Living with a Host Family by Al Carey

Studying abroad has been one of the best experiences of my life so far. As a French language education major it really has been an invaluable experience. Before taking a semester abroad I had a pretty good understanding of the rules of French grammar but, as is typically the case, I couldn’t speak very well. Only a month into the semester and I started to really notice a difference. Being immersed in the language like that, after a while things just start to click and the words flow more easily.

My advice for anyone (but especially foreign language or international studies majors/minors) who are considering studying abroad but are still on the fence? DO IT! It’s so worth it!

You’ll get even more out of the experience if you separate yourself somewhat from the other English speakers. Be bold! Be brave! And try to branch out. I guarantee if you show that you’re trying to speak the language, no one will care if you make mistakes. They’ll appreciate the effort.

The most important piece of advice I have is that if your program includes a host family, use it! Talk to them! They are valuable resources. They’re there to help you integrate into the culture and to help you practice the language in a more relaxed environment than the classroom. My host ‘mom’, Michele, had a huge part in helping me improve over the course of the semester. It helped me a lot in the beginning to remind myself that many of the host families have been doing it for years. They’ve hosted students of every level of ability. There’s something to that thought that made it easier to not be so nervous to speak up when I didn’t understand.

Basically, my advice is to take advantage of everything the program you choose has to offer. Whether that means chatting with your host, joining a yoga group or a sport, attending plays or language mixers, or all of the above, just do it. Don’t be a hermit and don’t let yourself be shy.

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