Meet our guest blogger, Elise! We asked her to share her story of French adventures, which all started with a Family Stay as a teenager.
« Douce France “Sweet France
Cher pays de mon enfance Dear country of my childhood
Bercée de tendre insouciance Cradled in tender carelessness
Je t’ai gardée dans mon cœur » I have kept you in my heart”
Charles Tenet, 1943
I didn’t actually spend my childhood in France, but in high school I was a Rotary Youth Exchange Student and spent my junior year in a lycée in Brittany, France. Staying with a family was an incredible experience, which I will discuss more in a future blog post, on its own; 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 all around the globe.
French is the official language of 29 countries. 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 6 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, 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 Family Stay Programs in France has been the hallmark of VIE since our incorporation in Minnesota in 1976.
Contactez-nous au 800-343-4690 pour discuter vos idées et souhaits pour un séjour en France!