During my last semester in the English Graduate Program at the College of Charleston, I applied for and was awarded the Versailles Fellowship. Although I would be pushing my graduation date forward an extra year, spending a year teaching in France outweighed any apprehension I had about graduating late. Yes, thats me at the Eiffel Tower on left with the black sweater. The year spent in France teaching at the University of Versailles turned out to be one of the best of my life. Although I am a seasoned traveler, living in China, Taiwan, and South Korea, France was one country I had yet to conquer extensively.
Did you know? The town of Versailles sits about 20 kilometers outside of Paris. Versailles is a city on western edge of the French capital city Paris, now part of the sprawling metropolis within the lle de France region. Versailles is best known for being the site of the vast royal palace and gardens built by King Louis XIV within what was previously a royal hunting lodge. It is also one of the wealthiest cities near Paris. The first mention of the town and estate was in 1038, when the name appeared in a charter of the Abbey of Saint-Pere de Chartes. By the end of the 11th century, Versailles was a country village enveloping a castle and the church of Saint-Julien, remaining prosperous until well into the 13th century. After the Hundred Years war, however, only a handful of people lived there. Versailles is the quinessential model for palaces in Europe.
After informing my family I was leaving to live in the land of “wine and cheese,” I began the visa process. The University of Versailles was quite helpful with the entire process, which included a trip to the French Consulate in Atlanta. I was finally given my visa in September, and then boarded a plane to Charles de Gaulle airport at the end of the month.
Upon my arrival, I met the other instructors I would be working with at the University. Everyone was friendly and spoke fluent English. Most of the other language instructors were from England or Ireland, so they were excited to welcome me to the department. My job consisted of teaching conversational English to the French undergraduate and graduate students, all of whom were science majors.
One of my favorite aspects of the job was the level of diversity of the students I taught. I had students not only from France, but also from Morocco, Tunisia, Martinique and China. Not only were they learning from me, but I was learning from them as well. We talked about a variety of topics in class, ranging from the US election to the pros and cons of capitalism. It was great to have an environment of open learning. The picture below reflects the Place de la Concorde which is the largest square in Paris.
Another aspect I enjoyed was language exchange. I would meet with several students outside of class for coffee; we would spend part of the time only speaking French and part of the time only speaking English. Several of my students still email me to see how I am doing, and I do the same.
The connections I made in France will certainly last a lifetime. Not only did I connect with my students, I also met an amazing group of friends that I now consider part of my family. The Versailles Fellowship is a great program that I would recommend to anyone willing to step outside of their comfort zone for a year. The picture below is The Seine a 776 km long river and an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin in the north of France. From the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, from the Place de la Concorde to the Grand and Petit Palais, the evolution of Paris and its history can be seen from the River Seine. If I look back at who I was before I began traveling and compare that to who I am now, I would have to say that travel has made me better more well-rounded person. Simply put, Im a lot more awesome now than I used to be!
Whitney Adams, Blog Contributor