When I studied abroad for a semester in France a year ago, I had the incredible opportunity to live with a host family. Even though I had no language experience, the homestay option was still my top choice because I desired a more immersive experience, as well as an inside view on French life and culture. Here are a few highlights from my time living with a host family:
Meals – Mealtime was always a favorite of mine while living with my family, especially dinner. They eat much later than the average time in America, and they’re very intentional about making it family time without distractions. It’s the time where they share how the day was, they tell stories, and just enjoy each other’s company for an hour or longer. I loved being a part of such beautiful family time, and it was a great opportunity for me to learn the language through listening. Don’t get me wrong: most of the time I only knew a fraction of the conversation because my language knowledge was so basic and they talked fast; but even though I didn’t know all the words they said, I could still understand a lot through their tones, body language, and facial expressions. During that time I was able to get to know them more, and they were so sweet to give me recommendations and suggestions about the city, living in France, and traveling. It was also through these mealtimes that I was able to meet many of their extended family and build more connections. One of the cousins I met at a family dinner let me stay with him and his wife when I visited Paris! Overall, the genuine family time at meals played a big role in making me feel at home while abroad.
Travel – My other favorite part about living with a host family was the traveling and activities I got to do with them. They loved spending the weekends hiking in the Pyrenees Mountains (the natural border between France and Spain), or even going into the city center to see a movie. As I share a love for both the outdoors and movies, they were gracious enough to invite me along with them. We went to the movie theater a few times, they took me to a family favorite lake for the afternoon, and we went on a day and overnight hike in the Pyrenees. All of these trips were so much fun and gave me unique insight into French life. My absolute favorite trip was the overnight hike in the Pyrenees. We stayed in a mountain refuge where I got to meet a lot of random people from all over, spend more time with my family, and witness the most breathtaking views.
Each housing experience is unique, so no matter which you choose, you will have an amazing time! If you have any questions about housing or any other aspect of off-campus study, stop by the Off-Campus Study office in Martha Miller (room 109) or email email@example.com.
– Rachel Elder, Off-Campus Study Peer Advisor