One Gering High School student is experiencing his first holiday season in the United States this year.
Gabriel Duthilleul is a foreign exchange student from Belgium who is now at the halfway point of his yearlong stay in Gering. He said that although things in America are very different from what he’s used to, he had at least some idea of what to expect from watching movies set in the U.S.
“I think the movies got most things right,” said Duthilleul. “There may be some things they got wrong, but not most of it.”
Duthilleul said that one of the biggest differences he’s seen in an American high school is a big focus on sports, which are not a part of school life in Belgium.
“It’s very different from here. We don’t have sports in school,” he explained. “We have P.E., but we don’t have football team or soccer team practice after school.”
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Duthilleul decided to get involved in Gering football almost immediately upon arrival in the country and has now moved on to basketball. He said he is particularly looking forward to playing soccer in the spring since it’s a sport he has more experience and good memories of.
“I used to do a lot of soccer in Belgium,” he said. “But I’m trying all of the big sports in America.”
Duthilleul has been trying plenty of other uniquely American things during his time in Gering as well. Some of his American experiences have included fast food, carving pumpkins for Halloween, and visiting Rapid City to see Mt. Rushmore.
“I like Mexican food more than fast food, but I like French food better than American food,” he said.
School at GHS has been a very different experience for Duthilleul overall, as American schools operate in very different ways than those in Belgium.
“The whole year we have the same classmates — we never change classes. The teachers move from class to class,” he explained. “It’s easier to make friends because you’re with them all day.”
Despite this, Duthilleul said that he’s made friends at Gering, particularly through his participation in sports, that he hopes to stay in touch with when his year in America is over. He has also made strong connections to his coaches, who he said are very funny.
As a senior, Duthilleul will get the opportunity to graduate from GHS and participate in commencement, an experience he’s looking forward to.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” he said. “The graduation day with the cap and all that, it will be very cool. We do a graduation day, but it’s not like in the movies.”
In the meantime, Duthilleul is trying to enjoy every bit of his time in America. He misses his family of course, but he’s trying not to dwell on sad things while he’s here.
“I have to enjoy my year here,” he said. “That’s kind of tough sometimes, but I can’t think about it all the time, or it will be a sad year, and I don’t want that.”
Duthilleul has tentative plans for his education and career, and he’s actively taking steps to prepare for them during his time in Gering.
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“I want to be an accountant, so I’m taking accounting here,” he said. “I know where I want to go after high school in Belgium, but we’ll see if I change my mind after my year here.”
Duthilleul had no specific plans for his holiday break, but he had no doubt that whatever happens will be fun and exciting.