Hollywood Agent, Gregg Klein: “The Coolest Thing I Did in High School”
Gregg Klein with his wife, Natalie, and their two children.
By: Gregg Klein, Head of Theatrical Department at AKA Talent Agency
*Gregg Klein is the husband of Natalie Klein, Co-Owner and Manager of Hollywood Hot Moms and Hot Moms Club.
August 14, 2014 - Nearly 30 years ago, my family hosted a young man from France named Bertrand through the AFS. My High School had a very active AFS club, and there seemed to be a constant influx of students from France, Germany and Spain.
My parents were surprisingly open to the idea of hosting an exchange student, likely because of how much they appreciated the families in England who were willing to host me during a school band trip to the U.K. the previous year. They must have understood what a gift that can be to a student and his or her family.
One of the concerns my mother did have was how I would be able to communicate with a French exchange student given my French language skills, which she perceived to be rudimentary at best. My French teacher didn’t seem worried, however. "All of my students will be able to speak with the young people who will be staying with them," she told my mother. And she was right.
The day Bertrand arrived, we waited for his bus among 20 other families, all of us wielding welcome signs and a photo of our exchange student to help us pick him out in the crowd. Bertrand was one of the last off the bus, but we recognized him immediately. And just as quickly, I realized my French skills were going to be put to the test.Bertrand knew hardly any English when he arrived and so, in an effort to help him feel welcome, I began attempting to converse in French. Much to my mother’s (and quite honestly, my) great surprise, what came out of my mouth was actually fairly fluent! I was thrilled and motivated by this epiphany.
As it turned out, Bertrand was a very funny kid. He told jokes and had a great appreciation for American baseball. Each morning, he rode to school with me and attended classes. After school, we spent a lot of time hanging out with the other exchange students and their host siblings.
On the weekends, we explored as much as possible, making several trips into New York City. One such weekend, my entire extended family drove in to meet Bertrand and we all played tourist in NYC: Riding to the top of the Twin Towers; Visiting the Statue of Liberty, and: Tasting the local delicacies (Betrand's favorite was the here-to-fore undiscovered bakery item known as the bagel).
Of course, there were cultural differences that became apparent. Our ideas of how frequently it was reasonable to shower differed greatly. And he was particularly amazed by the size of the cars compared to his own family’s tiny Citroen.Overall, however, we found so much in common. Our time hosting went by in a flash, and we stayed in touch with Bertrand for many years after his departure.
The experience of making new friends and learning about another culture first hand was incredible. I certainly hope that my children have the opportunity to host an AFS student one day, or that they want travel as one. To learn about other cultures through experience, rather than in a classroom, is absolutely invaluable.