The Harbinger Online

French Transfer Student Adjusts to Life in Prairie Village

Waking up to Flemish–Belgian’s native language–speech and American tradition of bacon and eggs were the normal mix of cultures for junior Maaike Slosse. Childhood for Slosse was not the same as every other child, being born to an American mother and a Belgian father. Slosse believes that it was nice to have the cultural balance. Her mother would make American food while her father would make traditional Belgian food. She would speak English with her mother and then Flemish occasionally with her father.

“Interacting with others that do not speak your native language is something that really changes you as a person,” Maaike said. “Because you begin to be able to adapt to speaking in one language [while] thinking in another is very difficult at times.”

Slosse’s father Bruno Slosse works for Cerner, an international information technology corporation at their headquarters in Kansas City. For the past 12 years, his job had him working out of Europe, but he recently accepted his job at their headquarters. He and his family decided that it would be easier on them and on Bruno if they all moved rather than having him trying to fly out every week to some place so far away from home.

“I had been in Paris for three years and was on sports teams there and academic clubs,” Maaike said. “I had found my place at that school. Leaving a place that was exactly what I wanted and having to start from scratch has just been really hard.”

Not seeing her friends and having no way of public transportation are two of several large transitions for Maaike and her family. Moving from one continent to another has been extremely difficult for Maaike with the change in language, culture and way people reside there. She was very used to French and international traits, such as language, that are so different than here in the United States, but is embracing the experience.

“One huge culture shock that me and my family have been affected by is speaking English all the time,” Maaike says. “We would speak it in our household and with friends but just when you are on the road, or speaking to anyone you don’t know or ordering pizza or buying a car, you have to do all of those transactions in English where as we are so used to doing it in a different language. Now doing it in our native language makes it more of a fun thing to do.”
According to Maaike, France is the best place to be in your adolescent years. The typical weekend day for her and her friends would be to take a train and metros to meet each other. This was followed by shopping on the main street or having ice cream at Haagen-Dasz. They would stroll down the Champs-Elysees- one of the greatest streets in all of Paris according to Maaike– for its array of french restaurants and very expensive shops.

Maaike feels fortunate to be able to say that trips to sites such as the Eiffel Tower and known-renowned museums were part of her everyday life. She believes there is a difference between viewing the sights as a tourist and embracing them on a daily basis.

“One of my favorites memories that I would have repeatedly had living in Paris is that going out with my friends and just the normal hang out to Trocadero,” Maaike said. “I would just have lunch there in the area right in front of the Eiffel Tower and was just so casual for us to go there as an after school experience or every weekend we would go there.”

Maaike attended the International School of Brussels in Belgium and the American School of Paris when living in Paris. She spent nine years in Belgium and the past three in Paris. In the school in Paris, 30 percent of their students were Americans. Like American schools, the International schools teach in English, with the option of either Spanish or French as a second language. The difference is that these schools have a wide range of nationalities and their native languages.

“One of my favorite things about the school I went to in Belgium was that they had something called the International Festival that was held in these two gyms that we had,” Slosse said. “Each nationality was represented in a stall and people would hang up their flags and decorate there stall with things from their country and artifacts. It was a big gathering of the entire school to celebrate the unique nationalities.”

When she and her family were deciding which school to enroll her at, being able to go back to Europe was a large factor.

“My family and I chose East because it offered IB so this diploma gives me the chance to go and have a higher education back in Europe where as if I didn’t have the diploma, you can’t really be accepted to any colleges there” Maaike said.

Maaike believes that attending International schools and being around all cultures made her very tolerant to other peoples’ beliefs, custom and languages. It encourages people to not criticize the choices that some countries make that might be different than their own.

“One of my best friends was Pakistani, another one from South Africa and another was a third Norwegian, a third Chinese and a third American,” Maaike says. “There were people from all over the world attending this school. It was beneficial to me as a person to know people from all these different places because you would hear a lot of different stories and facts about these countries.”

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