Life in a Homestay Family

Home Sweet Home

Choosing to do a homestay and live with a French family my first semester abroad was an extraordinary experience. It was an excellent way to learn about the French culture first hand and to understand the daily French lifestyle. I’m so glad I had this opportunity and would recommend it to anyone studying abroad. 

Most host families have been hosting students for a long time and are hospitable people. I got paired with a sweet older couple and I was at least their fifteenth student they’ve hosted before. My host mom spoke only French and was very kind, helpful, and tidy. She was a good cook and gave me the chance to practice speaking French “beaucoup!” My host dad was fluent in English and we got along very well. We’d have long conversations in English that I’ll always cherish. He was always smiling and happy and loved to talk about history and politics. They both cared about me and it was reassuring to have people looking out for me in a foreign country far away from my real parents. (and my parents felt much more at ease too!)

My first weekend with my host family I was invited to stay at their country house about an hours drive away. It turned out to be one of my favorite weekends in Grenoble. I got to spend quality time getting to know them and I improved my French significantly. It was a bit nerveracking at first since I’d just arrived, but I learned so much and got a lot out of it. You never know what kind of cool things like this that a homestay experience may offer! I made a blog post about my time there here: La Maison de la Campagne

Additionally, a month into my stay I surprisingly got a housemate named Jordan who was related to my host parents and needed a place to live. He was 23, spoke no English, and was pretty funny. He loved making fun of my accent and I tried having multiple conversations with him using a translator. He ended up staying a few months until he moved into an apartment but he helped me with my French and was nice.

I was lucky enough to have my own room and bathroom too! It was a fairly good size space with a gorgeous antique armoir, two nightables, and a desk table. I loved having my own private space to work and relax.

~A Typical Day~

Here’s what my typical day looked like with my French host family. My class schedule changed every week so I’d write out a weekly schedule for them and put in on the refrigerator.

8AM – My host dad left for work around this time every weekday morning. If I had an 8AM class I would see him and wish him a “Bon Journee!” or otherwise I’d see him later for dinner.

9:15AM – Normally I’d have a 9:45AM class and would get ready and leave the house at this time.

My host pup Leon!

9:20AM – Every morning I would take the tram to school. It was a quick 5 min. walk from my house and the commute was about 15 min. I loved the ride and would pass the time looking out the window as we passed by many shops along the way. It was a great time for people watching too and listening to French conversation around me.

9:45AM – Class time! Each class was 3 hours long. My classroom consisted of students from around the world.

11:15AM – We got a 15 min. break from our long class. I would usually get up, walk around, and hang out with friends by the espresso machine on the ground level. It was the best because an instant hot drink would only cost between 50-80 cents! The sugar and caffeine was a much needed energy boost to get me through the next hour and a half.

1PM/13hrs. – Class would end and I would grab lunch with friends. Our school had a small cafeteria where I loved the salad bar and muffins.

~ Some days I’d have a 3-6pm class or other days I had a lot of free time to walk around town and spend time with friends. ~

4PM/16hrs. – During fall it was warm enough to go on a run along the river that was right by my house. There were always many joggers out on the path so I felt safe and I loved the views while getting my heart rate up.

7pm/19hrs. – Time for host family dinner! I always looked forward to meals with my host parents. I would set the table every night and it was interesting learning the way a table is supposed to be set. There are a lot of etiquette rules that the French adhere to. Meals or “repas” are prepared and then eaten course by course. For example we’d start with a salad or soup, then the main course would be brought out, and lastly followed by a yogurt, bread and cheese, or a dessert. It would be like that every night and I got used to the way things were done. Dinnertime was also a great time to practice speaking French and ask about my host parents days.

Sometimes my host dads friend he’s known since childhood would come over for dinner and spend the night as he lived farther away. Along with him he’d bring us dinners that his wife would make. They were always the best meals with so much flavor and warmth to them. He was a very sweet and kind man and I wrote his wife a thank you letter before I left thanking her for the delicious meals. 

My host dad preparing the “repas” or meal

A starter of potatoes, carrots, peas, cheese, and a homemade vinegarette

Traditional Ravioles with local herbs and cheese inside

A traditional French dessert called “Poire de St. Helene” (Pears and chocolate)

8:30pm/20:30hrs. – After dinner my host parents would watch TV in the living room and I would wish them “Bonne nuit!” and go upstairs to my room to wind down and usually work on homework. Occasionally I’d Facetime family or friends from back home, listen to music, or watch a movie.

10PM/22hrs. – My host parents would go to sleep.

11PM/23hrs. – I’m a night owl and would usually go to sleep around this time. 

Overall, my host stay this past semester was a remarkable learning and growing experience for me. I was lucky enough to have kind host parents that treated me as their own daughter and were lenient about me being out late at night. They had a few household rules like not showering after they went to bed and doing your own laundry but were easy going. In a homestay you are typically only given breakfast and dinner during the weekdays, but I would frequently be invited to week day lunches or weekend meals at home. I was treated as part of the family which was much appreciated. 

In retrospect, I was introduced to the French way of life which is very different than the American way. When I think of an American family hosting a foreign student, I think of the exchange student being taken out to eat often, shown around the local town, and to the cities touristy spots. However in France, the lifestyle is completely different. People don’t go out to eat often and instead make homemade meals every night. They tend to stick around their hometown and are very traditional. I noticed this difference in cultures and remembered to appreciate and be open to a new culture. The French take a long time for meals, aren’t fervent spenders, and lead a simpler, less chaotic life. I loved having the chance to live like the French do.

The lovely view from outside my window. I loved opening up the wooden shutters every morning to let in the natural light. It immediately woke me up and put me in a good mood to start my day off right.


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