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Friday, 22 February, 2008 0:25 AM

PROFILE: Sebastien Foka, a French foreign exchange student at Wayne State University

by Kelly Harla

Growing up in Paris, Sebastien Foka could walk down the street with open alcohol or take his dog into a restaurant for dinner, but here in the United States that is almost unthinkable. Life changed drastically for the 28-year-old exchange student as soon as he stepped foot in America.

Arriving in January of 2003, Foka is in his fifth year at Wayne State University and has come a long way with learning the language. In Paris, he started learning English early on, in elementary school, but when he tried to learn Spanish, a teacher told him that he should just stop. "I love how they teach you languages," says Foka referring to the American education system. He says he enjoys the variety we have to choose from.

It took a while for Foka to become adjusted to the food. In France, lunch and dinner consists of four courses. They begin with an appetizer, most of the time something cold, but it depends on the weather. Then, they have their entrée, which includes some type of meat. After that, they have a salad with cheese, followed by dessert. Most of their desserts are pastries from a local bakery.

France and the United States share food such as McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut. They used to have Burger King but it no longer exists. They do, however, have their own French fast food restaurants that serve freshly cut meats on a baguette.

A typical day in Paris does not include jumping into your SUV or sports car with a tall cup of Starbucks coffee, and driving to work or school in 8 a.m. rush hour traffic. With a sufficient subway system, often compared to New York, the French either take the subway or simply walk to wherever they need to go. Many people in Paris do not even have a license so driving in the U.S. was a challenge for Foka.

"I never had a computer before I came here," Foka said. Technology was not prominent in France five years ago when he left home, but it has become more popular over time; although, cell phones have always been just as popular. It is uncommon to find a computer in every French home, as it is for new neighbors to be greeted with a baked apple pie or blueberry muffins, which is sometimes portrayed as tradition in American culture.

Attending school on Saturdays is not Foka's idea of a good time. Foka says the French are trying to pass a law that will not require school on Saturdays. These classes run for three hours. Otherwise, students go to school Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sometimes, students get Wednesdays off. The schools in Paris do not have sports or after-school activities and Foka would not be caught wearing his school logo. He says, "It's not cool."

Another thing Foka says is different is the perfume, for both men and women because men do not call it cologne in France. The perfume here is "missing something," he says. Until Foka came here, he never heard of any perfume product named after an actor, actress or singer. He uses Jay-Z and Beyonce as an example. Relating Paris to fashion, Foka thinks that the clothing in Paris is "more elegant."

Growing up in the country of wine, Foka does not like to drink at all. In France, smoking is prohibited almost everywhere, which he says a lot of people were mad about because many people smoke there. Foka rarely smokes though, considering he not only plays tennis, but coaches as well. He is here on a tennis scholarship and teaches tennis to people of all ages at Eastside Racquet and Fitness. Foka is also an intern at the International Institute and is planning the "Festival of the World" event, which will take place in May.

Overall, Foka likes it here in the United States. The anthropology major plans on staying in the U.S. and visiting home during the summer months. He says it is unlikely to find a job in France with his degree. He says here the opportunities are "unlimited."



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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer.