Students Present American Culture in Angers, France
St. Edward's University Students Present American Culture in
The university's partnership with Université Catholique de l'Ouest has given St. Edward's students not only a place to study abroad with their peers, but also an opportunity to be immersed in a new culture. While attending classes in Angers, France, students are required to take a French class and other classes related to their major and/or general education requirements.
One of the courses offered in Angers is COMM 1317, or Presentational Speaking, a required course for all St. Edward's University students. Lori Peterson, associate professor in the School of Humanities, taught the course in Angers this spring and wanted to ensure that her students had a different experience than they would have in Austin.
She required her students to go out into the Angers community for their final group presentation to present U.S. culture, Austin, and/or the presence of St. Edward's University in Angers. The St. Edward's students chose to present to French children — one group of nine 5-8 year olds and another group of six 9-12 year olds — during "children's hour" at the English Language Library. This was not the first time St. Edward's students worked with the library. Previously, another group of students taught English to local children.
For this project, the St. Edward's students shared facts about the U.S. and Texas by showing the French children where Texas was located on a map and pictures of important Texas landmarks such as the Alamo. The children seemed fascinated by how big Texas is — it's even bigger than France.
Since the talk was given before Easter, the St. Edward's students also discussed some of the American holiday traditions including coloring and hiding eggs. The French children enjoyed hearing that some of the Easter traditions are the same in the U.S. and France such as getting candies, chocolates and searching for eggs.
"The St. Edward's students were impressed that even the youngest of French children visit the library on Wednesdays (their day off from school) to learn English. The French children seemed genuinely interested in learning about American culture," Peterson said. "Interacting with the French children also made us aware of how important learning a second (or third) language is, and how much easier it is to learn a new language — which is the key to learning about different cultures — at a young age."
Lori Peterson believes that St. Edward's University students who study abroad are transformed into ambassadors for the U.S., Texas and St. Edward's.
"My students were very aware that they might be the only American university students the children have met, and they took this responsibility seriously," Peterson said. "They had a heightened sense of wanting to leave a positive impression on the Angers community — and what better way to do that than by engaging the Angevine children?"
Teaching in France has also been transformative for Peterson. "It has been incredibly exciting to watch St. Edward's students enter a new culture and grapple with all of the challenges presented by leaving behind one's 'comfort zone,'" she said. "Our students have truly embraced their study abroad experience; and, as they prepare to depart Angers, each of their lives has been impacted forever. I feel blessed to have been able to share this adventure with them."
The one-semester course ended last week. St. Edward's students have the opportunity to study abroad with a faculty advisor during the fall, spring and summer sessions. As a part of studying abroad in Angers, most classes require a service learning component.