Inside, the bus was complete chaos. My classmates, thrown into some unusual blend of unrestrained excitement and absolute terror, were screaming, hanging onto their friends for dear life, or demanding last-minute advice from the French teachers. Observing this chaotic scene, I couldn't help chuckling and wondering if I would be the only sane person in five days. If a random passerby stepped onto the coach bus at that moment, they would have thought we were about to be thrown in a cage full of hungry lions. Of course, this was not at all what we were about to experience, rather, we were headed to Salon de Provence, France for a five-day family stay (however, a handful of my classmates probably would have taken the wild animals anyway).
â–º SEMI FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
As the bus rolled into the parking lot in which our fate awaited us, I resisted the urge to press my nose against the bus window in a desperate attempt to spot my French family. Instead, I was swept off the bus by the anxious crowd, locating my suitcase just as a fifteen-year-old boy with dark hair approached me. “You are Mary?” he asked.
“Yes – I mean oui,” I answered hurriedly, silently scolding myself for speaking English after two seconds of interaction with my host brother. After muttering a goodbye to my friends, I was whisked through Salon at racetrack speeds. Arriving at the Riviere's modest one-story residence, I couldn't help but observe how different this was from anything at home. Surrounded by a number of identical houses, chickens roaming the neighbor's sparse lawn, this was a far cry from my Minnesota home. However, I resolved to keep and open mind, and embarked on my experience as a French-person-for-a-week.
Over the next few days I banished any thoughts of home or my classmates from my mind and immersed myself in my french life and family. I attended school with my host brother, tried all the new foods possible, and even rode the city bus. Meanwhile, I learned much more about the culture and every-day life of the French then I ever could have simply by traveling around the country as a tourist. I also found that my host family was very eager to learn about my life in America. My host brothers dreamed of visiting America, and the whole family poured over the scrapbook I brought depicting my family, school, and other commonalities of life in America. Although living in the U.S. can seem ordinary and unexciting to Americans, it was fascinating to see how interesting my life was to my French family, just as I was so eager to experience their lifestyle. After spending a week in the life of a French person, I felt confident that my immersion into french society was the best way possible for me to get a taste of life in another country.
After what seemed like no time at all, I found myself saying goodbye to my french family and reuniting with my classmates. Five days prior we had been a buzz of excitement and anxiousness, and although I found some to be in the same state, I was pleased to notice that the majority of my peers had indeed retained their sanity and come back in one piece. As I bid goodbye to my new family I considered how this experience had broadened my world view. No longer was France just a country everyone wanted to visit, known for its quaint villages, bustling cities, and glorious scenery; it was my second home, where for five days, I too, was French.
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