Formidable , formidable! La France, tu étais formidable!


Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
Mahatma Gandhi 

This experience has been marvelous! I have not just lived the best of my days but also learnt so much more than I imagined before coming. One reason why I have always wanted to learn French was the fact that it is rich in culture and history.

Now that I think about the program as a whole, I am grateful! I am grateful to have lived with host families from three different regions in France. I could not have learnt more if not for the host families that I lived with. In Nantes, I lived with a woman named Marie Claude. She was an absolutely adorable host mother who cared so much. She was patient to always listen to my “really bad French” and always there to help me with homework or any studying. She took me to see different places. She introduced me to her family and friends. She always explained the French culture and traditions. However, one cannot ignore the fact that there will always be some miscommunications but the overall experience is always positive.

In Nantes, as my host mother explained, family is important. It is a city but not too big to get people going crazy!  Therefore, my conclusion was that family close relationships are essential in Nantes with a bit of city lifestyle.


In the south, where another adventure started, my experience took it to a whole other level. I lived with an artist! A potter and a photographer named Yvan Gaudy. Yvan was an old man full of energy and is always ready to go on an adventurous trip.  He lives exactly to what Mahatma Gandhi said about living as if you were going to die tomorrow. In Bastenne, which is the nameof the village we lived in, we got to do many different things. I learnt how to do pottery, I learnt about photography, I learnt about the different culture and traditions of the south of France. But most importantly he taught me a lot about life. In the south, everyone knows each other. It is too small for people to be insanely busy. Therefore, unlike Nantes, the south is more conservative with traditional lifestyle.

Finally, Paris!

As Ernest Hemingway said “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” 

Aside of the fact that we were given the opportunity to live in one of the world’s most beautiful and visited cities in the world, I was blessed to have another extraordinary host family. I was lucky because through my host family in Paris, I learnt a lot not only about Paris and life in Paris but also about social issues such as immigration, racism, Arabs living in France, Islamophobia and many more. That is because my host mother is originally Moroccan.  


Here is a family party my host parents organized when my mother came to visit.

In Paris, however, I could see how busy life was and that people have no time to just sit, reflect or even smile. Family relationships are not as tight as those of Nantes and the south. Both in Nantes and the south, all members of the family ought to be sitting together for all meals. In Paris, it is different! Here, each person eats when they have time. It is more like a task and needs to get done.

My experience in France has been splendid! I have nothing to complain about. Overall, I am very happy and grateful for such an incredible opportunity. Now, it is time to leave beautiful Paris and continue the path to our future. Although, I am upset to leave Paris, I am excited to get back and reunite with those who I love and care a lot about. 

— Shatha Sbeta


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