Exchange student heads back to France

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 24, 2005

&uot;He’s just the perfect kid. He’s an honor student, and the type of kid anyone would want to know.&uot;

That is Barbara Stephenson’s description of the very special last three weeks her family has spent with Huot Morgan, 18, a French exchange student from Bordeaux. Morgan and his Suffolk caretakers have all taken turns as teachers and pupils during Morgan’s trip, and all are now extremely grateful for the opportunity.

The last three weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of traveling, and many, many firsts, for Morgan.

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There has been his first time in America, his first cheeseburger, his first baseball game (and hence his first hot dog), his first football (American football) game,

Actually, there has not been much time spent in Suffolk for Morgan, Stephenson, Stephenson’s three children, or Carlito Barnes, Stephenson’s boyfriend, as the family has tried to show Morgan as much of America as possible in such a short time.

Boston, the rest of New England, New York City, Busch Gardens, and finally Washington D.C. over the weekend, made up the crammed itinerary. The mansions and beaches in New England, along with the Capitol Building and memorials of Washington, were the most memorable parts of the road trip up and down the coast, according to Morgan.

&uot;I have liked it all because it’s been very different,&uot; said Morgan, &uot;It’s shown me a wider world.&uot;

In the short amount of time spent around Suffolk, it has been just as fast-paced, actually quite literally fast.

Morgan is an experienced athlete who swims, canoes, and hang-glides; and is also an expert distance runner.

In a 5K (3.1 mile) race held recently at Langley Air Force Base, Morgan showed up almost too late to start, and was still good enough to come in with a fourth-place finish in a race that had some professional runners in the field.

Stephenson’s daughter Starla, a rising senior at Lakeland, has been Morgan’s mentor during his trip.

&uot;We’ve been each other’s mentor,&uot; she said &uot;I’ve learned a lot from him, even some French. Living here, there are things we take for granted, such as going up to D.C. and seeing the Capitol and the monuments. And little things, like the rides and roller coasters at Busch Gardens that we’ve done before.&uot;

Teaching new cultural experiences has been just as much Morgan’s role over the past three weeks.

&uot;We learned something new each day thanks to him,&uot; said Barnes, &uot;and the one thing I learned was that in France there is no ‘Good morning’ first thing in the morning, but you should say, ‘Hello.’&uot;

Lakeland has two new goldfish, named &uot;Huot&uot;, and &uot;Morgan&uot;. Starla was able to sing &uot;Happy Birthday&uot; to a friend in French, while Huot has expanded his already impressive English, and even learned some Spanish from Starla.

Dining with the left hand, eating salad last, and almost getting his young American companions to enjoy eating beets, have all been interesting culinary lessons thanks to Morgan.

Even as of Monday, the trip’s schedule was not yet complete. Morgan experienced professional wrestling Monday night at the Hampton Coliseum, as well as go-carts, roller skating, and going to the movies between Monday afternoon and Morgan’s departure Tuesday afternoon.

Returning home on Tuesday, Morgan will finish his last year at a private school for honors students in Bordeaux.

&uot;After three days here he was saying he wanted to come back,&uot; said Stephenson. &uot;Everyone who has met him has loved him. He asked me if I wanted to come to France sometime, and I said ‘of course.’&uot;

&uot;We’re really going to miss him, every morning it’s become that we’re used to him being here, and it’s actually going to be different now,&uot; said Starla.

&uot;I’ve found that Americans are very nice.

I was surprised because of the information in France. We think that the American people don’t like France or French people,&uot; said Morgan. &uot;I love the American citizens.&uot;