Meet our guest blogger Elise! We asked her to share her story of French adventures which all started with a stay in a French family as a teenager.

I didn’t actually spend my childhood in France but in high school I spent my junior year in a lycée in Brittany, France. Staying with a family was an incredible experience. It also motivated me to study abroad in France, an experience that changed my life.

Like a master key that unlocks all doors, learning French revealed for me cultures and peoples around the globe.

French is the official language of 29 countries across the globe. Its romantic overtures have been weaved into music and works of art for centuries. As a language of diplomacy, luxury, love and fashion, knowing French has considerably broadened my horizons and deepened my understanding of the world around me. At university, I studied Political Science but was interested in expanding the scope of my studies beyond the political status quo in the “West.”

Because I had learned French, I was able to spend six months in West Africa analyzing international development in the country of Mali.

I was fortunate to spend several weeks with a club of mothers in the town of Segu where I faced the realities of colonialism and global poverty. Working alongside the mothers, I experienced the triumphs and pitfalls of women’s empowerment projects.

Today, as I push to accomplish my dreams, I am reminded of their tireless energy to make life better for themselves and their children each and every day. I am inspired to push forward no matter the road blocks ahead.

Following graduation, my knowledge of French brought me to another part of the world, the Caribbean. I spent a year teaching in an elementary school on the island of Martinique. In addition to soaking up the sun and enjoying the “island life,” I learned a lot about what it means to work in a different country, and to be a foreigner.

My experiences in French-speaking countries increased my appreciation for what it means to be an American, to come from a land of peoples who came from everywhere and who are descendants of foreigners themselves.

It can be scary in a new place, even if you speak the language. I was saved over and over again by friendly locals and host families that took me under their wing – often times even before I realized I needed help. To pay it forward, I now do my best to be attentive to others when they are new to my community. Whether it’s asking others if they need help when they look lost on the street or making someone a cup of tea while I explain a local custom or bureaucracy, you just never know when a little action is going to make a world of difference in the life of another.

No matter where I go, no matter what I do, my passion for French has always helped me communicate with new peoples, discover exciting places and overcome new challenges.

So perhaps it is for these reasons that I hum this tune, as a sort of tribute to the beautiful history of this everlasting experience, a small gesture of gratitude to every family who’s helped me along the way.

VIE is a small company of passionate, knowledgeable Francophiles who take a personal interest in the success of your travel program. Creating memorable Travel and LA VIE EN FAMILLE Programs in France has been the hallmark of VIE since our incorporation in Minnesota in 1976.

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