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Homestay: My New French Family

Walled City of Saint-Malo
Saint-Malo was founded in the 6th century and was notorious for piracy in the 18th century.

Nineteen participants from the Fall 2014 voyage took part in a family homestay in the town of Saint-Malo, France.  Nearly 1,500 years old, Saint-Malo has a colorful history. Students had the opportunity to walk the historic streets before meeting their host families and embarking on an overnight experience, living like a local.

Au Revoir!
Students Elizabeth Mazeika (center), of University of California at Santa Cruz, and Chand Jiwani (right), of Colorado State University, depart with their host for the homestay experience.

“My family was nothing less than perfect.¬† From their classic-styled home with red shutters to their welcoming smiles, all I could think was that I got so lucky!¬† They were hosting two Italian students along with Elizabeth and myself.¬† Their three children had grown and gone making us their new enjoyment.¬† What they didn’t know though was that they were my enjoyment.¬† I speak confidently when I say that their joy and love radiated through me.¬† They insisted that we relax after arriving rather than help with dinner.¬† The same occurred when trying to clean the dishes after with them.¬† Although I spoke broken French with them, no amount of language barrier could misinterpret their genuine care for their new children.

They made me remember the little things.  I did not even know that I missed having home-cooked meals and learning about different lifestyles.  Three languages were regularly spoken throughout the evening: English, Italian, and French.  On occasion, I would ask one of the Italians to speak to me in Spanish to help me understand what my host mom was saying in French.  The evening was beautiful with their freshly picked vegetables from the garden, the visible admiration that my host parents had for each other, and the feel of a real home.  The culture was rich and varied among us all, which truly enlightened the experience.  So when it was time to leave I knew I would have done it all over again the exact same way.

For one evening in France, I had a mother and father to take care of me, a rich dinner with a side of three cultures, and unforgettable memories that make the stamp in my passport smile.”

– Chand Jiwani, Colorado State University

At Home with the Belloir Family
Adam Odomore (left), of Texas State University at San Marcos, visits with hosts Bruno and Christine Belloir (right) during his homestay.

“At first, I was so nervous.¬† I did not know what I was getting myself into.¬† This was literally my first homestay in any country.¬† It felt like I was going to boarding school.¬† On the way there, I kept wondering what the families would be like and I wanted to make a good impression.¬† All valid concerns, but they did not matter because Bruno and Christine are two of the most humble people I have met on this voyage.¬† They have opened their home for nearly 28 years to students from all over the world, a number they still keep in touch with and have even visited in their home countries.¬† I stayed in the home with two Semester at Sea staff members, Josh and Carey, who are nice people as well.¬† In the home of our host were two Italian girls who were staying in France so they can learn the language as part of a gap year program.¬† They seemed like daughters of the host family and that was because our host made us all feel at home.¬† The host family also had a daughter of their own who was at dinner.¬† She jumps horses competitively and is ranked 31st in France.

Eating dinner was bountiful.  We had a traditional French meal of crêpes, which was delicious.  I never had it before and it was a meal cooked with love by Christine, as you could almost taste it in the food.  Bruno was very friendly but spoke no English; he is a cab driver and has been for 30 years.  We ate and spoke French, which was good to practice, laughed, and learned a parlor trick using corks that Josh taught us, which was phenomenal.  After which we slept and woke up the next morning to a French breakfast of bread and jam before our family dropped us off.  It was a lovely time.

This is something I would never have done on my own if it wasn’t for Semester at Sea.¬† I am glad I did it and had this experience because it showed me that people are just as nice and simple in other parts of the globe.¬† I would never have known there is a city called Saint-Malo on the map otherwise.”

– Adam Odomore, Texas State University at San Marcos

Over There
Adam Odomore (left), of Texas Sate University at San Marcos, and Jessica Coates (second left), of Florida Gulf Coast University, seek assistance from people met on the street during a treasure hunt.

In addition to the homestay, the students we able to visit Mémorial 39/45, a World War II German bunker built into the 18th century Fort de la Cité d’Alet, which was liberated by the Americans, as well as take part in a treasure hunt in La Ville Intra-Muros, where participants answered location-based questions by seeking information from local residents.

With options to visit major landmarks and large cities filling many itineraries, these students embraced a different type of experience. They were grateful to connect with such vibrant locals and appreciative of the hospitality of their French host families.

Homestay Participants
Fall 2014 homestay participants with their hosts at Plage de Saint-Malo.
  • Culture
  • Gap Year

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