A New Family

This is the final post written by Jacob, an Aspire by API student who took part in a gap year program in Grenoble, France.  Jacob has updated the blog periodically throughout his time abroad, providing a unique glimpse into the day-to-day life of a gap student.  Thank you, Jacob–we have enjoyed your posts!

This past September, my parents dropped me off at the airport. My destination was Grenoble, France. The duration of the stay would be seven months. What was to ensue would be a chance to grow, many new friendships, spoken proficiency in French, and a few unexpected adventures. And though I had numerous beneficial experiences, I will always treasure one above the rest. For me, the time spent living with the host family was irreplaceable.

Study Abroad Gap Year Programs Programs in Grenoble, France - Jacob with his Host Family

Anne, Jacob, and Jean-Pascal

Jean Pascal is the curator of the regional museum. The yearlong exposition that he had recently composed was on Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps via elephant. This being the case, he would always remind me how large elephants were before I went hiking in the mountains. One could always find him in his study, poring through tomes for his research. Fascinated by anything American, he frequently tried to improve his English at the dinner table. I gently had to remind him that I was the one who was to be learning a language. Seeing that his goal was to be a stoic intellectual, I was always fond of when I could make him chuckle.

Anne is his stay at home wife. Always busy with cleaning the house and cooking marvelous food, she occupied any free time by studying psychology… and smoking cigarettes (after all, this is France). She quickly noticed that I enjoyed helping her with the dishes because it allowed me to practice my French; thus, I was given the affectionate moniker of le petit esclave. Much more the talker than her husband, Anne was the main reason for my French improvement. She had three grown children herself, and like any good mother, was always ready to help if I needed it.

They composed the family with whom I would be living for the next seven months. Well, there was also the dog, but she and I did not interact much on account of the language barrier. Opening up their house to me, these two caring individuals quickly made me feel at home. Breakfast was always at 7:30 in the morning, and we sat to eat at 7:30 at night. Anne always was up early on Saturday mornings, making me a picnic for my hike. Jean-Pascal answered all of my ceaseless questions. This routine and support proved instrumental in my quick adaptation to life abroad.

Additionally, we did many activities together, the most cherished of which occurred just shortly after I arrived. Speaking little French and understanding less than I spoke, I had a rather hard time understanding them as they told me at dinner the plans for next day. I was more than a little perplexed when I heard the expression une ferme de kiwi. Surely there was not a kiwi farm anywhere in the French Alps. To my surprise, we were picking kiwis the next day alongside their friends. They had done this so that I could meet some of their friends’ children and learn how the French youth spoke the language. To sum everything up, Anne and Jean-Pascal, whom I barely knew at the time, were doing everything they could to make me feel like a member of the family. And it was working really well.

I went to France hoping to learn to speak French proficiently, and accomplished that goal to a certain extent, now knowing that mastering a language is a lifelong pursuit. Yet, I gained something that means so much more to me. My parents are always quick to remind me that I am incredibly stubborn, independent, and headstrong (in a joking manner). Jean-Pascal and Anne showed me the value of  care and guidance when facing a struggle. Then they showed me how much fun you can have when you let people into your heart and allow them to have a lasting effect on you. For this and for so much more, I will never be able to truly thank them.

So what did I gain that meant so much more than my dream of learning another language? I gained a new family.

Study Abroad Gap Year Programs Programs in Grenoble, France - Jacob with his Host Family and friends

New family, new friends

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