The experience helped me in several ways, for eg:
- Being fully immersed in a non-English speaking country (especially when your hosts don't speak English pretty much forced me to find creative ways to communicate even though I was studying the language at school. Certain phrases just escape the text books.
- Since I was taking French at school I found that my comprehension improved significantly even though my speaking ability didn't develop as quickly.
- As to the speaking I didn't become fluent but my accent and my pronunciation (oh that sexy french "U") became decidedly less anglicized.
- My exposure to foreign cultures helped me to appreciate differences, embrace unusual lifestyles and become more open to and accepting of people. It is true that les Francais ne se baignent pas aussi souvent que nous and they have no problem with that. Hey we had a pool! More interestingly, my host family bred dogs and raced and showed them. It was different, exciting and unfamiliar to see the extent to which the dogs were a part of the family.
- Living away for two months, I had to eat and grilled chicken was not a typical meal. It was interesting to hear the teenagers say how they loved their meat "almost raw" - not a problem as they were willing to apply more heat for me; but frog legs and fish roe weren't typical dinner fare in my home, neither was wine for that matter. Yes I lost some weight.
- I learned to articulate on matters related to my background, family, country and culture in general. In other words I learned to represent my country in a positive way.
- I made lifelong friends with whom I am communicating more now - thanks to modern technology - that I did when I just returned home.
In the video, President JFK is addressing AFS students, so you see that program has pedigree.