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Gaining Confidence in French

My host siblings after dinner in Lorient
As soon as I stepped onto my plane from New York to Paris, I was surrounded by French speakers. I was not really nervous for my trip until this momentI was hit by the fact that for the next month, I would be in a country that isn't native to me, speaking a language that I certainly am not fluent in. When the flight attendant approached me, speaking French, I just stared at her with wide eyes, trying to unravel the question she just asked me very quickly. After I finally figured out what she said, I stumbled to craft a reply to her. My confidence seemed to plummet as I wondered how I could possibly do this for a month.
A few days into the trip, when I finally settled down, I looked back at my moment on the plane and wondered how I could have possibly been so stressed. I did the Paris program for the first two weeks of my trip, where me and five other Americans took a language class in the morning, visited Parisian tourist attractions in the afternoon, and spent the evening with our separate host families.
Me and my host sister in a cool art gallery in Paris
Everyone that I met during this program was so kind and generous. Speaking and understanding French was difficult, but my instructors and all the host families were so patient with me and made the whole experience much less intimidating. During these two weeks, a few of the activities I did included walking to the top of the Eiffel Tower, biking around Versailles, hanging out at Parisian caf├ęs, doing a color run, and going to French barbeques.
When I switched host families, I was sad to leave my first family and a little nervous because I would be the only American among French people for the next two weeks. I found that again, there was no need to be nervous. My second host family welcomed me with wide arms.
During my first week with them, I met my host sister's friends, watched American movies with French voiceovers, did a ropes course with zip lining, and visited some not-as-touristy spots in Paris. The second week, I went on vacation with my host sister, brother, and mom to Lorient and Le Pouldu. We went horseback riding, swimming at the beach, and hiking, and also met up with their many relatives. Both weeks were amazingI learned so much about French culture and my speaking improved a lot.
When I finally got onto my plane leaving Paris, I was sad to go, although so grateful for the experience. This time, when the flight attendant asked me a question in French, I had no trouble answering her.
View from the cliffs in Le Pouldu
-By Alexandra Wagner


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