NDA’s Gina Kerscher Returns From Semester of Study in France


Senior Gina Kerscher at the Eiffel tower before going to meet her host family.

Ava Vande Corput, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

We often think about how foreign exchange students come from all over the world to attend school at Notre Dame, but we seldom think about a Notre Dame student going abroad.

Gina Kerscher, a senior at Notre Dame Academy, is the second student in NDA history to study abroad as a high school international student.

“My family has hosted two different exchange students before, and I always found it interesting to learn about different cultures. I thought it would be cool to speak another language, so I decided to start looking at the possibility of going abroad. After some research and talking to other people who have gone abroad, I knew that this was something I wanted to do,” said Kerscher.

Last semester Kerscher decided on studying in France because she loved her French class, the language and the culture.

Before heading off to France, Kerscher went to New York for a day of orientation where she met 40 other students who were also going to France.

After a day of orientation, Kerscher was off to France with 40 other students with the same goals and mindset.

“After landing in Paris, we met with every exchange student from all over the world before going to our host families. There were 280 of us who were here to learn French and about the culture. It was so nice to meet everyone because we all had the same mindset. We all clicked fast, and I made tons of new friends from all over the world,” the senior said.

The next morning Kerscher took a five-hour train ride to the little village in southwest France where her host family lived.

“I was so nervous to meet my family for the first time, but everyone was so nice. After getting to meet my family, I put my things away and got ready for school Monday morning,” said Kerscher.

The next morning Kerscher attended Lycée Arnaud Daniel School in Ribérac. The school facility is larger than NDA but only has about 500 students.

“I walked up to the school gate where all the teens stood smoking, and seeing this made the little butterflies in my stomach go wild. I didn’t understand why this was a dream of mine because I am super shy and don’t like to stand out in the crowd. My host mom dropped me off at my first class and told a girl standing by the door that I was American. After this, she just left me there, and I started to freak out. I said ‘hello’ in the best French accent I could, but I was still scared out of my mind. Then the teacher walked into the room, started rambling in French and I became completely clueless,” said Kerscher.

Kerscher and her classmates at her school in France

After listening to the teacher for awhile longer, people began to say “oui” to names being called out.

Kerscher patiently waited for her name to be called by the teacher, but it never was.

“The teacher then spoke again, and the girl next to me raised her hand. As the teacher and student were talking, I was trying my hardest to get a grasp at least what they were saying. Then the room went silent. Everyone looked at me. I was more confused than I ever was. At this point, I had a feeling I was supposed to say something. I took a deep breath hoping I wouldn’t sound as scared as I was, and I said, ‘I am sorry I do not understand.’ Then even the people that weren’t looking at me already, whipped their heads to get a look at this strange American sitting in the back of the class. A girl in the front said in English, ‘You what you name is?’ At this point all I wanted to know was why had I wanted to go on exchange to France,” said Kerscher.

Kerscher and her closest friends in France

The longer Kerscher stayed in France, the more she started to catch on to the language and the culture.

“The most difficult part for me was the language. Although I had taken three years of French, I found out I didn’t know anything when I arrived. I knew how to say my name, how are you, I like pizza and, most importantly, that I don’t understand. I wanted to know what people were saying so bad that it would give me a headache.Thankfully after about two months, my French progressed immensely, and I was starting to like my life there a lot more,” Kerscher stated.

Kerscher also became involved with playing tennis in France because she was on the tennis team at Notre Dame.

Other than playing tennis in the city, Kerscher focused on studying and doing her homework after a school day that went from 8:00-5:30 p.m.

Overall Kerscher had a pleasant experience in France and wishes she was still there.

“The best part was not one moment or one day but a collection of things. My favorite part of this was all of the time I spent with my host family and friends. I loved learning about how the teenagers live in France and being a part of their activities. These little moments are the ones I miss the most right now,” stated Kerscher.

Kerscher and her host family

Even though Kerscher had a rough start in France, she encourages other students to study abroad.

“There are endless stories I could tell, but all I have to say is if you are thinking about doing it, go for it. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I was always a reserved person, and I am very shy. I never liked to be put in the spotlight, but this experience has taught me that confidence truly is essential. It was honestly the best five months of my life. Not only did I learn a new culture and meet some of my best friends in France, but I now have a friend on every continent. Above all of the friends and cultural experiences, I have learned so much about myself and grown as a person,” said Kerscher.