J’adore ma famille français!
I love my French family! My specific program only allowed for homestays, and I honestly think living with a French family was one of the best parts of my semester abroad. Most study abroad programs give you some combination of these options for housing: university dorms, university or private apartments, or a homestay. I’m here to tell you why you should choose a homestay.
Homestays are arranged by the program directors with families who have been thoroughly vetted and have typically hosted students in the past. I filled out a rather simple questionnaire about my basic habits, lifestyle, likes, and dislikes and magically got placed with the perfect family. Throughout my four months in France, I felt like a part of their family, and they made Lyon feel like home.
Although with dorms or apartments where there is a chance you might be living with other international or local students, a homestay throws you into the middle of daily life in your host country. My sense of what its like to eat, to work, to go to school, to be a part of a family, to really live in France was greatly influenced by my homestay family. If you want to immerse yourself in the local culture and have an authentic experience, there’s no better way to do that than living with a family.
And families come in all shapes and sizes. Some homestays are the typical nuclear family while others are single-parent households or maybe retirees. It might include extended family or adopted children or your parents might be empty nesters. Always keep in mind that there are many kinds of families and different types of people who can make up a family. My French family consists of my mom, Marie-Cecile, my dad, Nicholas, two brothers, Constant and Edward, plus two other students, Juanita from Columbia and Nadja from Switzerland. One house, five different languages!
Speaking of languages, if you’re studying in a country that speaks a language other then your own, you’ll always have someone to practice speaking with and, in my experience, who genuinely wants to help you learn. I’ve spent a lot of time in language classes and trying to speak to people around Lyon, but most of my practice and progress comes from dinnertime conversations and talking with my family.
Essentially, what I’m trying to say is that if you have the option to participate in a homestay, seriously consider it. I don’t think there’s a better way to integrate yourself into the culture of your potential host country. As an added bonus, you’ll have a family abroad forever.