Foreign Exchange Students Join Student Body: Chloe Bocek

Sitting cross-legged on the floor of the Los Altos High School library, squished into the aisle between the fiction novels and the encyclopedias, sophomore Chloe Bocek is bent over a piece of white printer paper lying on the ground, carefully shading one of her new works of art.

She has her Chromebook open and her earbuds in. At first glance, she could be just another Los Altos High School art student. It’s only when you discover her back story behind that you realize she’s not.

Chloe is from the south of France in a town called Brignoles and has been enrolled at LAHS for the year in order to improve her English through immersion. However, her first few weeks of classes haven’t exactly been a piece of cake.

“Google Translate is my friend,” Chloe said. “I have my computer in all my classes, but it’s very hard. [I miss] the people [back in France and] my friends because here, there’s no one that I know and I’m a little afraid of all the [new] people. Here, nobody understands me, but in France everyone can talk to me. And yes, it’s that that I miss.”

For the first three weeks of school, Chloe spent lunches alone in the library after finding it too difficult to communicate with other students. However, upon meeting some new friends, Chloe has become much happier at school and now spends lunches speaking rapid French and gesturing animatedly.

Not only did her friends speak French, but they also shared her love of Japanese culture. Chloe and her new friends all signed up for the Japanese Culture Club (JCC) at Club Day, where they were able to further explore their passion.

Chloe loved the JCC’s first meeting, yet the whole experience of signing up for the club was new to Chloe.

“At French schools, there are no clubs like here,” Chloe said. “There are no activities apart from sports, music and art, which are… courses [at school]. There are no activities, so you simply go to school.”

Because of this lack of extracurricular activities, Chloe spent time exploring interests on her own, outside of class. Her passion for Japanese culture originated after she watched her first anime, “Black Butler,” on television at the age of 11. This soon led her to read the manga series for the TV anime.

“[The] manga art was beautiful and the story was magnificent,” Chloe said. “It’s the dresses, the jackets, everything was really beautiful. And ever since I [started reading] manga, I [became] a fan of manga and Japanese culture, and that’s it!”

For young Chloe, the next step after seeing manga art was attempting it herself.

“I started with shapes: the circle for the head, the cross for centering the eyes [and] the figure-eight for the bust,” Chloe said.

Now, four years later, she still starts her drawings with those basic shapes despite her increased skill as an artist. Throughout her progression as an artist, Chloe has found comfort in her love for the creative outlet that art provides.

“I love drawing [manga] because one can express one’s emotions through the colors,” Chloe said. “All that is in our heads, our imaginations, our dreams… can be put on a piece of paper… I can visualize anything and then draw it. It’s often people, girls or characters doing actions.”

Chloe’s passion for manga art led her to unusual success in her high school art class in France.

“[In art class] in France, I drew on the walls,” Chloe said. “I drew on the walls of the classroom because the teacher saw my art and said, ‘Whoa, you draw so well… Draw on the walls.’ And I said, ‘Really?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Yes, draw on the walls.’”

Surprised, Chloe hesitated at first. Seeing her reaction, her teacher handed her a pen and pencil as encouragement. And so, she began.

“There were all the other students drawing on paper,” Chloe said. “[And] me, I drew on the walls as if it was normal.”

Although her art mediums may be unconventional, Chloe is not deterred by the constraints of “normality.” She sets her own definition for that. And, throughout the year, she hopes to continue learning, not only to improve her drawing and English skills, but also to become a part of our community.

Editor’s note: Interviews done with Chloe were translated from French into English. The Talon apologizes for any errors or loss of meaning that occurred during translation.