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Students with children standing in front of the Priory stairs

Living with a host family can be an incredibly rich and rewarding experience, but let’s be honest: it can also be challenging! We want to help you prepare so that you can make the most of this layered and complex experience. 

All students on our programs live with a local host family. This is a key element of our program, and one that we feel has great value. Not only does it provide you with a unique opportunity to experience French culture firsthand, but it will also help you: 

  • Gain important cultural insight  
  • Broaden your worldview 
  • Improve your ability to negotiate new people and places  
  • Better understand yourself and your place in the world 
  • Improve your language skills – even if you have not studied French! 

Our Host Families 

With over 40 years of running academic programs in Talloires, we have worked with many host families! We have a very strong network of families that extends from Talloires to Annecy. Our host families have been carefully selected and vetted through an in-depth interview process with staff, and many have hosted European Center students for numerous years. They understand our program well and share our goals of promoting cultural exchange. Each year, we also welcome a few new families after going through the selection process noted above. 

When placing you with a host family, we use the information that you’ve provided in the housing section of your application to guide us. While we make our host family placements thoughtfully and carefully, we recognize that these relationships have to be built and developed by all parties involved!  

Our job is to help you navigate and process the experience of living with a host family. During the course of your program, we will check in with you regularly to ensure that everything is going as well as possible. 

Preparing for the Experience 

Every family is different, and every student is different, but if you start with a good understanding of the potential challenges and benefits, you will be well positioned to make the most of this experience! 

 So how, exactly, can you prepare for this? 

  • Think about the dynamic of your own family. How do you manage conflict or differing opinions? How do you measure your personal needs against the needs of your family? How do you communicate with your parents or your siblings when you are facing a personal challenge?  It’s not always easy! Considering the complexity of any family dynamic will give you an important perspective and help you understand your host family a little better. 
  • Brush up on French culture.  Acquiring a basic understanding of French culture will give you a great advantage. Taking time to learn about French history and politics, France’s views on the importance of the family unit, or the French ideas around work-life balance will help you understand some of the underlying norms that drive your family’s life  
  • Everyone has that friend or relative... who, despite meaning well, manages to say the wrong thing in a painful or politically incorrect way. They will dominate and bulldoze any situation and leave you wondering, what just happened? Spend some time thinking about how you might manage this type of experience in a new family. How do you manage it at home? Prepare by knowing what tools and resources are available to you. And of course, remember that we are always there to help you! 
  • Learn a little French.  If being in a new family and a different culture isn’t enough, you will also be immersed in a foreign language! Knowing a few words of French will help break the ice and show your family that you are excited to be there and exchange with them. There are lots of wonderful online tools to help you acquire some French vocabulary and grammar. Even just a few words and phrases will make a big difference.  
  • Be curious! There is nothing that people love more than seeing that you are interested in them, their family, their country, their culture, and their way of life. Your host family will be interested to learn about you, and in return, engaging with them will open doors and pave the way to clearer communication and a stronger relationshipWe recognize that this may be difficult to do in French, but we are very convinced that curiosity and engagement defy any language barrier! 
  • Talk to former students about their host family experiences! It’s pretty easy to find someone on campus who participated in one of our programs. Ask them about what worked for them, what their challenges were, and what they gained from living with a host family.  

Additional Resources 

In addition to these recommendations and the information you will receive in your student handbook, these articles and blog posts provide excellent tips and thoughts on how to prepare for this aspect of your experience: