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French Visitor Offers First Impressions
French exchange student Anice Guiren flew into San Francisco last week in a group of 37 students on a quick, 11-day visit to California organized by Horizons Du Monde/Mondes Noveaux. He is due to leave for home tomorrow.

One of two French students staying in Riverbank, the 16-year-old is living with Ric and Diana McGinnis while others have host families in Oakdale, Escalon and Modesto.

Guiren and his companions are going on group tours to see landmarks like the State Capitol in Sacramento, plus San Francisco's Union Square, Mission and Haight-Ashbury districts and its famous cable cars. They are also experiencing local attractions like a Nuts baseball game in Modesto and a visit to the Vintage Faire shopping mall.

McGinnis said he hoped to organize a family trip to Yosemite National Park this past weekend.

Guiren managed to grab a quick tour of the Oakdale High School campus and classrooms last week - Rivcrbank High and many other schools were absorbed in state tests.

Guiren's home town of Halluin is located in northern France so close to the Belgian border he can walk into that country and played soccer there last year. Halluin has a population of about 25,000 so it is close to that of Riverbank.

His first impressions of America were "the welcoming, friendly people and the flat, open spaces" between the towns on the way from San Francisco to Riverbank.

Schools here are very different, he said of his visit to Oakdale High. The classroom atmosphere is far less formal with a give and take in conversation, and even laughter, between teacher and student unknown in a French classroom.

European students play sports, he noted, after school as members of a club. Sports are not part of the school curriculum, which concentrates on academics. Soccer is the most popular year-round game in Europe but it is called "football."

Guiren is fond of studying science and has aspirations of becoming a physician. He has been learning the English language for eight years and has travelled to England, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Algeria. He can speak a little Spanish and Arabic besides English and French.

His parents are from Algeria located in North Africa and a former colony of France. His father still works there for two months at a time. The family is Muslim and practices the dietary restrictions of Islam, which forbid the consumption of pork.

"No Subway ham and cheese sandwiches for him," said McGinnis. "We also are having to modify our home cooking a little."