My life in France has officially settled in. After 13 DAYS of waiting, my suitcases arrived – quite beat up – with all the belongings inside. On Monday the 17th, I began classes at Paul Valery University, and on Thursday the 20th, I earned a job tutoring some English to a family of four. While I find a plethora of activities to busy myself with this year, the most important part of my settling into France was my host family. And boy did I score a great family.

Top Left: My host sister, Manon, who is just a year older than me and lives with us. Top Right: Manon’s older sister, Aurélie, who lives in another town with her young family. Bottom Left: My wonderful host mother, Béatrice. Bottom Right: My kind host father, Charles.

I’m so fortunate that Béa and Charles have welcomed me into their home for an entire academic year (9 months)! It turns out that I’m their second year-long student and their 12th American student they’ve ever hosted – so needless to say, they’re seasoned pros when it comes to being host parents. They’ve provided me with a comfortable bedroom with lot’s of closet space and a large desk. My favorite feature of the room is a map of the United States with photos of all their former exchange students glued on the states they come from. (And, of course, my pictures of my friends and loved ones back home that I put up.)

Terrible quality photo, but there you can see the map!

Our home is in a small village outside of central Montpellier, however we live a stone’s throw away from a Tram station. Montpellier is years ahead of the United States with their excellent public transit. From my house I can arrive downtown within 30 mins by tram, and I can rush to campus within 25 mins by bus. Therefore, we get the best of both worlds: the silence of a small village and the accessibility of a large city.
Béa and Charles are both Occitan Region natives. They were school-sweethearts and quick to establish a life for themselves. When they knew they wanted to start a family, they chose to move out to the small village and make a home for themselves. They’ve now lived in this house for over thirty years and raised both of their daughters (and many dogs) here. Charles works for the village just a couple kilometers from home, and Béa commutes into Montpellier to work as a veterinary assistant. Both of their daughters attended K-12 here, and Manon continues to be a student at the local university. 
Some fun facts I’ve learned about my family: Charles plays in a Handball League and is proud to show off his team’s trophy from a previous tournament. Béa is currently taking an English course at the community college and likes to talk about her friendly competition with a Chinese-French student on performance. Manon is an avid escape-game fan, and we’re excited for an upcoming escape game tournament in October. Daiku, their dog, loves playing ball by himself. He literally plays catch by himself. It’s the funniest thing ever.

Daiku also runs around too much, I could hardly catch a photo of him!

Anyways, there’s the quick update for my time settling in here. For any Gophers thinking of studying abroad, I definitely recommend living with a host family. By contract, they feed you breakfast and dinner every day, and lunch on the weekends. And they feed you GOOD meals. I’ve had salmon, quiche, caprese salads, and more cheeses than fingers on my hands! They’re also required to give you your own room, so you have a safe refuge all to yourself in case you ever have a hard day. But most of all, they welcome you with open, loving arms as if you’ve always been a member of their family. Truly, I don’t know what I would’ve done in those 13 days without my suitcases if it hadn’t been for my generous host mom and sister. They loaned me so many things and bent over backward helping me call the airlines for more information. I’m sure there are bad cases with host families, but the good ones make the risk worth it. They’ll make leaving in May so much harder, but they’ll make coming back to France for another visit so much easier!