GREAT FALLS — A Belgian exchange student is taking on her latest role. But this one is not for the movie screen - she’s spending her senior year learning at Great Falls Central Catholic High School
Holiday traditions are just one topic of conversation for Great Falls Central exchange students Alisa Jackel of Germany, Irene Fernandez of Spain, and Fantine Harduin of Belgium.
The trio played volleyball in the fall, they will also be part of the Mustang cheer squad for the upcoming basketball season and they even might give skiing a try.
The school also has a fourth exchange student, Noah Osiowy from Canada, who also plays for the Great Falls Americans Hockey Team.
For Fantine, this is far from the first time she’s been in front of the camera.
The 17-year-old has been acting since she was seven. She appeared with her father on "Belgium's Got Talent," and her film credits include the critically-acclaimed French film ‘Happy End’, featured at the Cannes Film Festival.
She also starred in the film ‘Adoration.’ She will be featured in an upcoming French TV series called ‘Promethea.’
Hailing from Mouscron, a town of about 60,000 on the French border about 60 miles west of Brussels, she admits adjusting to the cold has been tough.
“In Begium, it doesn’t get much below zero,” said Harduin. “We have cold weather, but not nearly like here. I had never experienced that weather. But you just put a lot of coats on or stay inside and it’s ok.”
She says elements aside, Montana and the U.S. has been a wonderful experience.
“Everything here is kind of like more fun than in Belgium,” said Harduin. “I don’t know how to explain it but it’s like, there’s something more. I love America. Montana is so beautiful. The sunsets and sunrises are so beautiful. People here are so friendly, so welcoming. So it’s been just amazing.”
Harduin says she’d like to see all the sights in Montana. She’s been to Helena and she and her host family visited the Sun Canyon area.
She enjoys the class selection that includes Montana history and yearbook. She’s also excited about doing a research project on film and she loves the teaching environment.
“In Belgium it’s really strict,” said Harduin. “So it’s really cool here and the teachers are just amazing and the school is amazing.”
Fantine and Alisa are living with Central’s Director of Advancement, Dawn Bushard, who has housed other exchange students and highly recommends the experience.
“You just learn so much about other cultures,” said Bushard. “It’s so fun to bring that in and then to show them what the United States has.”
Bushard says she’s made lifelong friends with the exchange students she’s hosted. She says with the two students this year and her own children, it’s like she has five daughters living with her.
She said the school always looks for host families and anyone is welcome if they meet requirements including transportation to extracurricular activities. She says some exchange programs also offer a stipend for host families.
Harduin wants to study in Paris and hopes to continue in film whether it be acting, writing, or even directing.
And while the script of her senior year in America is still being written, she has no doubt it will be an action-packed adventure.
“Being in a whole other country, a whole other culture is changing you,” said Harduin. “I’ve met other people. And I can take all of that experience that I’ve had here to put it in my acting and cinema. I think it’s going to be real interesting to have had this experience. I hope so at least.”
If you’d like to learn more about Central’s exchange student program, you can call the school at 406-216-3344.
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