At this point of the semester, the semester seems long and the midterms and papers seem daunting, and if I were in Evanston I know that these would be the days to start staying inside with hot chocolate and my laptop. It is really tempting to do the same here, despite being in Paris, and fail to keep taking advantage of all that this city has to offer. And that is why right now I am feeling extremely grateful that I am doing a home stay.
Even when I go to crash at home, I am still taking part in French culture, speaking French, eating French food, and having access to French books and television. Doing a home stay gives me a guarantee that even when school gets rough, I am not shutting myself off from the benefits of studying abroad.
Of course, there are other benefits as well. My host mom cooks a hot dinner every night, and despite some suspicious-smelling cheeses, it never fails to taste amazing. My favorites have been moules-frites in a white wine sauce, cheese tarts, and a chicken cooked in a banana-mushroom sauce I would never have encountered otherwise. It is also true that French vegetables taste naturally better, grown as they are in better conditions, and they are only enhanced by my host’s homemade salad dressing.
Another positive aspect is that I have access to French family life. My host loves to talk about her son, and her 2nd grader grandson comes over every Wednesday afternoon. Last night, she was gushing over photos of her nephews dressed for Halloween. Many French people are private and don’t share personal stories with just anyone, so living in a French household gives you an advantage to seeing what French life is really like.
If you are on the fence between living in the dorms, your own apartment, or doing a home stay, I strongly recommend you do the home stay. If it doesn’t work out, at least you can move to the dorm or an apartment and have a good story. More likely, however, you will make new friends and have French experiences you will not otherwise have.