As I got off the train to meet the family I would be living with for the next three weeks, a myriad of emotions ran over me. I was excited to finally be starting the adventure I had been hoping for and dreaming about for many years, but also extremely nervous. Would they be nice? Would they like me? Would I adapt to their lifestlye? All of these questions were running through my head at what felt like the speed of light.
Finally my thoughts came to a screeching halt when the family approached me and greeted me with a kiss on both cheeks and warm, inviting smiles. As soon as I saw them, I knew I was going to have the time of my life. While in France, I experienced many amazing things such as visiting Paris, Bordeaux, museums, and even the zoo.
The one thing that stood out among the rest, though, was my ability to blend in with my host family and experience their daily life. One of my fondest memories was when we all went to a relative’s house for dinner. Although I could not understand most of the conversations, the fact that the family could sit around for hours on end and converse was completely astounding to me! I saw how generations of family members were able to blend in so well together and how eighteen year olds could enjoy themselves alongside six year olds.
While sitting in my rattling white chair, I was able to reflect on my family life and how it compared to that which I was presently experiencing. I feel that most families in America are so preoccupied with their careers and goals that they do not have time to merely spend the day laughing and reminiscing with the people that mean most to them. Although most of my days overseas were filled with fun and excitement, like every other person traveling abroad, I had my share of bad ones.
In addition to the slight homesickness that I was experiencing during the first week, the language barrier was probably one of the hardest things I had to overcome. I arrived in France under the impression that I was rather strong in French and would be able to hold conversations with the family easily. As I soon came to realize, that was definitely not the case.
I could barely understand the fast paced conversationsheld during meal times, let alone start ones of my own. This communication barrier started to get better as I got more comfortable with the family and realized that the only way I was going to get better at speaking was to try. I started freely conversing and though I did stumble at times, I learned very quickly from my mistakes.
Another memorable part of my experience was the scenery. I was fortunate enough to have lived in the country sides of Bordeaux and the landscapes were absolutely stunning. Some days it felt as if I was looking at a post card! The crisp green grass mounted on the immense rolling hills and the perfectly manicured vineyards were just some of the breathtaking views I was able to regard in awe on a daily basis.
I also got a chance to visit the city of Bordeaux, which was conveniently located only fifteen minutes away from the town. From the beautifully crafted buildings to the quaint cafes, I can honestly say I was impressed with every part of the city. Now that I look back upon my journey, I realize that I am very lucky to have been able to observe both aspects of French life.
Not only did I witness the hustle bustle of the city, I also experienced laid back, country style living. I felt that by being able to see both ends of the spectrum, I was not just confined to one facet of the culture’s daily life.My time spent in France was by far the most eye opening experience I have ever been through. It gave me a chance to see things through another culture’s eyes, traditions, and taste buds! I got to meet so many dynamic, interesting, and genuinely kind people that I know will remember for the rest of my life. In addition, I got to learn French by, what I feel, is the most effective method. I was forced to stretch myself to limits and through boundaries that I never thought were possible. Even though I can admit that some days proved to be more challenging than others, the overall experience was one that I will never forget.
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