Delphine is one of the many host moms who receives our students into her home and takes care of everything during their entire stay, to make them feel as if they were in their own home. For more than two years she has opened her doors to those who come to IEF to learn French and our culture. Today, she tells us more about her experiences and the responsibility she has for making those who spend a season with her and her family to achieve the best possible outcome.
Why did you decide to open your home to be a host family?
I had always traveled a lot; I am very curious about the world. But when I undertook a personal project in the city, I had to stop traveling. I continued to feel I wanted to know more about what was outside of my space, so I thought if I could not go, then I would bring it to my home. The students bring the world to us. Having so many people from different cultures in my home allows me to travel without having to leave.
What do you enjoy about receiving students into your home?
I love to see all those young people with so many dreams and aspirations of life, who are curious and eager to learn. The interest they show makes you want to know more too; makes you want to explore more, to open up to many cultures. I also think something very important for me is my children are interested in the world. I have two children of 18 and 15 years. They have not traveled much, and with all the people who come to our home, they have the opportunity to learn. The cultural exchange is huge, and this also shows them that outside their home there is a world full of stories and adventures. They also now feel interested, if the opportunity arises, to go abroad and live a similar experience. As a bonus, they also make new friends since many of the students are of similar ages.
How is coexistence at home?
I always try to make everyone come together and feel comfortable. The first day for a new student, I always tell a little about how everything is going, and how things work in the house. In addition, I like to receive students and offer them both breakfast and dinner. I prefer this because everyone is organized in the morning in his or her own way, but dinner is the time we have to share together. If they do not eat at home or cook by their selves, we don’t really get moments to share. When we get together for dinner we take the opportunity to ask about our day. We get to know each other better, we share our likes and dislikes and, above all, students have a great opportunity to practice French. Then everyone has their room and their own space. We share time as a family but we also know students like to have their independence.
Is it difficult for students to adapt?
The first days are always the most difficult, especially for students who are living away from home for the first time. That’s why we always try to find moments to share and help them feel part of the family. After some days, when they start learning how it all works, and understand everything by themselves, it gets a bit easier. Of course they know for whatever they need, we are here to help. When it happens that two students who already know each other arrive together, it is a little bit more complicated. It is difficult for them to open up to others; somehow they already know their comfort zone. It takes more effort for them to start sharing, but it always happens in the end, they integrate even if it takes more time.
Are you like a mom to the students?
Well, certainly, I do not choose to play the role of mom, but I do like to be there for them and I also worry. I like to listen to them, and make them feel they have support. Many times it happens students feel stressed when they cannot speak French, and it makes them incredibly down. So I always try to support them. I am also aware at night when they leave, for example. I ask when they return home, they leave the keys in sight so I can see they have all returned. They can sleep quietly, but they have complete independence. As a good mom, always before they leave, I tell them to be careful, and pay attention to their surroundings. In the end, the students appreciate you have take care of them.
Why do you think it is important for students to come and live with a host family?
I think when a student chooses to stay with a host family, he / she is assured of cultural immersion because they always share with native people. They are much more likely to practice the language on a daily basis. For example, here at our home, our three students each speak different mother tongues; so they are, in some way, forced to speak French. It also happens many students leave their home for the first time and being with a host family makes them less lonely, and they adapt much faster to everything. I feel a huge responsibility because I know experiences like these can make or mar the student. If they do not have a good time, they will not want to repeat it. On the contrary, if everything goes well, the desire to learn and travel will multiply, so I always want students to feel comfortable and create the best possible memories.
How have been your experiences with the students?
I have always had very good experiences with the students. Sometimes my work has been too demanding and I don’t get to share time with them. Other times, I go out with them as much as I am able. For example, I had a student studying theater and he knew a lot about the area, so he invited me to see a show and we had a great time. Friendships are always created with students. Many, after they leave, if they return to Montpellier, come to greet me or write to me from time to time. In addition they teach me so much. I have received many students from Sweden, and with all of the Swedes, I have made great friends. I have never been attracted to their country, but now I really want to go and discover it. And the same happens with many more.