Throughout my travels abroad I have had the privilege of staying with host families and I can honestly say that these homestay experiences have never left me. They made my trips what they were – enjoyable to the utmost.
I have been to France three different times and each time I had the opportunity to stay with a French family. The first two times I stayed with the same family for weeks at a time; and then the third time, when I was studying in France for 4 months, I stayed with a family in a different city. Both of these families had the most positive impact on me and I will never forget their kindness. I was truly welcomed into their family and felt like a part of it. It helped me to feel like I had a real home in France and it fulfilled the dream I had always had of becoming a part of the French way of life. I was not simply a tourist; I was a part of the French culture.
My homestay families and I got along great and bonded in ways that I will never forget. For example, drinking tea and speaking French every night with my French mom became one of my favorite pastimes while living in France. Taking walks with my host sister, visiting my host brother in Paris, playing with my host sister’s three year old son, having four hour Sunday dinners in the countryside of France at my French grandparents’ home, and having a huge soirée full of music, delicious French food, and my host family’s friends make up my most beloved memories of being in France. Yes, visiting the Eiffel Tower and the beaches of Normandy was unforgettable, but bonding with the people of France, rather than just the places, is what I will always remember.
I think that homestays are truly life-changing and they make learning a new language and culture so much easier. I learned the French language so much more quickly through being able to speak it everyday. A day did not pass without me learning a new word from my French family. More than that, I also learned about the culture of France and I know that I would not have been able to do this by staying in a hotel. I am so grateful that I was able to live like a local and become truly immersed in a foreign language and culture.
Now, I am able to call my host families my French families and they truly do feel like family to me. We continue to stay in contact today and that helps me to still feel connected to a country and culture I love.