Ever since I was young, I have loved the French language and culture. When I visited France the first time when I was around 7 years old, I knew from the moment that we landed that I wanted to return and experience French life for myself, and this splendid program provided me exactly with that opportunity.
Through the application and preparation period, the ANDEO staff were incredibly helpful and communicative. The guidance and materials they provided were useful and succinct. In the months leading up to my trip, I was super excited. Admittedly, I had not prepared as much as I should have. Looking back, I would’ve been better prepared if I had listened to more French audio. Of course, this caused quite a bit of apprehension the day of my departure. I was also nervous to enter a French speaking household and meet my host family. After hours of flying, we arrived in France! When I finally met my host family, I found I had completely forgotten most of my French language skills in that moment. Everyone was talking so fast, and even though I had taken 4 years of French in school, I found myself confused most of the day. While this first day was super intimidating, I got used to it in no time!
Once I got through that scary first day, I found that I was not afraid to make mistakes anymore. My host family was very understanding throughout the trip, and they even found a lot of my mistakes cute! They helped me improve my vocabulary as well as my audio comprehension skills. The older host sister and I had a lot of common interests such as Harry Potter and Stranger Things, which definitely helped us bond in the beginning and gave us subjects to talk about.
My host family was also very accommodating to my dietary restrictions. As someone who is allergic to dairy and gluten and is also pescatarian, food had been a huge stressor for me leading up to the trip. Fortunately, my host family was super considerate and I never found food a problem for me. In fact, I even discovered foods that I now eat in America, such as rhubarb jam and smoked salmon.
I spent most of my time with my host mom and two host sisters. We visited places all over Normandy together and even went to Paris for a few days. We visited the home of Christian Dior, the beach, a bell foundry, and much more, but one of the major highlights was definitely visiting le Mont St. Michel. My host mom took us there in the evening so we got to explore the gorgeous island in daylight as well as at sunset and see the island light up at night.
While exploring and visiting attractions was absolutely amazing, I also enjoyed life at home. I learned many new card and board games, although it was quite the challenge, considering they were teaching me in French. I have fond memories of playing Monopoly with the whole family as well as my host sister always beating me in Menteur and Puissance 4. I also loved baking with them while listening to music and dancing, even if the food did not always turn out to be exactly as planned. Furthermore, I had a great time playing with their silly new kitten, who they named Max after my own dog.
One of the primary reasons I wanted to do a homestay experience was to meet people and make friends. While I of course made friends with my host siblings, I also got to meet their friends! We went swimming and bowling and just hung out. It was a great deal of fun. Moreover, I got to form a bond with my host family that I expect will last for a long time. They were so kind and welcoming to me, and I will never forget them.
Another part of this program was the three-day tour of Paris with a group at the end. It was such a blast visiting the museums and eating at tasty French restaurants. We even participated in some dancing along the Seine River! I was able to explore the streets of Paris and make new friends from my region. Our chaperone and tour guide were both fantastic.
Through this experience, my dream of experiencing a truly French lifestyle came true. It was a time of both enjoyment and personal growth. It was definitely challenging at times and took a bit of adaptation and perseverance. The homestay experience was not the same as an average touristy vacation, as I got to truly experience the culture of the French! Even after that intimidating first day, the trip was completely worth it and was one of the best experiences of my life. I would like to thank both ANDEO and my host family for such a marvelous summer! This trip was everything I wanted and more.
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