A Host Family Friendship That Spans 40 Years

This story from Betsy McMahon, a former SU graduate assistant, was submitted to an SU Strasbourg staff member and is an incredible tribute to the lasting bonds that can form between students and their host families:

STRstudent“In 1974 I was a graduate assistant in French Language and Literature at Syracuse University and was fortunate to have been chosen by the department to spend the fall semester in Strasbourg. I had made arrangements to stay in an individual apartment; however, once I arrived in October, I discovered that the apartment would not be suitable for many reasons, mainly because of no heat until the end of the month.

Luckily, the Syracuse University office in Strasbourg had just made arrangements for a new family to house one student; that family was the Borras family and I was the student! I would be the first student that the Borras family welcomed at their comfortable apartment, so I was the pioneer of what was going to be an on-going relationship not only between Syracuse University and the Borras family, but also between the Borras family and me.  Jose and Anne Marie, with their two sons, Patrick and Manuel, were a busy family with their professional lives and family activities, but they always had time to help me or just have a chat.

A few times a week, I was fortunate to be able to share in their scrumptious meals, as well. Those meals usually included visitors and friends from many parts of the world, with many stories to tell. At the end of the day, Anne Marie and I would often sit in the kitchen, sip tisane and talk about all sorts of things — sweet memories. Anne Marie called me “ma soeur americaine” at that time and through the years, we’ve managed to stay in touch. When she met me at the train station a month ago, it seemed as if those 39 years completely melted away …it was as if I was still living “chez la famille Borras.”

As you already know, Anne Marie and I have kept our friendship through the years, even though it has been 39 years since I stayed at their home in 1974. I have visited them three times throughout the years with members of my family and in 1988 Anne Marie came to the U.S. for a conference and stayed with us briefly.

The welcoming, cozy experience in the Borras household was memorable because they always made a point to be sure I was comfortable in so many ways. Anne Marie is an amazing person and her husband, Jose, was also full of life, ready to crack a joke or talk about serious political issues over one of Anne Marie’s beautifully-prepared dinners.”

The Borras family still hosts SU Strasbourg students each semester. Here is Betsy with Anne Marie and Sarah, the Fall 2013 student who lived with the Borras family for the semester:IMG_5547.JPG


3 thoughts on “A Host Family Friendship That Spans 40 Years

  1. Thank you so much Betty for this nice token of friendship ! I so much appreciated to share time with my “Syracuse U. sisters and brothers ” throughout thoses years. So much friendship and people to discover. And now il’s the turn of my son Simon to exchange with all the Syracuse students when he goes to visit my mother’s.
    Manuel Borras

  2. And I’ll echo my “French brother” Manuel’s thanks for posting this article, Betty. I had heard of you when I was fortunate enough to stay with Anne-Marie, Patrick et Manuel in 1985 during a cold and snowy semester that they described as one of the worst winters in 30 years — and it was cold, yet, for me, it was one of the most wonderful, memorable times in my life, thanks to the hospitality and warmth of the welcoming Borras family who had so recently dealt with the loss of Jose. 77 Boulevard d’Anvers, at the time, felt like a second home, and it was from staying with them that I felt I truly became fluently functional in French… with so many other benefits including the connections of a second family. Though I was a Boston University student participating in the SU program, I am thankful to everyone that had created and continues to keep this exchange program active and inspirational for students. When Anne-Marie came to see you in ’88, she also stopped in Toronto and we took her to the place where my wife and I would be married the following February… we just celebrated our Silver Anniversary, and it makes me realize that it’s been far too long since I’ve revisited Strasbourg. I’m thankful for letters and then emails, but your photo and story adds a great dimension to the tribute to the fantasticly generous and beloved Borras family.

  3. I randomly came across this article, a year and a half after it was written. I, too, was one of the lucky students who was matched to stay with Madame Borras during the Fall 2012 semester. I do not think my experience in Strasbourg would have been the same had I been paired with a different host family. Madame Borras is one of the sweetest and most generous people I have ever met, and I am so blessed to have stayed in her home. We still e-mail each other occasionally, and I hope to return to Strasbourg soon to pay her a visit. I was able to meet Manuel, his wife, and Simon during my stay and they were all so gracious with me. I will always look back on my time in Strasbourg and remember the wonderful moments we spent together.

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