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Real-world applications

Even before they graduate, our students are using their French language skills and cultural competencies in real-world settings. Some students serve as teaching assistants in our elementary language classrooms; others participate in internships in France; most recently, a French major did interpretation work for a man seeking legal asylum.

This spring Lena Bullard '26 volunteered as a French-English language interpreter for the Immigration Clinic at the W&M Law School. lena-bullard-photo.jpegThis was a particularly rewarding experience as she translated for a man from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was preparing an asylum case for consideration by the US government. Lena says: "This opportunity was incredibly humbling and yet encouraging. I was able to learn more about the dire situation for journalists and human rights defenders in the DRC and the complex process of seeking asylum in the US. Working with asylum seekers has not only built my confidence in my French abilities but has also given me a new perspective on the various opportunities with the French major to work on issues that I am passionate about."

Another way French majors get practical experience is by working with Prof. Angela Leruth in our elementary language classrooms. zoe-giannini-ta-2024.pngOur undergraduate teaching assistants take a foreign language pedagogy course (MDLL 401) and then help younger students practice new vocabulary and grammatical structures on Friday mornings. Zoe Giannini '24 notes that this "has been one of the most fruitful 'extracurricular' activities I've been given during my time at WM. As someone who is still engaged in the learning process, being able to offer my peers insights into the French language is a great privilege. In a way, I get to share those insights which I wish I could have given my younger self!"

Last but not least, our majors regularly engage in internships in France.grace-mctigue-brochure.png Last semester Grace McTigue '25 participated in a Field Study and Internship program in Paris: in addition to taking traditional academic courses, Grace did an internship at Les Petits Débrouillards, a non-profit organization that supports science learning in early education. As a French and Biology double-major, she wrote informational pamphlets about sex and gender identities, about the importance of consent, and about sexually transmitted diseases. She also helped set up an interactive exhibit about sexual and emotional health for French middle-school students. Ultimately, she said, "it was an enriching experience because I got to see my studies put into practice and to see my efforts become reality."