Recent graduate Sarah “Ra” Lawson ’15 relocated to France for a teaching position helping high school students learn English, but she also is learning plenty from the experience.
Lawson said, “My job is to facilitate conversation through activities using videos, analyzing pictures, listening to recordings, starting debates or playing games.”
Her liberal arts background has been essential to giving her the confidence to think outside of the box and find meaningful ways to engage with her students.
Lawson, a French and English double major with a creative writing minor, is employed with the Teaching Assistantship Program in France (TAPIF). She found the organization through online research and decided to pursue the program with encouragement from her faculty mentors.
The application process was long and suspenseful. Lawson applied for the program in January of 2015, but was not accepted until April. To apply, Lawson had to take a French language proficiency exam administered by the college’s foreign language faculty. She also had to collect letters of recommendation from Franklin faculty to strengthen her application. Lawson cited tremendous gratitude for support and guidance from assistant professor of modern languages Kristin Wasielewski, Ph.D., professor of English Richard Erable, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of English Susan Crisafulli Ph.D. and Office of Global Education Director Jenny (Piland) Cataldi ’06, among others. As the saying goes, “it takes a village,” which, coincidentally, alludes to the area where Lawson resides.
“Langres is a very rural mountainous town encircled by a Roman wall. Imagine a bazillion sheep and cows, like a picture from a butter ad,” she said.
However, the peaceful countryside has not shielded Lawson from the challenges of living in a foreign country alone. While her background as a French major has helped her speak and translate the language, she has had to adjust to learning the colloquialisms of native speakers.
Lawson said, “No amount of school prepares you for the language barriers, all the paperwork involved in the immigration process or the general grievances of getting lost or having nowhere to do laundry. However, Franklin College helped teach me to persevere and gave me the confidence to share my passion of languages with others. You overcome the challenges as time passes, and you find ways to adapt to what you have around you.”
Prior to accepting her current position, Lawson had been to France twice through Franklin College Winter Term courses. The previous immersion experiences helped her learn to use the public transport systems and gain a sense of the culture. Lawson also served as the French representative in the Modern Language House on campus, which helped strengthen her language skills.
Lawson is undecided about the next step in her career journey but realizes the significance of her current opportunity.
“It will have shown that I can step out of my comfort zone and work in different spaces with different cultures. I hope it will be an asset to my resume and also that I will make friends and memories to call upon in my career, to use as examples of challenging as well as rewarding experiences,” she said.
She also noted some ways in which the program has enriched her life.
“I am more likely to ‘go-with-the-flow’ now and have learned that sometimes it is OK to be spontaneous, as you have to be when you go to another country. I am also more appreciative of what I left behind at home, people being the obvious, but also utilities (reliable Internet) and conveniences (accessible laundry facilities), and, yes, even American cheeseburgers.”
For more information about what a degree from Franklin College can do for you, contact the Office of Admissions at (800) 852-0232.