The Highs and Lows of Host Homes (Part 2)

Clare Hogan
December 8, 2021

Truthfully, there is so much I would say to my anxiety-ridden August 2021 self about living with a host family. There are so many things that would placate those anxieties, because the experience has been one that I’d never change and that I’ll always be grateful for. But there are too many to name specifically, so instead, I’ll just tell August 2021 Clare what living with a French family in Nantes has been like so far.

Every night, I eat dinner with my host mom, dad, and sister. I listen to them talk about their days, and I tell them about mine. In September, I didn’t understand much of what they said to amongst each other, and I felt a little lost. Now, in November, I understand more of their conversations to each other. Not everything, but more. I catch their jokes and I’m able to laugh on time rather than 5 minutes afterward like I did in October. When I talk to them, I stumble over my words. I say the wrong things and sometimes I stay silent because I’m not quite sure how to say anything at all. But they help me, the same way they did when I first met them. They let me know the correct way to say things, and they teach me so much about the language and French culture in general.

Sometimes, we do things like go to a movie, spend a weekend at the beach, attend different social events, hang out with their family friends, and more. Each time, I’m invited but not forced to go. I’m included but not smothered. Sometimes I say yes, and I never regret it, but sometimes I say no because I feel exhausted and can’t imagine spending a whole weekend or afternoon thinking and speaking only in French. And honestly, I think that’s okay too.

When I have questions about France, or Nantes specifically, or about my schoolwork, or food, or anything else, I can ask my family. They’re a resource so much better than Google. They care about my questions and they always search for the best and most accurate answers. They ask me questions about the English language, too, and about America. They make me feel like my knowledge matters just as much as theirs.

Sometimes, I go into my room and I shut the door and I just do nothing for a little bit. I used to have the fear that I’d get no alone time, or no relaxation time, but that certainly hasn’t been the case. My host family gives me space but doesn’t make me feel ignored. They aren’t constantly speaking to me, but they don’t ever shut me out, either. Sometimes, I leave to go on a walk or a run by myself with no warning, and that’s okay. I could cook for myself, if I wanted (I don’t, but I could). I am able to live my life without many restrictions, and I’m treated like an adult.

Occasionally, I let myself get stressed out about communicating my plans to my host family. For example, if I’m going out with friends, or won’t be home for dinner, etc., I tend to feel a bit nervous telling them. I think sometimes, it’s easy to feel like a teenager living under your parents’ roof in a host home, feeling like you need to ask for permission to do things. And while it’s of course non-negotiable that you have to respect your host family and their rules, they don’t typically expect you to ask their permission for things. While I think that there are certainly some things for which you must ask permission for, the reality is that you are free to make your own choices. You are living in someone else’s home, yes, and you need to remember that, but you are still an adult, and I’ve found that I have very much been treated like one.

These are the things that I would tell myself two months ago. I haven’t been here long, but I’ve learned a lot about my host family and about what it means to be fully inundated into some strangers’ lives in a very short period of time. However, it’s important to note that this is just my experience. And while I know my experience is very similar to many others’, I’m sure that there are some to whom my experience with a host family seems very dissimilar.

I can’t give advice speaking from anyone’s else’s perspective, but I certainly can from mine. And that advice would be: live in a host family. It’s so scary, and it’ll add maybe 20,000 pounds of anxiety onto your plate before you leave if you’re anything like me, but it’s so worth it. There is nothing that will paint you a clearer picture of a country’s culture and roots quite like living with a host family. My friends and I say this all the time, but I don't think that there is any place in Nantes where we've learned more about France and the French language than with our host families. Being put straight into the heart of a French family gives you an exposure to the culture that you won't find anywhere else. So, if that's a goal of yours, then living in a host family is the right decision for you, and I encourage you to do it. There are hard parts yes, but like I’ve said with so much of my experience here, they are far and few between, and are extremely outweighed by the good. Make a lifelong memory and take a chance on a lifelong connection. There’s no harm in trying.

Clare Hogan

<p>Hey! My name is Clare Hogan and I'm a senior at Wofford College. I'm majoring in Psychology and French, with a minor in English. I hope to become a counseling psychologist one day, which is why I majored in Psychology. At school, I'm in a sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and I love to participate in various events with that, such as dances, philanthropy events, and more! I adore reading and writing (hence the minor), hiking, playing tennis, and all things relating to dogs. Also, a fun fact about me is that I sneeze every time I eat chocolate (which is quite often)!</p>

Home University:
Wofford College
Greenville, SC
French Language
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