Living with a host family was one of the main criteria I looked for when picking a study abroad program in France, but it was also undoubtedly one of my main points of stress. I was especially nervous to move in with a new family because I was worried about invading their space and not feeling comfortable in the house. I thought I would not know when to eat breakfast or what to eat, whether I should hang out in my room or in the shared spaces. However, after having lived with them for two weeks now, I can confidently say that I have not encountered any of the problems I was worried about and also that those worries have not so much as crossed my mind since the day I arrived.
Starting from the moment when I met my host family and we exchanged the classic French ‘bises’ they were incredibly warm and welcoming. I have not found many cultural differences between the life I am used to in the United States and life in a French household. People here are definitely much more conscious to not waste resources such as electricity and water; in fact, my host family saves the water from the shower while they are waiting for it to get hot, and they water their plants with their dish-washing water! I have also noticed small alimentary differences such as eating more involved breakfasts and regularly having multiple course dinners. However, I find that most small cultural differences do not pose any sort of problem for the host experience; simply making an effort to understand the family and their way of doing things is enough to bridge the gap.
Spending time with my host family is often the highlight of my day, not because I do not do any other interesting things but because talking with them is genuinely so engaging. We talk about our everyday lives but also discuss many more serious topics such as agricultural practices and pesticides, global warming, and politics. On weekends my host parents often invite a friend over for dinner, and I thoroughly enjoy these evenings as well because it is a fun challenge to listen and try to understand what is going on as native French speakers jump around between what feels like hundreds of different topics.
My experience living with a French host family has been very smooth, and I truly feel like a part of the family. Although I was most anxious about this element of the Rennes program, it has definitely been the most fulfilling experience so far for me. To anyone who is thinking about doing this program or considering a host family in any other study abroad location: I strongly encourage you to DO IT. No matter what family you are placed with, it will be an invaluable opportunity to practice your language skills, and you might just meet people who you come away considering to be a real part of your family.
Occidental College in Los Angeles