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Exchange program benefits students, host families

CHAMPLAIN - When Ghizlane Megout came to the U.S. from Morocco, she didn't know what to expect.

The 17-year-old junior came to the Northeastern Clinton Central School District in August as part of the AYUSA International student exchange program, marking the first time she had ever stepped foot onto American soil. In fact, it was the first time she'd ever left Africa.

"I thought this school would be crazy from the American movies I've seen, but when I came here it wasn't like I thought it would be at all," she said.

Megout thought her experience at NCCS would most be like the 2004 movie "Mean Girls," starring Lindsey Lohan and Rachel McAdams, in which Lohan's character was considered an outcast for being the new girl in school.

"She was expecting all this girl-bashing and cat fights and telling me a lot of international students think American schools are like that. It's not that bad, but it's got its moments," said senior Ashley Turner, whose family Megout has been staying with she since arrived.

In her first weeks of school, Megout's fears were put to rest but she still found herself struggling to fit in. Under Ashley Turner's wing, she was able to get acclimated to her new surroundings, making new friends and feeling more comfortable in social situations.

"It was hard at first because you feel like you're alone and that you're weird," admitted Megout. "And, it's been hard sometimes because I have never been separated from my family. It was my first time that I have been that far from them."

Through the support of her newfound friends, her teachers and her host family, Megout - who became affectionately nicknamed "Izzy" - eventually came out of her shell.

"I just decided I needed to stop being so emotional. I'm still not 100 percent comfortable, but more like 70-80 percent," Megout said with a laugh.

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