Family Stay FAQs

Vistas In Education considers the Family Stay to be an essential part of our program. By living as a family member in a French home, the American students discover the rewards of putting their language study to practical use. They gain insight into everyday French culture, sample new foods, participate in shopping, sports and other family activities. They also have the opportunity to socialize with French teenagers and make new friends.

How are host families chosen?

VIE host families are found by professional Family Stay Organizers through their contacts in the educational field, usually French teachers of English. Each host family completes an application form which is returned to the VIE Family Stay Organizer. The Family Stay Organizer then conducts telephone interviews with each potential host family to determine if they can provide a suitable placement for an American student.

Are the host families paid by VIE?

Families who participate in the program do so because they are interested in meeting an American student, learning about American culture and showing their visitor French hospitality and family life. The French families are not paid or reimbursed by VIE and are chosen for their desire to take part in this intercultural experience.

How are American students matched to host families?

American students are asked to complete a Family Stay Application and to write a “Chère Famille” letter in French to help both the Family Stay coordinator and their host family to know them better.

Host families selected for the program are invited to an orientation meeting where the Family Stay coordinator has a chance to meet them and tell them more about the program. At the meeting the host families are given the Family Stay Application Form and “Chère Famille” letter of the American student who is selected for them.

Family Stay coordinators work to match students and host families according to age, compatibility of interests and language ability. Although this matching process is not an exact science as it involves pairing up people of different personalities and backgrounds, our Family Stay coordinators are well-experienced in arranging successful placements. Year after year, students continue to report positive results from their Family Stay experiences.

Are American students always placed with a French host of their same gender?

On the Family Stay Application, each American student indicates his or her preference for being hosted by either a boy or a girl. This request must be confirmed by a parent’s signature. VIE does its best to honor the request made on the Family Stay Application and will contact the student in the event that this request cannot be fulfilled. Before finalizing a placement of a student with a host of the opposite sex, the Family Stay coordinator confirms with the French family that they are willing and able to accommodate such a placement.

Can students spend their Family Stay with someone in France that they already know?

Any student who is interested in spending their Family Stay with someone he or she already knows in France should speak to the Organizing Teacher about this option. Students will be responsible for making all of their own arrangements with the family, including all transportation to and from their home. Students will then need to return the Own Family Release Form and Proof of Invitation to VIE to confirm that their parents and the French family have made all the necessary arrangements and that they do not need VIE to find them a host family. Deadlines for Own Family requests are November 15 for spring programs and January 15 for summer programs.

Can more than one student be placed with a host family?

According to VIE policy, only one American student is placed in a French home in order to facilitate integration into the family and their daily routine. This linguistic and cultural immersion is the heart of the experience that VIE works to provide for each American student. During the Family Stay, there are no activities planned for the American school group as a whole so that each student can be fully involved in their host family’s daily life.

When will the American students know who their host families are?

Although the Family Stay Applications and “Chère famille” letters are submitted to VIE several months before the group’s departure, a great deal of work and many administrative steps both in the U.S. and in France precede the delivery of these materials to the host family. The list of Family Stay placements for the group is received by our office in the U.S. about two weeks before the group’s departure and is immediately faxed to the Organizing Teacher so that information can be distributed to students. However, host families sometimes contact their American student before this placement information arrives at our U.S. office.

If a student does not hear from his or her family before departure, they should not worry! They will have a host family. Depending on the French school calendar, the host families are often on vacation during the weeks before the American student’s arrival and may not be readily available to contact their student.

What information will the student receive about their host family before departure?

Students will receive the name, address, telephone number, and email address, if available, of their French family before their departure. They will also know the age of their French host sister or brother, the ages of other children in the family, and the professions of the parents. As soon as students have this information, we strongly recommend that they write a short letter or email thanking the family for inviting them into their home. The family will be eager to hear from their American student as well!

What if there is a problem with the Family Stay placement?

Should any problem arise, the students can contact the Family Stay Organizer, the VIE office in Paris, or their Organizing Teacher. Students will be given all the necessary contact information before departure from the U.S. Our bilingual staff in Paris is available to provide support whenever necessary and there are backup families available in the event that a change needs to be made. However, it is essential that students understand that VIE cannot help with a situation unless we are made aware of the problem. It is the student’s responsibility to let someone in France know if their Family Stay is not going well.

What will students do during the Family Stay?

Family Stays are designed to take place while school is in session, so most American students will have the chance to visit a French school during their stay. All Family Stays are also arranged to extend over a weekend to allow the whole family to spend time with their American student.

This experience is intended to give American students a taste of daily life in France. Students should not expect their host family to act as a personal tour guide, but should instead be open to experiencing their hosts’ everyday routine along with any special events or visits that the family plans during the student’s stay.

At the end of the Family Stay, there are embraces, tears, smiles and often invitations to return or to come to the United States. In many cases, this one week stay becomes a lasting friendship. In all cases, it is an experience to be remembered always and a step towards personal growth and greater cultural awareness.