Before my French immersion stay in France, I was a bit apprehensive about staying with a French host family. I knew it would be the best option to improve my French and to absorb some of the French culture as well, but I had some reservations about living with complete strangers. Having to move back in with my parents during the pandemic really made me realise how much I value having my own space, so it was therefore important to me to really feel independent during my language stay here in Montpellier.
I explained my feelings to ILA language school, and they provided me with the perfect solution: a French host family with a separate studio. The family live 5-10 minutes from school on the tram, and my studio is just in their garden. It’s completely separate to the house, so I have my own entrance, and my own bathroom and kitchen – it’s truly my own space. I can cook when I want without getting in anyone’s way, and I don’t have to worry about disturbing the family, whether that’s getting up early for my French classes or coming home late from a night out in Montpellier.
At the same time however, I have the French immersion and the comfort that comes with staying in a host family. They only speak French, so the conversations that we have at home are a real help on top of my French language courses. My stay has also been a real insight into French culture; I have had the chance to experience life in a French family, and to go along with my host family to social events and trips. Although I cook for myself, my host ‘mum’ made me a delicious gratin when I arrived to help me settle in, and she also brings me produce from her garden, such as fresh tomatoes and homemade fig jam. I’m staying at ILA French language school for quite a long time, so I was thinking about renting somewhere privately, but have found that the ease of staying with a host family is unparalleled. Airport transfer is included, which was a big relief when I stepped off the plane in a foreign country, and the families are really used to hosting foreign students. If I have a problem or if I need something, all I have to do is speak to my host ‘mum’. For example, only being able to take one bag on the plane, I couldn’t pack my yoga mat, but all I had to do was ask if my family had a spare one. Host families are also a really cost-effective accommodation option – they are often close to the centre, but cheaper than what you would pay for an apartment or an Airbnb in the same area.
And of course, my favourite advantage of my host family: they have a pool. Do I need to say more. This was definitely the biggest (and best) surprise when I arrived at my studio, and something I’ve been telling everyone back home to make them jealous (along with the fact that it is still warm enough to go swimming in October). The studio within a host family is, for me, the perfect option, allowing me my independence and privacy but also ensuring I have the French immersion that I came to Montpellier for.