quicker. I'm in my daily function now and at least besides the language, I feel for the most part French.

    One thing I said I’ve started doing it “good habits.” Because exchange was such an abrupt change in my life, it was really easy to start getting in the habit of doing good things. You know keeping my from clean, actually flossing everyday, taking vitamins daily(**Exchange student tip, you need to do this one the change in food messes about you body’s normal levels of certain vitamins and causes a lot of exchange students to get sick within the first couple weeks. But you can prevent it). But no in all seriousness (in addition to those things) some of the big ones I do now are: write down every French word I dont understand and look up the definition later; take notes on observations I’ve made on the French culture and people, and take notes on the things I like in each culture to help me blend the two and develop my personal philosophy. I also plan out my time better now and have created checklists of things I need to do and set time limits for when to get them done.

    Exchange student tip-

    //**To the future exchange students I would suggest making a list of good habits you want to start and start doing them as soon as you arrive. Also I would get two journals. One to write the activities you did each day and the development of your feelings towards the things that happened, like a diary. Then the other to write things such as checklists to do, fun facts about your town, recipes you’ve learned, cultural observations you’ve made, vocab words you’ve learned. and you philosophical thoughts on various topics. The first one helps you have a reference to what you did when where as the second can be messy and is just a written collection of you thoughts throughout the year. I take my second one with me everywhere and am constantly writing in it.**

    Now that I’m feeling more and more comfortable with the culture and the language, I’ve started to try to direct my attention on helping others. One of the major ways is answering the plentiful questions I get from my teachers, especially my English and History ones. I translate things for people when I can, and I’ve started helping others understand dans study for math. (Although I in senior year here, the curriculum is roughly the same as my freshman year curriculum back home, but more on this later.. look out for a blog on French schools next weekend.) I make diner roughly once a week for my family and introduce them to American cuisine. Last night I made a favorite of mine: meatloaf with mashed potatoes and peas, my host mom and sister loved it so much they want me to make it again when my whole family is here.

    I just found out that I will be going to do fencing every Wednesday. And on the subject of exercise. I ride my bike about twice a week to school. It’s 15 minutes each way and I get to see the city. I also sometimes walk home if the next bus will arrive in more than 30 minutes.

    I guess that feeds into my first month. Today is one month since I’ve arrived in France and overall it’s been great. Sure there have been a couple down moments but for the most part there great. It’s not exactly how I imagined it being when I arrived. I was expecting I guess a more hyped up honeymoon period. Sometimes It doesn’t feel any different than home like home but jut 4500 miles away. Before I left I set some goals of things I wanted to accomplish. Now I’m realizing its time I have to start working on accomplishing them, and with that I keep getting motivated to do more and more each day. But at the same time the enjoying life, and the French no rush attitude is starting to sink in; I’m looking for a happy medium. I’ve also added some new goals of things I want to accomplish while I’m here. Mainly, by the end of the year holding a presentation of America vs French Culture, among other things, for the community.

    I’ve contacted back home a couple of times and although some of my friends have started becoming homesick, I haven’t felt the slightest bit of it yet. (Family and friends back home this isn’t against you, I still love you and miss you, but just not homesick.) Also, I’ve found balance with my friends, I still occasionally say hi to my friends back home and hang out with the exchange students every now and then (shout out to my Aussie and Kiwi) but they’re really not distracting me from making French friends. I feel like my class is very accepting to me and although I wouldn’t say I’m best friends with them yet, I friends with most of them and am seeping our relationship everyday.

    For now though enjoy some picture of Clermont-Ferrand from to weekends ago and look for some great ones to come. Next weekend I’m off to Mont St. Michel and the Brive-la-Gaillarde the following one. I’m also finally getting to meet my Rotary Club next Tuesday, so I look forward to getting to know them and helping out on their projects.

    À bientôt

    Granger

RSS Feed