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Not so foreign a feeling: Exchange student in Orland shares experiences

OrlRotary Club Youth Exchange Officer Deb Baker (left) welcomes   French exchange student Vanille LeTilly who is junior Sandburg

Orland Rotary Club Youth Exchange Officer Deb Baker (left) welcomes French exchange student Vanille LeTilly, who is a junior at Sandburg High School, to a lunch in her honor at Silver Lake Country Club in Orland Park, Illinois, Thursday, April 25, 2013. LeTilly is accompanied by her family, mother Charloett, sister Cheyenne and seen at right are father Patrice and brother Nathan. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 21, 2013 6:02AM



When she arrived in Orland Park last August, French foreign exchange student Vanille LeTilly spoke nary a word of English.

Debra Baker, with the Orland Park Rotary Club, which is sponsoring LeTilly, had to rely on a translation app on her phone to welcome the girl.

Now, the junior at Sandburg High School, through immersion in the language of her classmates and forcing herself to look up words in the dictionary, can ably describe her experiences so far.

She said her “English is not perfect, but I am progressing every day.”

LeTilly said that, compared with the educational system in France, “school here is way better,” mainly because there’s more time allocated for after-school activities, the 16-year-old said. She said she’s also impressed with the pride people have in their country, noting that it’s a contrast with her homeland, where that feeling isn’t always prevalent.

“Here, people are proud to be Americans,” LeTilly said.

She and her family recently were feted by the Rotary Club during the group’s meeting at Silver Lake Country Club. Her parents — dad Patrice and mom Charlotte — and siblings — 10-year-old sister Cheyenne and 15-year-old brother Nathan — arrived in Chicago the day torrential rains flooded many areas of the metro region.

The girl and her family — their surname is pronounced “Lay-tee” — are from Normandy, and LeTilly said she has books about the D-Day invasion that were given to her by her grandmother.

It was the first time she’d seen her family since last summer, and they were planning to see sights including Niagara Falls and possibly Boston and New York.

LeTilly said a definite must-see for her dad was the Harley-Davidson plant in Milwaukee, calling him “addicted to Harley-Davidson.” He owns a Harley Road King and has a Harley cellphone case.

The LeTilly family has hosted six foreign exchange students, including one last year from Pennsylvania, and they also had planned to visit her.

It wasn’t a huge deal to get time off from school to get away with her family, especially since her studies at Sandburg won’t count toward her high school education. After she leaves July 11 to return home, she’ll repeat her junior year at her own school.

LeTilly attended Sandburg’s prom that was held at Chicago’s Field Museum in April — the spring event is not a custom French students enjoy, she said.

She said she went sans date, partly because “nobody asked me,” and also because of one of Rotary International’s guidelines. Along with strongly suggesting to exchange students it hosts they refrain from alcohol and drugs, Rotary urges them to not get “romantically involved” with members of the opposite sex, Baker, the Orland Rotary’s youth exchange officer, said.

Two different Orland Park families agreed to take LeTilly into their homes during her stay.



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