Un Grand Merci au Stage Indiana!
I was selected as one of the thirty students to go to St. Brieuc, France in the summer of 1986. It was the 25th anniversary of the I.U. Honors Program in that town, so it was a particularly special year to participate. Little did I know at the time, but my life would be changed forever after that summer.
My host family was new to the program; I was their first stagière. I was fortunate to have been placed with a family that had three teenagers: one girl and two boys. While the program’s No English rule helped to facilitate my language development, as did the classes and excursions, it was the connection that I made with my host family that really launched me in a new direction. We had so much to discuss and to share, and were extremely motivated to learn about each other’s cultures and perspectives. We quickly became friends. In fact, it was the beginning of a new family unit.
The next summer, my host family did not take another stagière as I returned for a visit with my mother, who also speaks French. Then after one month, their daughter came to our home for one month to visit the U.S. and in order to improve her English skills. It was the first of many, many trans-Atlantic visits.
For the last 25 years, our two families have been intertwined. We have shared every major life event with one another: vacations and holidays, graduations, birthdays, marriages and funerals. Today, we continue to share in each other’s lives, and as we watch our own children play together, we cannot help but look forward to the next generation’s cultural and linguistic exchanges.
I returned to Brittany this summer with my eldest daughter; of course, we stayed with our French family. As 17 of us gathered for a Sunday barbeque this past May, we realized that it was our 25th anniversary as a Franco-American family. We raised a glass and thanked the Stage Indiana for bringing us together!
[I majored in French with History at Wellesley College (MA), became a K-12 French teacher, and earned my Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition/ Foreign Language Education from The Ohio State University. I currently teach French at a small college in northern Georgia, and speak exclusively in French to my three children.]