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.
“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.”
‚Äì Chand Jiwani, Colorado State University
“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 cr√™pes, 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.”
‚Äì Adam Odomore, Texas State University at San Marcos
In addition to the homestay, the students we able to visit M√©morial 39/45, a World War II German bunker built into the 18th century Fort de la Cit√© d‚ÄôAlet, 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.