When coming to France, I knew that to make the most of my four months I would need to really sit and evaluate what was important to me. Was learning the language and culture the most important thing I would like to get out of this experience? Was it the political science classes at this prestigious university? Or was it living abroad and experiencing another country?
I pondered and pondered and finally came to a conclusion. There did not have to be just one factor that was the most important to me. By sitting down and analyzing what exactly I wanted to gain from studying in Lyon, I realized that I could achieve everything I wanted.
As I am obviously living in France, I think it goes without saying that learning about French language and French culture is something I wanted to do. So, I decided that I would stay with a host family instead of living in an apartment. By staying with a host family, I would force myself to eat, sleep, and breathe like the average French person. Through an agency, I was paired with the amazing Guillaud family. The Guillaud family consisted of Oliver and Florence, a couple, and their youngest daughter who still lived at home: Manon.
I can admit that at first I was nervous. Not only was I just generally nervous about living with another family, but this was also my first time living with a family of a different race than myself for such an extended period of time. I knew that race relations in France were a bit different than in America, but my nerves were still there. How would they react to living with an African-American woman?
However, immediately upon meeting them all my jitters melted away. They were full of smiles and cheek kisses when I arrived at their home. While this was my first time staying with a host family, this was also their first time being a host family. Hearing that they were just as nervous as me really allowed me to let my guard down and immerse myself in their lives. I arrived on a Sunday and shared my first French dinner and apéro (easily one of my favorite parts of French culture) with my new family.
As the days turned into weeks which have now turned into months, living with my host family has been nothing short of amazing. They have really adopted me into their family as their own, even inviting me to come along with them and their friends for a weekend trip to Autrans. I spent a weekend with the Guillaud’s and their close friends in a cabin two hours away from Lyon. We hiked the mountains, ate cheese and sausage, drank wine, prepared dinner together, and exchanged customs. They taught me how to prepare a couple different typical French meals and in return I taught them some American pastimes.
By the end of the weekend, I left feeling more appreciative and grateful that of all the families I could have been matched up with, that I was paired with such an amazing family. While I can understand the appeal of living with one’s peers when studying abroad, I would strongly recommend staying with a host family to anyone who wants to truly immerse themselves into the culture of their new country. While there is surely a level of adaptation that needs to take place when living with a family as a guest, it really allows you to get an inside look at a different culture.