After spending 6 days in France, I found myself on a bus, surrounded by people, on the way to meet my French host family. Even surrounded by my friends, I found myself unable to bring myself out of the thoughts my furiously circling my mind. The beautiful French countryside with its mountains seeming to touch the clouds, and the rolling green grape fields seemed to stretch on endlessly, filling the view from my window. Even staring out at the countryside I realized how detached I was from this place, this country, this language, and I had no idea how I was going to connect with this new family. A crackle from the loudspeaker broke my concentration. I suddenly saw the fear and chaos slowly starting to emerge in the back of the bus. Our leader came over the loudspeaker and assured us that we would be fine and by the end of the trip we would not want to leave our new families. At that moment I wanted to assure our leader that under no circumstances was I going to enjoy this, and that this was a disaster waiting to happen. However, when we got off the bus where everyone’s families were going to pick us up, I realized that there was no backing out now. One by one everyone’s family showed up to retrieve them. I sat there among the laid back town of Aix en Provence, with children running about and playing in fountains, couples walking together holding hands, and the smell of fresh baked goods hanging all around, all I could think of were the endless hours I had spent in the French classroom. Hours spent torturously memorizing vocabulary I never thought I would use in comprehendible sentences, hours of confusing new verb tenses, and of course consuming crepes. All of these things I was convinced would not help me in the slightest, with the endeavor in front of me. On the ride home with my host mother I could not fathom what in the world we were going to be able to talk about. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when she stopped multiple times on the way to her house. She talked about the different sites as we stopped or passed by, and asked me about my home. By the time we reached their house I felt at ease. Within the first two days I began to feel as if I was part of the family. We played ping pong, basketball, swam in their pool, and played board games. I met my host sister’s grandparents who treated me as one of their own grandchildren, and joked around with my host father. I began to think solely in the language and actually had trouble writing emails home to my parents in English. And then before I knew it, it was my last night. We watched Harry Potter in French, ate pizza, and talked about the day’s adventures and the picnic we enjoyed overlooking the cliffs at Cassis. The next morning as we emerged from the house, the morning dew was still on the ground, birds were singing, and the smell of breakfast and fresh bread still wafted out from the house. Before I left for the train station, we all said a tearful goodbye. In that moment I realized that I had mastered the language far beyond the confines of French class, and that the connection I was certain I was not going to have with this family, had formed somewhere in the last 5 days and it now felt impossible to break.
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