I had a unique immersion stay in Montpellier with multiple families
My French immersion experience was unique, having three families during my eight weeks at ILA French Language School. Although the first family I stayed with was not a great fit, Allison at ILA was very patient and helpful. She worked with me to find a fit that was appropriate for both me and the family for the remainder of my stay in Montpellier, France. I had chosen the half-board option for home-stay which offers breakfast and dinner with the family. Each home I stayed in served different meals with different styles. These meals were precious times for me to practice French and experience French cuisine. One thing is certain: the cheese in France does not compare to that of the United States and, due to the import restrictions in the US on French cheese, I ate all that was offered. Thanks to my French immersion, I experienced the French culture in an authentic way. Along with meals and general ‘family time’, my families offered access to their washing machine at least once a week as well as other common items such as dishes etc.
I was able to find a perfect fit during my French immersion stay
As an international worker, I have had other experiences with host families and was prepared to adjust to perhaps foreign household ‘rules’ or considerations. My first homestay was a bit unprepared to host as many students as they did. This stress resulted in an uncomfortable living situation which, thanks to Allison, was resolved in a timely manner by moving me and another student to a different home to relieve all of our stresses. My final French immersion stays were wonderful experiences that pushed me forward with my French skills, and shaped a holistic view of French culture. The second family that hosted me was a gentile, retired couple who lived about 45 minutes from the school by tram. Within their retirement, the woman of the house taught French lessons online and even hosted another student who was under her French instruction. During these two weeks, my French improved greatly and their kindness and involvement in my French learning boosted my confidence and ambitions to continue my journey in French. An additional benefit of staying with this family was their pool that they allowed their students to use. With the extreme heat of mid-summer in Montpellier, this was a wonderful addition.
My last month of immersion was spent in the town center with a middle-aged couple who were lively and well-grounded. It is with this family that I spent the longest amount of time, were I fell in love with the French language and the culture that came with it. Much like the previous family, they were very patient with me and my beginner level of French. They made considerate corrections of my French and often noted my progress within the language. These interactions motivated me and made me feel comfortable spending time with them and sharing stories and interactions. I felt as though I was truly part of their family: joking with them, cooking with them, and sharing past experiences. Thanks to them, I learned phrases I had not learned in my formal French lessons. During our conversations, I had the opportunity to practice vocabulary and grammar that I had learned that week while they corrected my usage and provided examples of how I could incorporate the new words in daily living situations.
I felt safe during my French immersion stay and have made life-long friends
Immersion to progress language learning was my main objective when choosing to stay with a French host family. Additionally, and equally important as a female traveling alone, I wanted the safety net of having a family that would notice my absence. Luckily, I did not experience any problems while in Montpellier but I felt safer knowing I had a family to return to. Dinner was a time to discuss plans for that evening or the weekends. It was during this time I would seek advice on the best spots to visit and whether they were safe. Thanks to my conversations with my host-family, I learned of restaurants, bars, and small cities that my classmates had not heard of or visited. It was also during these conversations that my family warned me of areas to avoid and other safety tips. Some of these were general common knowledge but others were more specific to Montpellier and based off past experiences or those of acquaintances.
Ultimately, my immersion stay was just as I hoped it would be: full of language and cultural immersion. At the same time, I made relationships that will surely last long after my return to the United States.