When Andrew Alan Crook walks around campus, some students refer to him as the bearded man. Others compare his looks to Zach Galifianakis.
Crook has an interesting persona that will intrigue people from the second their conversation begins.
After graduating from Graham Kapowsin High School in 2009, Crook spent a year traveling in France.
It’s a family rule of the Crooks that each family member must go to another country after graduating from high school for a minimum of six months.
“It’s so that we can find ourselves,” Crook says, “and to understand other cultures.”
Crook’s mother spent one year in Japan. His father enlisted in the Marines and spent time in various countries such as the Philippines and Japan. His brother traveled to Korea.
“I definitely did figure out a lot about myself in France. That’s what happens when you go into another culture unprepared. It’s a huge culture shock,” Crook said.
Crook studied at The University of La Rochelle in La Rochelle.
He didn’t go through an exchange program but rather something similar. He contacted the “Cufle,” a cultural acceptance program through the university.
About 80 percent of this program was Chinese. Two other Americans, one from South Carolina and one from New York, were in the program. Crook said he made a good friend from New Zealand.
Cufle arranged for Crook to stay with a French family who lived near the La Rochelle campus. Only one e-mail had been sent between Crook and the family before meeting in France.
Crook’s experience with his host family was not ideal, so he lived with them for only three months before staying in an apartment for another three months with an American friend.
While in France, Crook made an effort to not speak English and only speak French. He took three years of French in high school, but he says that it was only enough to get him by.
“The French have a national pride in their language-so they hate it when people come to their country and speak English without attempting to speak French,” Crook said.
Even though the French have this national pride, Crook says the French are talented in speaking English as well. In fact, Crook’s host-father spoke English, which helped set ground rules and describe emergency situations.
Crook made it a priority to celebrate American holidays such as Thanksgiving while in France.
He spent the Thanksgiving before last in France with friends and some minced cow head.
Crook describes minced cow head as “raw cow head sliced up and served”.
Once he got past the fact that he was eating raw cow head, he enjoyed the food and thought it was really good and delicious.
“I’ve eaten fried cuddle fish as well,” Crook said.
Crook explained that milk is looked at as disgusting in France. The French believe you should only drink beverages that will help you digest, such as wine, sparkling cider and water but never milk.
“The city of La Rochelle is small, but there is a train station so you can go places if you want to,” Crook said.
He traveled to Paris, saw the Eiffel Tower, and stayed in hostels with friends.
Crook has cousins who live in London, so Crook and his friend from Switzerland visited them during his stay in Europe.
Now that Crook is back, he is on track to graduate with his associate’s degree next June. After graduating from Pierce College, Crook plans to transfer to Western Washington University to major in English education.
Crook keeps in contact with his French friends through Facebook. As far as the American friends he met in La Rochelle, he tries to keep in touch through phone conversations. A friend from New Zealand that Crook met in France recently flew in to Washington to visit Crook.
Crook’s words of advice to anyone who wants to travel.
“It’s so much easier than you think it’s going to be. Experiences like this will make you more open. I suggest to look up a transfer program. Everyone will be helpful,” he said.
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