From Alps to Appalachia: Foreign exchange student finds food and family rooted in local culture

  STAFF WRITER
John Coffelt 

County Mayor David Pennington issued a proclamation making last Thursday the day for foreign exchange student Adèle Paturle to experience the American way. Pictured are Emily St. John, 12, Pennington, Haley St. John, Paturle and executive assistant Roxanne Patton.  Staff photo by John Coffelt

County Mayor David Pennington issued a proclamation making last Thursday the day for foreign exchange student Adèle Paturle to experience the American way. Pictured are Emily St. John, 12, Pennington, Haley St. John, Paturle and executive assistant Roxanne Patton.
Staff photo by John Coffelt

Adèle Paturle had never heard of Bonnaroo until she came to visit America.

Coming to Coffee County to stay a month with Tracy and Scott St. John’s daughter, Haley, and attending the mega festival was quite a change from the 16-year-old exchange student’s hometown, St. Hilaire de la Côte, nestled comfortably between Lyon and the French peak Mont Blanc, roughly forty miles father into the French Alps from her home.

Adèle’s village has a population of roughly 1,000 people. That’s about a tenth of the population of Manchester. Or 1/80th of Bonnaroo.

“There are no cafés or restaurants,” she says. “and the houses [here] are very different.”

Adèle travels 20-30 minutes each way to a neighboring village to attend high school where she is in the equivalent of her junior year. But that’s not to say the sleepy village is backwards in all the ways that count, it’s just an older place with a much older rate of population growth.

Hosting Adèle is Webb School graduate Haley St. John, who has traveled to a different region of rural France as an exchange student.

“I’ve learned a lot [about the culture] St. John said. “It’s been a cool experience.”

To immerse Adèle in the American experience, the St. Johns have been feeding her lots of Southern fare.

Adèle, in turn, has cooked the St. Johns French cuisine. They’re a complementary pair.

“She cooked French food for us––,” Haley starts.

“–– crème caramel (a chilled French custard like flan)… salmon… and quiche,” Adèle  finishes in French.

“We made Thanksgiving Dinner for her because, you know, they don’t have Thanksgiving,” Haley says. “We’ve [also] been cooking her traditional Southern dishes like beans and cornbread, barbeque ribs, mashed potatoes and stuff.

“It’s a different culture. When you go as an exchange student, you’re completely immersed and you get to experience things you wouldn’t normally get to.”

For Adèle, seeing New York and Bonnaroo tops her list. Haley said that Paris and the Eiffel Tower (or “la Tour Eiffel” as Adèle would say.

“Think it’s good to know about other cultures in the world,” Adèle said.

Adèle came with about 170 French students that are visiting families across the country.  This not Adèle’s first trip to the U.S. she has also stayed in Ohio and Arizona.

She said that she learned English in school and continues to work on it because she loves the language. Haley has taken four years of French and admits that it is an intimidating language.

County Mayor David Pennington invited the young women for a tour of the Coffee County government and made a proclamation making last Thursday Adèle Paturle Day for experiencing the American Way in Coffee County.


Posted on Tuesday, July 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm