While the pandemic is limiting international travel, French and American universities have found creative ways to strengthen their historical ties. Dr. Veronique Olivier (World Languages and Cultures) joins an elite group of sixteen projects selected for the Transitioning to Virtual Exchange program. Supported by the FACE Foundation, French Embassy in the US, and the US Embassy in France, Olivier received a  $7,500 grant awarded to faculty members who are creatively maintaining French-American collaboration by integrating virtual exchange and global learning in their curricula.

These projects embrace a common goal: to foster student-centered learning and real-life problem-based methodologies to deepen human connections in a time of social distancing and limited travel. Dr. Olivier’s project, “Representation of Childhood,” collaborates with the Institut National Supérieur du Professorat et de L’éducation (INSPE) in Caen, France. Dr. Olivier’s Representation of Childhood in French Literature and Film (FREN 375) students are engaging in assignments and activities that encourage and enhance language exchange with French students from INSPE.

This grant allows us a really unique and compelling opportunity to strengthen our French-speaking skills. Oftentimes, in the classroom, we spend most of our time on grammar and vocabulary, which is incredibly important, but this grant allows us to step away and focus on our speaking skills as we interact and work with authentic French speakers. It also challenges us to take the French we have learned and apply it to the outside world through examining the differences between the portrayal of childhood in French vs. American literature and media. – Franny Hill ‘24, student in FREN 375, BFA Broadcast Journalism and Documentary, University Honors Program

To begin, students are meeting weekly in binômes to work on specific assignments surrounding the course’s readings and films. For example, when watching Entre les Murs or Etre et Avoir, Chapman students will compare the experience of children and teenagers in the films with their own experiences and those of the INSPE students. Virtual exchanges will continue throughout the semester in both student pairs and shared course sessions. In March, Sébastien Lifshitz, a film director whose films focus on childhood and education, winner of the prestigious Louis Delluc Prize, and director of the documentary Adolescentes, will deliver a masterclass to Chapman and INSPE students. In April, the class will welcome a prominent illustrator from Ecole des Loisirs, a prestigious French publisher of youth literature, for a master class on one of the books students are reading this semester. Toward the end of the semester, Chapman and INSPE students will pair to investigate a specific aspect of education and present their final project virtually to both classes.

Thus far in my college experience, this is one course where I have really felt like I will be broadening my perspective because of the collaborative element. After meeting with the students from Caen last Thursday, I was intimidated at first, but as we discussed our projects, I was inspired to become a better French speaker and practice the language in a new and immersive way. – Gab Gaw ‘23, student in FREN 375, BA Sociology, French and Entrepreneurship minors

Through this collaboration, Chapman students are gaining an international perspective and are developing linguistic and cultural skills in French to better consider future study and work opportunities in France.