French student returns to school in Niskayuna

ysnk nov6 studentspotligh (4)

BY Kate Bunster
Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — Imagine having to move every three years or so, leaving your friends and culture behind. This has been Marie Culliver’s reality since she can remember.

Culliver was born in the St. Germain area of Paris and since then has lived in London, Connecticut, Prague, a different part of Paris, and most recently, Niskayuna.

Culliver has been moving around with her family — her father, Matthew, her mother, Helen, and her little brother, Thomas. Her father works for General Electric in the finance department, which is the cause of the frequent moves for the family, who are native French.

When it came time for this latest relocation, she had already received her International Baccalaureate degree in France, so her parents were concerned when she wanted to move with them, because they weren’t sure what she would do here. So she decided to attend another year of high school at Niskayuna.

She isn’t taking her extra year of high school education for granted, though. “There is always stuff to learn,” said Culliver, who also is getting a chance to practice her English skills here — she speaks the language without an accent but sometimes has to search for the right word.
She also is challenging herself with five AP classes this year. In order to be able to gain admission into universities in the United Kingdom, she has to score a 5 on all her AP tests.

Interested in the sciences, she plans to study materials engineering and is looking at schools in the UK and the States. However, she has noticed how expensive a college education here is. “To go to a good school in the UK is only $6,000,” she said.

Because her father’s transfer was sudden, she didn’t have much time to prepare. The move caused her some stress at first. “I looked at the location on a map and saw it was geographically in the middle of the state,” said Culliver. “I was like, ‘What am I going to do in my free time?’ ”
But Culliver’s anxiety eased shortly after she arrived. She likes that it is much easier to get around than it was in France, especially to see her friends. In France, some of her friends from school lived far away. Here in Niskayuna, everyone lives just a short drive away for her, which has been convenient. “My school and the weather are my two favorite parts about living here,” she said. She keeps in contact with most of her friends from France via social media and even gets to frequently see one who attends Becker College in Massachusetts.

Moving around has presented her with many opportunities. While she was living in Connecticut, Culliver, who was able to sing opera at age 8, was recommended by a friend who attended Trinity Church in Southport to sing with the church choir at Carnegie Hall. She prepared for this over a period of six months, traveling back and forth from Connecticut to New York. She hopes to carry on her love for singing here by becoming a member of Niskayuna’s Studio Singers.

Despite the geographic diversity through her childhood, there are some similarities between the tourism in Paris and New York. Much like how tourists stand out to New Yorkers in Times Square, Culliver said it was always clear to her who was a Parisian and who was just visiting. “I’ve never even visited the Eiffel Tower,” she said.

But the busy Parisian streets never stopped her from taking in all the culture and delicious food, which she says she misses very dearly while living there.

Something she also hasn’t been able to do much of here is go out on the sea. Culliver was a certified sailing instructor in France. One of her favorite places to sail to was Brittany, a hilly peninsula in northwest France — she loved being outside there in the natural environment. Although she hasn’t sailed since moving here, she plans on staying active through joining the Niskayuna basketball team in the winter.

Despite her worries about finding things to do here, she has had no trouble making friends in Niskayuna and enjoys riding her horses on the weekends — the Cullivers brought them along from France.