Bonjour Greenheart Travelers! I was so excited when I got placed in Niort, France for my Teach in a Homestay program. If you are someone who kind of knows French, can read it, but have difficulty conversationally, I recommend living somewhere that’s not very metropolitan during your time abroad.
I have to use French every day and it’s such a good brain work out…survival French. With that being said, you must definitely visit Paris before committing yourself to 1 to 3 months in a small town or suburb. I recommend staying in the 10th arrondissement near a hostel called St. Christopher’s Inn Gare du Nord. It’s a 3-minute walk from the Metro and the staff there speak English. I would wake up early each morning, get off at a popular train stop (St. Michel, Chatelet, Musee du Louvre, etc.) and then walk around following the Seine River until my feet felt like they were going to fall off.
Buy a Paris Visite ticket when you arrive at Charles de Galle airport because you can use that ticket to get on the regional rail (RER/SNCF), bus and the Metro. If you want to visit Chateau de Versailles, which you should!…it’s better to buy the Paris Visite ticket since you have to take the SNCF.
If you are a foody, like me, I suggest that when you go out to eat, order from the fixed price menu so that you can get an appetizer, main course and dessert for a reasonable price. Meals are the best time to start a conversation, along with a dictionary close by!
Greenheart Travel gives you a list of conversation starters and lesson plans to follow for the hours that you are required to teach English to your host family. Depending on your family’s schedule, your hours can be fulfilled by simply helping with homework, watching the news and offering your perspective, or playing games with the family.
My host family is really sweet. I’m living with a middle school teacher and her little daughter. Sophie is a wonderful cook and I love French food; when she’s in the kitchen, there are plenty of opportunities to talk about the names for certain dishes in English and to catch up with her. I’ve only been in Niort for four days so far; it feels longer. This weekend we are going to a Flash Mob dance rehearsal, the family is hosting a French couch surfer and I’m going to meet some of Sophie’s friends. Should be fun!