Written by Miranda Rea, Resident Director in Grenoble, France
Immersion in the local culture is an excellent way to ensure that your students are continuously learning during their study abroad experience. In Grenoble, AIFS has a wide network of local families who every semester, winter and summer terms house our students providing safe and comfortable learning environments.
First, the term “family” does not always mean parents and children. It can mean an older couple, a single mother or single person. The ages of the children will also vary. I interview all homestay families personally. All homes are visited and some even invite me for a meal, coffee or a drink even before students are placed, so I can sample their home cooking and their enthusiasm for hosting. I revisit the homestays every 2 to 3 years depending on student feedback, changes to the home or family circumstances.
Homes are located in the city center and close suburbs. They are usually apartments, some large, others more modest. Single family homes are most likely located just outside the city center. Public transportation is available, and a transportation pass is included in the program fee. Students are usually housed in double rooms with twin beds, desks and wardrobes with shared bathrooms. Wi-Fi is provided. All are comfortable according to local standards. Family pets are more likely to be cats, as families living in an apartment rarely have a dog.
Breakfast and dinner with the homestay family are included in the program fee. Students will learn how to adapt to different food and routines although families are open to dietary needs within reason (gluten/lactose intolerance, etc.), but of course they love it when they can share the many delights of French cuisine! The French enjoy meals based on the seasonal local ingredients, for example, no peaches in winter and lots of salad in the summer.
As students are all individual personalities, so no one host family is exactly the same. The family recognize the individuality of the student they are welcoming into their home, and they adapt so that each hosting experience is unique, both for the family and the student. For the student who wants to develop a relationship there are opportunities to become involved with family, their friends, their interests, to share ideas, exchange opinions, ask questions, and express doubts. Students will learn about authentic French lifestyles, not just food, but also etiquette, the importance and value of time, space, etc. The host families will provide a safe space for encouragement, suggestions, and advice.
As part of the AIFS orientation, I will work with students to teach them about the norms and manage their expectations, to learn to adapt and thrive in the homestay environment.