Friday, 22 February, 2008 0:25 AM
PROFILE: Sebastien Foka, a French
foreign exchange student at Wayne State University
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
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."