One of the key elements of the AUCP study abroad experience is living with a French host family. Yet many students are unsure of what to expect of a homestay experience – how they will fit in or what will be expected of them… Living with a host family is often cited as AUCP students’ favorite part of their experience abroad and the main contributing factor to their understanding of the French – both language and culture. The following 5 points will hopefully offer some insight into what to expect when living with a French host family.
Expect A Home
First and foremost, you are not just a tenant, and your host family is not your college roommate. Your family might be a retired woman and her cat, or it might be two parents, four kids and an iguana.
Expect to feel slightly awkward in the beginning. Like in any new environment, feeling comfortable may take time. Ask questions, get to know their habits and interests, offer to help around the house, and take it upon yourself to initiate contact as much as possible. You will soon find your place within your new family.
« My host family was fantastic. They made me feel so welcome in my new environment and were super patient with my learning process. To be honest, before my arrival what worried me the most was the interactions I would have with my host family, but needless to say I was worried for nothing. I will definitely stay in contact when I return home. » – Wesley, Bates College
Expect a Living Lesson in French Culture
Your host family doesn’t just know the culture, they’re part of it! Ask them about the meaning and history of traditional events and holidays, even those that you celebrate back at home. You’ll learn that in France, the Easter bunny doesn’t bring Easter eggs to children, Easter bells do! And instead of the tooth fairy, a little mouse gives children gifts when they lose their baby teeth!
« My homestay played an essential role in learning about the French. Had I been placed in a dorm with other Americans, I never would have learned what its like to live in the French culture and habits! » – Abigail, Linfield College
One of the best parts of the host family experience is the home-cooked meals that usually come along with it. After a long day, nothing is better than coming home to a great meal! At the AUCP, you’ll be eating with your family for breakfast every day, for five dinners a week and Sunday lunch. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see what the French eat on a daily basis and to learn how to prepare authentic French food.
« My host mom Sylvie loves cooking. There is always something good to eat! – Lars, Grinnell College
Although the AUCP sets students up with a French language partner, don’t forget that your family will be your language partners too! Conversing with your family is a great way to work on your language skills. So seize every opportunity to share with them. They will be one of your best resources for French idioms and colloquial expressions. You’ll find your French skills will improve in direct proportion to the time you spend with your host family.
« The homestay was hands down the most effective way I improved my French. Whether it’s nightly two-hour dinners, watching TV with my host mom or chatting about my day with my host dad, each moment wasn an incredible opportunity to practice and improve. I got the chance to be a functioning member of a French household. » – Madeline, Tulane University
Expect Friends for Life
If you take advantage of all that a homestay offers and make a sincere effort to become « part of the family », you can expect that your host family will become your lifelong friends. Many AUCP students remain in contact with their families long after their semester ends. Every time someone asks about your abroad experience, you will tell them of the vie à la française and the crazy things you experienced, but you’ll also tell them about your French family. And, each time you will return to France, you can bet that you’ll always be welcome (and expected!) to visit.
« I was so happy to have a ‘family away from my family’ during my time abroad (unlike many of my friends in other programs who had to stay in dorms or apartments). My host family was warm, funny and made me feel at home even though I was 4000 miles away from home. I can’t wait until the next time I can come visit them. It was the best part of my AUCP experience » – Abigail, Denison University