Kellie is an Abroad101 Global Ambassador, who spent the spring of 2013 studying abroad in Paris, France with AIFS. In this post she tells us why you should consider living with a host family when you study abroad!
“When I chose to live with a host family I knew I would gain cultural and language experience, but I honestly had no idea what I was signing myself up for. Let me start by telling you about my first night in Paris where I started to question whether it was too late to just fly back to Texas.
When I departed the train station, I loaded my luggage in a taxi and gave the driver my new address. I could hardly believe that I was on my way to my host family’s house for the first time. I HAD SO MANY BUTTERFLIES! Surprisingly, the taxi driver was wonderful. You read that right. I said the taxi driver was wonderful, which is probably the opposite of everything you’ve read about taxi drivers in Paris. Hey, maybe I just got lucky? To my family, don’t worry. No cute Parisian approached me and said, “Taxis are so damn expensive. Want to share?” (Okay, sorry for the cheesy ‘Taken’ joke).
I arrived in the 16th arrondisement at a beautiful apartment building. Let the confusion begin… When I found the apartment indicated on my paper, I rang what I thought was a doorbell… no answer… I knocked on the door… no answer… rang the doorbell again… no answer… 30 minutes later, I was panicking. I was alone. It was dark and I was at some random building in Paris. Suddenly, my host lady walked out her door and started yelling at me! “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!! WHY ARE YOU PUSHING THE LIGHT BUTTON?! ALL YOU ARE DOING IS TURNING THE LIGHT IN THE HALLWAY ON AND OFF…IF THAT BUTTON DIDN’T WORK WHY DIDN’T YOU TRY THE OTHER ONE?!?! (Well, that was because I didn’t see the other button. It didn’t even look like a button…and in my defense the electricity button in France looks EXACTLY like a doorbell in the States. Sooo that’s cool.) Like a puppy with my tail between my legs, I was led inside what would be my new home for the next five months. That was probably the most embarrassing and mortifying moment I have ever had in my life. The lady I was going to be living with for the next five months didn’t even know my name, yet she was already yelling at me. Oh well…C’est la vie…You live and you learn right?
Don’t worry though, shortly after that fiasco, I offered my madame a peace offering of chocolates that I brought her from the South of France. Like any French person, she was happier while eating. Whew…
One of my favorite parts of living with a host lady was that we would eat dinner together at least once a week. This was where I learned the most because she would harp on dinner etiquette while exposing me to French cuisine. The dinner would also force me to practice my conversational French with her. One thing I loved about Madame is that she loved to teach. She wouldn’t just help me figure out the answer on my grammar homework, she would guide me to the answer and have some kind of rhyme or trick help me remember.
I am a living testament that you can get past a bad first impression and thank goodness I did. My Madame and I grew to be very close and I learned more from her than anyone else throughout my semester abroad.
Therefore if you are on the fence about living with a host family while abroad, LIVE WITH A HOST FAMILY! I highly recommend it because they could unlock a whole new side of Paris that wouldn’t be available to you otherwise.”
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