Congratulations on receiving second place in the American Journal of French Studies’s 2020 national writing competition in French! Can you tell us more about what you wrote in your essay "Le Français: l'approfondissement de ma vie" in response to the prompt, "Why did you start learning French?"
I started learning French in high school and instantly fell in love. I loved the fluidity of the language, the intentionality behind the grammar and semantics, and how deliberate the French seem to be in everything they do, especially their language. The richness of French culture has always intrigued me, but by learning the language, I felt like I had the opportunity to strengthen my appreciation for and connection to it. Learning French, for me, added an extra dimension to enjoying all things francophone. In my essay, I write about how, when I speak French, I feel a sense of liberty. As a rather timid introvert, conversing with virtually anyone can be quite difficult. But with French, it is different. When I studied abroad in Paris my sophomore year, I pushed myself to speak French with anyone I encountered--shop owners, vendors at the farmer's market, waiters and waitresses... When I did so, I felt greater confidence--a confidence that I had not necessarily experienced before. I felt the desire to connect with people and found that French enabled me to do just that.
In your winning essay, you speak about your visit to Senegal. What was your experience there like, and how was your trip significant?
My experience in Senegal was incredibly profound and challenging. Although our trip was cut short due to a flight debacle that resulted in a chaotic route to Dakar (which included a stop in Addis Ababa and Mali), we were nonetheless able to spend quality time with the villagers as we worked together to build a school. I have never experienced such warmth and hospitality from strangers, nor have I ever felt as comfortable calling strangers family so quickly. Everyone formed meaningful connections, but being able to speak French made doing so easier and more profound. I realized then just how powerful language is. Language gives us the power to connect and empathize with others; it allows us to relate to people in ways that are otherwise almost impossible to access. I am still in contact with a Senegalese friend from that trip, and we converse in French over WhatsApp.
Why did you decide to major in French at NYU?
Well, I fell in love with French in high school and wanted to continue my journey in college as well! I appreciated the small, more community-oriented culture of NYU's French Department and absolutely loved all of my professors. The French Department provided a level of intimacy that is often absent in such large institutions.
How have you fostered your passion for French in college?
I have continued taking French courses, studied abroad in Paris, and have enjoyed watching French films! I love all things French and am eager to maintain my connection to the culture even from afar. I also kept my subscription to My Little Paris, which sends multiple newsletters, in French, each week about the goings-on in the City of Lights. It keeps me reading French and reminds me of all the wonders France has to offer.
What has been one of your favorite French courses at NYU and why?
Hmmm this one is hard! In Paris I loved my French Culture and Cinema class with Professor Azulys. Now I feel so much more engaged when watching films--in any language. Professor Berty really helped me with my writing and literature analysis in her French Literature class. And Madame Bernard's Le Récit Bref and Professor Nicole's La Poésie Amoureuse have introduced me to so many beautiful and intriguing texts I would have otherwise missed.
What advice would you give to students who are considering majoring or minoring in French?
I'm not sure I am qualified to give advice! But I would say that language is a window into the mind, and that by studying language--and words and grammar in general--it enables us to speak, think, listen, and engage more meaningfully. Language reflects thought, and the two are very intimately linked.
Thank you for being so candid with us and sharing your love of French.
Thank you so much for this opportunity! Also, once the world is open again, I highly recommend that those who love French study abroad at NYU Paris. Such a beautiful, challenging, and memorable experience.