Friday, September 20, 2013

Home Away from Home, No 2

Vendredi, 20 septembre.

It's crazy to think that it's already been two weeks since I moved out of Triolet! Maybe I'm just good at quickly settling into new schedules (thanks, military childhood!), but after just under two weeks with my host family, I'm starting to feel very comfortable in my home away from home.

First night.
As for my host family itself: I really like them! Unlike the other W&M students, who are all staying with couples or single women, I have an actual famille d'accueil: a mom, dad, and thirteen-year-old son. My host mom is lovely -- very pretty and always smiling, which is reassuring when I'm blundering through a conversation or making a faux pas at the dinner table! Her husband is very nice and funny, although I only ever partially understand his jokes the first time. My "frère d'accueil" (as I've started referring to him) is absolutely adorable. Although he swears he's in collège (confusingly, the name for middle school in France), he seems a lot younger than thirteen. (I think he looks more like 10 or 11! But maybe that's just because I'm old.) He's pretty quiet around me, but always friendly and smiling.

The whole family is pretty busy and since our schedules don't always line up, I don't see them all the time. It's been a little tricky to figure out how I fit into the dynamic -- I'm more than a random renter leasing a room, but it's not like I'll be asking my host mom to come tuck me into bed anytime soon! I really think that each time I spend time with my family, I get to know them a little better and make a little more progress in letting them get to know me. My homestay arrangement includes breakfasts (sometimes eaten with the family, depending on our schedules) and two free dinners a week, but I can eat additional dinners for a really modest 3 a meal. Although Molly and I can usually eat for less than that if we go out (especially since the discovery of our new favorite bakery/sandwich shop), I've been trying to stay in and eat with "my family" pretty frequently! Dinners aren't a grand affair for us, like at some of my friends' homestays, but there are lots of vegetables and always bread, so I'm usually quite the happy camper. (Hey, it beats yogurt and cucumber slices -- the go-to dinner of my Triolet days!) Dinners are a fun, bilingual affair -- my host dad speaks pretty good English because of his work, but his wife loves to practice and encouraged her son to do so as well. We speak mostly in French (for my benefit and their comfort), but usually spend a little bit of dinner speaking in English. I didn't know how I would feel about having a family that wanted to practice English all the time, but for now I don't mind it one bit! (If only because hearing them make mistakes in English makes me feel a teensy bit better about my French.)

And now for the part you've all been waiting for ... the grand tour of my bedroom!

First off, here's the view from the door as you walk into the room. There are two big doors that open out onto a tiny little Juliet balcony that overlooks the backyard, which is totally private, so no one can see in at night! I have a nice big (super comfortable) bed, two bedside tables, and a little blue desk that I stack all my school supplies on. There's a desk in the back corner, next to the radiator, that I usually keep my laptop on. Despite the abundance of little tables (there's another in the other corner of the room), there's not really any workspace -- the desk is a little more decorative than functional. But there's lots of space to work at the university and in the meantime, I've been making do!

And, because no series of photo is complete without an iPhone panoramic, here's the view from my bed!

As you can see in the pictures below, half of the little white wardrobe is mine to use. It's been a little tricky to organize and keep tidy because all my clothes and toiletries seem to prefer sitting in piles rather than stacks, but I think I've come up with a good system! It didn't seem like a lot of space at first, but everything actually fits really well.

My little clothes rack isn't the most beautiful thing in the world, but it's actually really really functional. I'm using it right now to hang up dresses, skirts and jackets, and also to store sweatshirts and shoes. I even tied my scarves around the rack for a little more color! (And for easy access, because scarves are the go-to accessory here.)

My room definitely wasn't what I was expecting. After seeing a few pictures of other friends' homestays from study abroad, I was imagining something a little less ... lived in? I mean, I didn't think I would be given an empty dorm room, but it was definitely a little bit of a surprise to realize that my room was already packed to the brim with books, photo albums, and travel souvenirs. There wasn't even space under the bed for my suitcase!

I was a little worried at first that it was going to be difficult to get used to the idea of living in a room full of someone else's stuff, but I've adjusted really quickly. I told myself that as long as I continued to think of it as "someone else's stuff" that it wouldn't feel like my room: instead I have to tell myself that it's mine -- my book and my photo albums and mysouvenirs! I've even done a little bit of minor rearranging (... I changed the order of the perfume bottles on the shelf ...) to make it feel just a little bit more me. It's funny -- now that I'm used to it, I've decided that having all of the "stuff" makes the room feel a lot more home-y! 

This shelf full of empty perfume bottles might be my favorite part of the room.
I have a few pictures of my actual homestay as well, but it feels like it would sorta kinda definitely be an invasion of privacy to post those online for the world to see! But suffice it to say that it's clean, welcoming, and full of character. (Did I mention that the water closet is lined floor to ceiling with books?!) Couple that with my friendly host family and it makes for one heck of a home away from home!


  1. Thank you for sharing! You're a doll! I know they must love having you there. Who wouldn't?


  2. Je reconnais la mon fils qui s'est toujours adapte partout...Bravo Elisabeth d'etre si flexible! "Ta famille" a bien de la chance de t'avoir...