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Aix-en-Provence: Homestay Away from Home

October 08, 2019
by CEA CAPA Content Creator
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After spending the past two years choosing a study abroad program in Aix-en-Provence that fit with my schedule, it was time to choose housing. I considered an apartment with other students, as I knew it would come with more social interactions and chances to make friends, but my ultimate desire to become fluent in French drove my decision to a homestay. I had all the normal nerves: what if I don’t like my host family’s cooking, or what if it’s just not the right fit, or what if they don’t like me? These nerves increased upon arriving when I learned that I was only one of two students in the program who elected to do a homestay. Yet these nerves were stifled within minutes of my host-mom picking me up from the bus station; she welcomed me into her home with open arms and has continued to do so. 

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I live with a woman and her 13-year-old daughter (and their two cats: Toulouse and Berlioz— "Aristocats," anyone??). My host-mom and her daughter are both super easy to talk to and often help me with my French skills. My apartment is ideally situated at about a 10-15-minute walk from le centre-ville, and about a 20-minute walk from school. It is also close to the bus station and to parks, which makes traveling and exercising a lot easier. I have enjoyed being outside the city, as it gives me a new area to explore that others may otherwise never visit. Plus, having to learn to walk through the winding streets of Aix allowed me to get a better understanding of the city! I have a private room and share a bathroom with both my host-mom and host-sister. My room is perfect for what I need: there’s a bed with sheets that are changed every week (far more than what I do at home…), a desk for doing homework, and plenty of shelves and drawers for storage. An added bonus are the big doors and balcony that I love to open on nice days. 

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From her delicious cooking to her advice on cultural and social norms to her taking me to local events as well as to her parents' village for lunch, my host-mom has been just incredible. My French skills have also improved drastically: I asked to only be spoken to in French, and while there have been some bumps in the road, I am grateful for the struggle. I have, after just a month, begun to think and dream in French, which is something that my past nine years of study of the language could never do! More importantly, I am simply more confident in my abilities to speak French to locals and it has paid off — I am more frequently getting thought of as French rather than the American that I am, which is a major confidence-booster!

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There’s nothing that I would change about my experience thus far, and I cannot recommend a homestay enough! It is the best way to fully learn a language and a culture for the short time that we are here. Now, the situation is reversed: some of my CEA peers in apartments are envious of my daily meals and trips with my host family!

Alison Chilcott is a CEA Content Contributor studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, during the Fall 2019 semester. She is currently a student at the University of Pittsburgh.

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