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FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL | Exchange student will be learning ropes of a new school – and a new country

MANATEEDavid Mauboussin always wondered what the inside of an American high school would look like.

This morning the 17-year-old French exchange student will find out just that when he walks through the front doors of Braden River High School on the first day of the 2009-10 school year.

Toting a navy Eastpak backpack and an English-to-French translation dictionary in hand, he’ll join hundreds of fellow teens as an 11th-grader.

“I’m excited about the first day, because I will meet new people,” said Mauboussin, who is from Normandy.

A student in the international exchange program ASSE, David arrived in Bradenton on Aug. 7.

John Boerner, his host “father,” said Mauboussin’s class schedule remains a mystery. He won’t find out until today.

Mauboussin has stocked up on back-to-school clothes, including shorts and flip flops. He brought the backpack from home.

As he sat at the kitchen table in the home where he’ll live for the next 10 months, he said he was looking forward to attending school in a new country.

One benefit: The English language is no stranger to him. He’s studied it since he was 8. Still, he carries his dictionary around in case a few unexpected words pop up.

Throughout his childhood, Mauboussin said he watched television shows showcasing American high schools.

“I’m curious to see if they look the same,” he said.

Something he knows he’ll like about school: the hours.

“In France we have many more hours,” he said. “School starts at 8 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m.”

In Manatee County, high schools let out at 2:45 p.m.

In his first few weeks here, David said he’s noticed a few differences in the two cultures, Boerner said.

“He was impressed with the difference in the size of things like cars,” Boerner said. “French cars are much smaller.”

He’s still getting used to Florida weather, too. For the first time this winter, he won’t see snow.

“It’s warmer here,” Mauboussin said.

While here, Mauboussin has a few destinations he’d like to visit, including Miami. Florida beaches also are on his list. “They look better here,” he said.

When he completes 11th grade, he’ll return to France, where he lives with his mother, father and two siblings, a 13-year-old brother and 10-year-old sister.

In the meantime, he hopes to get into a jazz ensemble at Braden River. While at the Boerner’s home, he’ll practice on a baby grand piano — something he’s played for seven years.

“I had to tune it up when I found out he played,” Boerner said, chuckling.

And if he gets homesick, he can glance atop the piano and look at a family portrait taken the day before he left. In it, his little sister is smiling and holding two American flags.

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