As I was getting adjusted to my program, and each of my classes, toward the end of the semester I realized that it wasn’t just academia that was having an impact on me but that I was also going to be profoundly influenced by many of the other exchange students. It then occurred to me that I should interview them so that Americans, and SDSU students specifically, get a glimpse of some exchange students from other countries as well as their lives, character, plans and future goals, stereotypes, etc.
With this thought, I decided to interview a few people with whom I regularly came in contact, who made an impression on me, and who I met during the fall semester. One such person is George German from Lebanon, and the following is said interview:
1. How many languages/dialects do you speak? Is it common for Lebanese people to speak multiple languages?
I speak French, Arabic, Lebanese (Lebanese is a dialect of Arabic) and English fluently, and I am currently learning Mandarin. It is common indeed for Lebanese people to speak at least two languages fluently, as the different subjects at school are taught either in French and Arabic or English and Arabic.
2. How many countries have you been to?
Surprisingly, I had never traveled before coming to France. However, since I’ve started studying at ESSEC, I’ve been to Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and I am currently in the United Kingdom. So that would make six countries in total (including Lebanon). Oh, and I’ll be traveling to Austria and Scotland in May!
3. Where is your favorite place, or has been your favorite place, to visit and/or live?
My favorite place to visit and to live is undoubtedly Paris. I just feel so good there, and I love the food and the architecture. Every time I leave it, I miss it quite a lot and realize how good the life there is.
4. Would you say that Lebanon and/or your hometown are safe places, i.e. do you feel comfortable walking alone at night? What about for women or Queer people? Would your sister/mother walk alone at night?
Despite as being considered as dangerous because it is neighboring Syria — where there has been a civil war for the past years — Lebanon is actually a safe country to live in (of course, there are some places safer than others). I come from a small town, where everyone knows each other and where it is safe to walk at night. For women and Queer people, it is totally safe to walk alone during the day, but during the night it is better to walk in the presence of a man or in groups.
5. I know you said that you’re from a town in the northern part of Lebanon, what’s the name of your home town? What do you normally do there?
I come from a small town called Kfarakka, and it is located in the District of Koura. It is 30 minutes away from Tripoli and around one and a half hours away from Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. There is not much to do there, but when I come back, we will often meet with my cousins and spend nights eating good food, playing UNO or watching a good movie. If we want to go out, we will usually leave Kfarakka to go to other places such as Byblos, where we can stroll by the sea!
6. What is the ideal profession that every Lebanese parent wants for their children, i.e doctor, engineer, actor … ?
In Lebanon, every parent wants their children to be a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer. If you do any other profession, you will be considered as stupid by the society. I had myself started studying medicine because of the social pressure and because my parents wanted me to become a doctor. However, I quickly realized this was not something I wanted to do in the future. I wanted to study business from the beginning, but it is usually perceived as a major for the “weakest students” in Lebanon. And this is why I decided to come to France!
7. Touristy or not, what’s one of your favorite places to go in Lebanon?
My favorite place to visit in Lebanon is definitely Beirut downtown. One of the main reasons I love it is because the architecture of the houses is similar to that of Paris. It is considered as a “ghost town” because very few people live there, as the rents are crazy expensive. However, I love to stroll there and take pictures; it’s very peaceful.
8. What is a place that someone should not miss when visiting Lebanon?
That’s a tough question! Besides Beirut downtown, one of the main places not to miss is the Cedars of God, a small forest with many very old cedars. In winter, it is covered by snow and the view is simply stunning!
9. Overall, what it the general perception about Americans? Mostly negative, mostly positive? Be honest!
I might be wrong — well, I realized I am wrong after talking to Van — but for me, Americans have the good life. They are living the American dream. They all have nice cars, eat in good restaurants, have big houses, dress well, and kind of have the same life as the Kardashians!
Vanessa Reynolds is a non-traditional senior and transfer student studying international business at the ESSEC Business School in Cergy-Pontoise, France, for the 2018-19 academic year.
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