Salut, Romain!


Frances Nathan, Reporter

As everyone knows, Rhinebeck High School is small, and oftentimes we don’t get to experience many new students each year. Most of the kids you meet in Kindergarten will also be the ones you graduate with. 

There is one curiosity evoking type of new kid Rhinebeck can always count on to cause a conversation buzz around school, and that is the exchange students! They join us here in our little town to not only gain new cultural encounters and a shift in experience, but also to open up the eyes of students here to the lifestyle they are coming from. 

Romain Benhamou is one of the recent additions to the Rhinebeck Junior Class. During school lunch, we had a casual sit down conversation together and discussed who he is, and what cultural differences he has noticed the most since he came to America.

I was not expecting to have a surprised reaction after asking my first question: “What is your full name?”. And yet, the response I received was, in fact, surprising. 

As an American, like many others, I am used  to hearing someone tell me their first, middle, and last name without hesitation, but when I asked Romain, his response wasn’t what I expected. 

“Wait, I have to remember,” said Romain. 

 I laughed at this response, not realizing it was genuine. Romain then informed me that his full name is Romain Théotime Samuel Benhamou. He explained to me that in France name significance is different. Most French have multiple names after their first, but the only one that really matters is the first and last name; the others are pretty unimportant, which is why Romain took a minute to think about his. 

Romain lives 20 minutes outside Paris, France in Croissy sur Seine. The school he attends is called Saint Germain en Laye, a private high school in Paris. 

I was curious to know what the biggest difference between American schools and French schools was; Romain’s answer was the level of authority.  “American school is a lot easier and it is way less strict than in France,” said Romain. 

I was fascinated to hear this.  Most American teens consider the schooling here to be too rigorous and the curriculums to have too much material. It’s odd to think that the work we complete here would be considered easy. When Romain is at school in France,  he says that math is his favorite subject, but here, it switches. He enjoys taking Intro to Psychology with Mr. Moore, and also thinks that P.E is really fun. 

I later asked Romain what his future schooling plans would be on his return to France. 

“I think I’m going to change schools,” said Romain. If he stays at his current school, he will be held back a year because of this exchange program. This means he would no longer be in the same year as his friends.

After hearing this, the strictness of the education system in France was clear to me. 

Outside of school, Romain told me that the biggest difference between American and French teens is the urge to drive. Here, we look forward to our 16th birthdays the most because that means the privilege of getting a permit, but in France, the need to have that independence is a lot less thought of. 

“Sixteen-year-olds in France don’t really drive. To get your license you have to be 18, and you can start driving with your parents at 16, but nobody really does it,” said Romain.

At home, Romain has 2 siblings; a younger sister Chloé, 13, and an older brother Matthieu, 17, with whom he is close. His parents both work in finance.

It was his father who sparked his interest in tennis from a young age. “I started when I was four, and it was my dad who got me into it,” said Romain. He has continued to play ever since; one of his favorite tennis players is Raphael Nadal. Other hobbies of Romain include playing varsity school soccer this fall, varsity basketball this winter,  and playing saxophone in his free time. 

Even though he has only been here a few months, it’s clear Roman has become a great new addition to Rhinebeck!