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Host Family Adventures from Rennes

Danielle P. is currently a senior at SYA France. Danielle comes to SYA from Miller Place High School (NY). Read more of her work throughout the year here.

Hi everyone! For this month, we could either write about our Loire Valley trip or our host family experience so far. While the Loire Valley trip was amazing, my host family has been the best and most rewarding part of SYA, so I have to write about them.

Meet My Host Family

I have three host sisters and one host brother, as well as two host parents. If there is one thing I am proud of myself for, it is that I have developed such a great relationship with my host family, because it is not something that magically appears or happens without effort. That being said, my host family also consists of some of the nicest and most considerate people I have ever met. They know exactly when I am not following a conversation and will always help me catch up. Especially when I first arrived in Rennes, meal time conversations were overwhelming and rather scary because of how fast they speak, but my host mom would take one look at my face and launch into a simpler explanation because she knew I wasn't following what the five other voices were saying.

Progress not Perfection

Every time I say a particularly difficult phrase correctly, my host family notices and praises me for it. It is extremely gratifying to be complimented for the progress I have made in French, because sometimes I don't notice that I am making any. Even my host grandmother, who I only see once a week, has told me that she thinks I have improved very much since I first met her, and I even overheard her saying to some extended family that "elle comprend bien le fran├žais" (she understands French well).

I sometimes surprise myself with how comfortable I am with these people I had never met until a few months ago. Being able to understand nearly everything they say at their regular speed of speaking definitely helps, because I can keep up with most of their stories and jokes. However, I think that I was extremely well placed, and I doubt I could have been placed into a better host family for me. My youngest host sister, who is 16-years-old, and I actually look a bit alike, and that was one of the first things my host mother said to me when I met her. I am closest with her and we spend nearly every night doing our homework together, helping each other study for English and French, and taking mandatory dance breaks.

My New Normal

My daily life is definitely different here than in the U.S., but I have come to enjoy it. I don't normally eat dinner until 8:45, and on the weekends our lunches begin anywhere from 1:30pm-2:00pm and could go until 4:00pm-4:30pm. The French don't normally eat in between meals, and some host families really enforce this custom, but mine doesn't mind snacking. It has become normal to do the food shopping with my host mom and youngest host sister every late Saturday afternoon, and to hear opera or classical music blaring through the house for the entirety of the weekend and during mealtimes. These are just a few of the different yet endearing parts of my life in France than I have come to be very fond of.

As I become more accustomed to the rhythm of life here, I feel increasingly comfortable and like a part of this family. Whether it is sending various Harry Potter posts on Facebook to my oldest host sister in Paris (because we both are obsessed), or speaking a silent language of facial expressions with my host brother at the dinner table and confusing everyone when we burst out laughing, or making my host mother exclaim "tu es vraiment ma fille!" when I say that the dessert was good "pour moi" despite my host dad saying it was awful; I feel extremely grateful that I am able to have this experience and build this connection to another family halfway across the world. As my real father said to me on a Skype call a few weeks ago after I told him yet another story about my host family, "I have a feeling that it's going to be really hard when the end of May comes around." I couldn't agree more.