GREAT FALLS — A Belgian exchange student takes on her latest role. But this one isn’t for the big screen — she’s spending her senior year studying at Great Falls Central Catholic High School
Holiday traditions are just one topic of conversation for Great Falls Central exchange students Alisa Jackel from Germany, Irene Fernandez from Spain and Fantine Harduin from Belgium.
The trio played volleyball this fall, they’ll also be part of the Mustang Cheer Squad for the upcoming basketball season, and they might even try their hand at skiing.
The school also has a fourth exchange student, Noah Osiowy from Canada, who also plays for the Great Falls Americans Hockey Team.
This is far from Fantine’s first time in front of the camera.
The 17-year-old has been playing since she was seven. She appeared with her father on Belgium’s Got Talent and her films include the critically acclaimed French film Happy End, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival.
She also starred in the film “Worship”. She will be starring in an upcoming French TV series called Promethea.
Originally from Mouscron, a town of about 60,000 on the French border about 60 miles west of Brussels, she admits it has been difficult to adapt to the cold.
“It doesn’t get much below zero in Begium,” said Harduin. “We have cold weather, but not nearly like here. I had never experienced such weather. But you just put on a lot of coats or stay inside and it’s ok.”
Aside from the elements, she says Montana and the US was a wonderful experience.
“Everything is kind of more fun here than in Belgium,” said Harduin. “I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s like there’s more to it than that. i love america Montana is so beautiful. The sunsets and sunrises are so beautiful. The people here are so friendly, so welcoming. So it was just amazing.”
Harduin says she would like to see all the sights in Montana. She was in Helena visiting the Sun Canyon area with her host family.
She enjoys class selection, which includes Montana history and the yearbook. She is also looking forward to doing a research project on film and she loves the classroom environment.
“It’s really strict in Belgium,” Harduin said. “So it’s really cool here and the teachers are just amazing and the school is amazing.”
Fantine and Alisa live with Dawn Bushard, Central’s Director of Advancement, who has placed other exchange students and highly recommends the experience.
“You just learn so much about other cultures,” says Bushard. “It’s so much fun to bring that in and then show them what the United States has to offer.”
Bushard says she has formed lifelong friendships with the exchange students she hosts. She says with the two students of that year and their own children, it’s like having five daughters living with her.
She said the school is always looking for host families and anyone is welcome if they meet requirements, including transportation to extracurricular activities. She says some exchange programs also offer a homestay bursary.
Harduin wants to study in Paris and hopes to continue in film, be it as an actor, writer or even director.
And while the screenplay for her final year in America is still being written, she has no doubt it’s going to be an action-packed adventure.
“Being in a completely different country, a completely different culture changes you,” Harduin said. “I met other people. And I can bring all these experiences that I’ve had here into my acting and my cinema. I think it will be really interesting to have had that experience. At least I hope so.”
If you would like to learn more about Central’s exchange student program, you can call the school at 406-216-3344.