Can you tell us about yourself? Have you always been interested in France and French culture?
I came to Fordham as a transfer student during my sophomore year. While at Fordham, I studied French and International Political Economy (IPE). Outside of class, I enjoyed working with the FCRH French Club, as this experience allowed me to learn more about my fellow classmates and pursue my passion for language learning.
I also worked as a Global Transition Assistant and loved being a part of Fordham’s international community. In this role, I welcomed international students to campus over the summer and helped them to adjust to life at Fordham, as well as life in NYC.
Can you tell us about your experience as a Fulbright ETA in France?
During the 2018-2019 academic year, I worked as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Marseille, France. The ETA program allows grantees to work with local English teachers at high schools in priority education areas. I worked at Lycée Victor Hugo in Marseille with twelve different classes. The majority of these students were in their final year of high school and preparing for their Baccalauréat exam.
What sparked your interest in teaching?
When I learned about the Fulbright ETA position, I saw it as a continuation of my studies and an opportunity to combine my passions for French culture and education. At Fordham, I complimented my formal studies in French and IPE with experiences working in NYC.
For example, I worked with the organization Breakthrough New York as a mentor and teacher. I had a fantastic experience with the organization, and I discovered how much I loved working with young people. I loved supporting my students and mentees as they grew both academically and personally. I have had incredible educational opportunities and was fortunate to have mentors in my own life that believed in my dreams and helped me to achieve them.
Why is this work so meaningful to you?
As an ETA in Marseille, I had the opportunity each day to make a positive impact on students and inspire them to achieve their own dreams. Teaching English has been especially rewarding, as I watched students gain confidence in English and in themselves. This confidence can be applied to all subjects and in their everyday life, and I am proud and extremely thankful to have been a part of their growth.
How would you describe your typical day as an ETA?
Before classes, I collaborated with my teachers and prepared lesson materials. My role in the classroom depended on the preferences of the lead teacher. Some teachers preferred that I assisted them in the classroom, while others preferred that I take the lead role.
Outside of class, I hosted an open classroom during lunch where students could come practice their English in a relaxed setting. During these hour-long programs, we discussed current events and aspects of culture such as movie extracts or works of art.
The Fulbright ETA program allowed me to work in the classroom, as well as engage with the local community. I eventually began volunteering with an organization in Marseille that assists the homeless population by providing meals. This was an incredible opportunity to learn more about the issues facing Marseille and the people in the community who are dedicated to finding solutions to these problems.
What challenges have you had to overcome thus far in your fellowship?
In November, French high school students launched a nation-wide protest against educational reforms. From late November to early January, the students at my school protested outside of the school’s entrance. Due to the protests, classes were cancelled for the most part of December. At their height, these student demonstrations were very tense and made doing my job quite difficult.
Despite how much class students missed, they exhibited their political awareness and passion for advocacy. To continue these meaningful conversations, we began working on a creative writing project to learn more about the social inequalities that the students of Victor Hugo face. This project focused on student accounts of the protests at their school and the wider protests of gilets jaunes (yellow vests) in all of France.
Where do you see your career going in the future?
I am really interested in pursuing a global career that focuses on improving educational opportunities for young people. I love working in an environment where everyone is passionate about learning. I am inspired by work in international development and public policy and could see myself following a career in either of these fields. Living and working in France taught me to find comfort in the unknown and to appreciate the little things. As I launch my career, I hope to have the opportunity to continue working abroad.
How have your prior experiences at Fordham helped you to prepare for this program?
My experiences at Fordham were instrumental in preparing me for my role as an ETA in France. My professors in IPE and French created an environment in which I grew academically, as well as personally. These combined experiences allowed me to see the world more fully. Fordham’s Dean Gould, Dr. Evrard, and Dr. Beskin each had an enormous impact on me while at Fordham, as they believed in my abilities and supported me during the Fulbright application process.
What advice would you give to other Fordham students applying to a prestigious fellowship?
Take this moment as a learning opportunity and enjoy the process. My own experience allowed me to reflect on my undergraduate career and create a vision for my future. I was deeply touched by the support that the Fordham community showed me. I was reminded of how lucky I was to be in a community that wanted to see people achieve their dreams. If you focus on making the application process positive, you cannot lose.
Edited by Alex Finn-Atkins