One of the bigger parts of the cultural immersion program with my university and CIEE is living with a family in France. Yes, living with a host family from France! While this had me excited, I was equally nervous as I didn’t know how to communicate all my ideas in French and of course there was an added pressure of knowing that I must live with these people for the next 3 months.
I remember feeling very scared at first when it came time to move in with my host family. I was assigned an older couple and they lived in suburbs of Saint-Gregoire. We had written emails sharing some basic information but getting to see them in person was still a big step for me because I was not aware of what can be considered polite vs. impolite in France. However, once I met them and spoke to them, they seemed like some of the most understanding people I had ever met. They tried their best to understand my needs, my likes and dislikes when it came to food, and they communicated their expectations (which seemed to be just common human decency related).
The first few days were a little strange as I was still getting used to the environment of the house and was still getting to know my hosts. But soon after it became very easy to communicate with them, every time I had trouble understanding a word or two, they described it to me or showed the object to me and usually I knew what they were speaking off. I did the same when I couldn’t find a certain word. Before I knew it, it seemed like we were a family, we had conversations related to a plethora of topics during dinner and I tried to get more involved in the household by asking for mini-tasks I can do (like cleaning the table after dinner).
Throughout my time in France, I felt like I was at my grandparents’ house. I felt loved and supported, each time we had an excursion my host mom would pack me so much food that her and my host dad spent time making for me, it felt like my own grandma was there. I also fell sick a few times during my stay, but my host dad made me some soup and he brought bread with my favorite cheese and a mini dessert (yoghurt or sorbet but homemade). My host sister (she is 33) helped me bake a cake once too and this was super nice of her as I was trying out a new recipe and it was an experiment. The cake turned out great.
Having a place to go back to at the end of each day and knowing that I have people caring for me with their hearts felt nice to say the least. Knowing that I can go home without having to worry about my laundry, my bills, my work, or worrying about making food once I am back proved to be beneficial. To a large degree, it helped relieve stress and made transitioning to France that much easier. I feel sad because I must leave these people soon, but I am sure that I will visit them again in the future because I have a family (my host family) in France now!
One final thought: When you are with your host family, try your best to go out or go exploring with them, a few months pass by much quicker than we may imagine them too, try your best to make the best of them!