Meridian High School has welcomed its newest foreign exchange student, Victoria Muller, to its halls. Muller is from a suburban town by the name of La-Queue-lez-Yvelines, France, about thirty minutes from Paris. With her bags packed, Muller was set to arrive August 10, 2020. Her road to America was not easy, however.
“The first thing I thought when I saw her at 1:30 am at the airport was how cute she was. She was so short and just so happy even though all the trouble she had to go through and waiting for us to get there,” Muller’s host-mom, Roxanne Thompson, said.
“I decided to be an exchange student in America because it was my dream for five years. Actually, I wanted to improve my English level, discover a new way of learning, a new culture and a new way of living the daily life and thinking,” Muller said. “We had 2 really difficult years before 2020, because my grandmother passed away, my mother got a bad case of cancer, and my little sister suffered from a deep depression. So it’s also kinda like a reward after staying strong and helpful after this hard period.”
Though COVID-19 has made social life tough, Muller still finds the light. Currently enjoying her art, U.S. history, and 20th-century conflicts classes, she pushes her way towards her American dream. Her host family is there to help her through it, too.
“I was expecting to socialize more and faster, …with the COVID and the social distancing it’s pretty tough, but I have a wonderful family and I’m really glad that I met them, and my host sister’s friends!” Muller said. “I really hope to experience the homecoming and prom day, cheer for a football or a basketball match, go to school in person, and just have fun and laugh a lot.”
“I think this year will be really fun and exciting for the both of us. With this being my senior year and her exchange year we will get to experience some big milestones together. ” Muller’s host-sister, Hailey Thompson, said.
Muller hopes to participate in typical American activities, like school dances, sporting events, and celebrate holidays such as Halloween and Thanksgiving. Her wish is to become more mature, open-minded, and independent while here in the states.
“She is very appreciative and happy to be able to get this experience even with all the things that are not happening or being changed due to COVID,” R. Thompson said. “…I know she’s excited about the Christmas holiday so we will try to do something special with her.”
Back home, Muller attended Saint Exupery, a prestigious French private school, but will attend Jean Monte when she returns. At Meridian, she enjoys the opportunity to choose her classes and learn in a more relaxed environment. School days are 8 am-5 pm, and classes are filled with thirty-five students each, all under a “sink or swim” mentality.
“The level and the expectations were higher, and the mentality is not the same. Here, you just have to give the best of yourself and if you can’t, you can ask for help. But it’s not that bad when you grow up in this system, because it pushes you to go beyond your skills, to surpass yourself.”
“I’m just getting to know Victoria, but so far she is an excellent student with a very positive attitude. She’s quite proactive about her work and from what I’ve seen so far she is a very gifted artist! ” Meridian’s high school art teacher, Aidan Perrey, said.
The school system isn’t where the comparisons stop. Though we differ in language and culture, we have a complex past. Muller wants to show in her time here that not all French people are the same.
“I think that France and the USA are really similar on some points because we share a lot of history, but everything is different, especially the size of cars, houses, roads, drinks. Lots of things are bigger here!”
Muller goes to lakes, forests, fields, or Paris for fun in her free time. She spends time with her friends while they attend parties, shop, sight-see, and more. When not with her friends, Muller works hard at Karate, and has earned two belts above black.
“I appreciate doing and going to parties with my friends, dressing up my guy friends as girls, that’s funny to see them with heels, dresses and makeup. I also enjoy doing escape games, shopping, going to the cinema, or playing board games. I’m keen on…having a day in Paris, I love the monuments and shopping there, walking on the banks of the Seine, and sitting in the beautiful Paris parks.”
Before she leaves, Muller would like to see Historic Route 66, Illinois sights and museums, and smiles on everyone’s faces. Her favorite American quote is “We travel not to escape life, but for life to escape us” because it inspires her.
Her favorite French quote is “Je suis petite, mais j’ai de grands rêves” which translates to “I’m small, but I have big dreams,” because she is “only 16, 4’9″, and very ambitious.” Though she misses her family and home, Muller is excited to have begun her American dream.