By Jen Bakken
INDEPENDENCE, MN For the Farniok family, of Independence, a change in their lives began with an e-mail sent three years ago.
When a friend from high school told Anne Farniok a Language and Friendship program was looking for host families, little did she know that a connection would take place all the way from France to her Independence home.
Many French students have now become part of the Farniok family. Life-long friendships have developed between the Farnioks, the foreign exchange students, and their families.
Anne and Steve Farniok have three children, Mariah, Allen, and Nicholas. Steve is involved in the family’s sheet metal fabrication business. Ann is an interior designer and teaches at Dakota Technical College.
The entire family has benefited from learning another culture and language, even making trips to France themselves.
The exchange students have also experienced a lot in America and feel very fortunate to have stayed with the Farnioks.
“My first impression was that everything is so big here,” said foreign exchange student Sandra Moinet. “From houses to cars, they are big. People are much friendlier here, too.”
Moinet spent the summer with the Farnioks while she did an internship in Minnesota and enjoyed taking part in the Delano tennis tournament. She also spent time teaching Allen Farniok French.
Allen spent three weeks in France and hopes to return knowing more of the language.
“It’s fun there,” he said. “There is so much to see and it’s beautiful every day. It was the best time of my life.”
Next year, Anne plans to be a group leader for an educational tour through Paris, Florence, and Rome.
The mission of Language and Friendship is to provide meaningful intercultural opportunities through short-term travel and family-stay programs abroad, as well as through hosting opportunities in the United States. Emphasis is on the creation of quality programs with a strong commitment to intercultural and language-oriented education.
For the French students staying with the Farnioks, this has been the experience of a lifetime.
They admit that even the food servings are larger here, and have found a few American favorites.
“The burgers,” said Julien Hossard. “Those are good, oh, and pizza, too.”
For Sandra, it’s sweet corn and peanut butter, but they agree that root beer is not a favorite and tastes similar to a mouthwash in France.
One thing is certain for these French students and the Farnioks of Independence, a lifetime connection has developed and their families have grown.