Dispatches from Abroad: A Complete French Cultural Immersion
In all ways, my experience was a success. Not only was I lucky to be placed in a truly wonderful family, the location itself was perfect as well. My French family lives in the countryside right outside of Paris, and thanks to this, I got to experience life in both the city and the country. The family was great with regards to including me in all things possible in their everyday lives, from trips to outdoor markets to picking the kids up from school to going to the cinema to visiting friends and family. They really made me feel as a part of their family, and I was able to see and experience the French way of living.
Both the family and I benefited from learning about a different culture, and the language-learning was mutual. In addition to the lessons I gave, I also taught the kids various American games and, since they love to cook, different American recipes as well. Overall, the family was very curious to learn about me and where I come from. We would spend countless hours talking about our countries, sharing photos and experiences.
I also had numerous opportunities to go into the city, usually with my French family or their friends or relatives. Whenever I went into Paris, I would be surrounded by throngs of tourists. I never one of them, however; I felt like a regular French citizen, conversing and doing everything en français. The best part was that I got to see little hidden parts of the city and hear anecdotes about places that a regular tourist would not see or hear about. Outside of the city was the same; my French family took me on trips to lesser-known attractions and landmarks that were absolutely breathtaking. In addition to the cultural visits around Île-de-France (the region of France in which Paris and my family’s village is located), I got to travel to Normandy with friends of the family. Visiting great, historically-rich cities like Rouen and Caen, and of course the world-famous “beaches of Normandy,” was truly a wonderful opportunity that I had not expected that I would be able to experience.
This program was indeed a great “cultural immersion.” As it turns out, I am very grateful that my French family didn’t know English, since this forced me to speak French 24/7 (except during lessons of course). Thanks to this, I feel as though my French has really improved. And knowing another language is one of those things that always come in handy.
-Pamela Rudnicki, Health Sciences