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Young Alums Teaching in France

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Marissa Cannata in front of Notre Dame Cathedral

Studying abroad gives you a taste of life in another country, but what if that taste isn’t enough? Hungry for more, six members of the Class of 2011 have found the perfect answer—a teaching assistant program run by the French embassy.

Marissa Cannata, Shayna Freed, Garth Libhart, Alexandra Ressing, Matt Butensky and Caroline Campbell, along with a seventh graduate from the Class of 2010, Alyssa Riva, are teaching English at schools across France during the 2011–12 school year.

This is the highest number of placements in this program for Susquehanna, which graduated a record number of French majors and minors last year, according to Lynn Palermo, associate professor of French and chair of the modern languages department. “This is a wonderful program for those who want to be plunged into another culture and learn how to function within that other culture,” she says.

And plunged they were. For seven months, they are living in French communities, teaching in French schools, speaking the French language, and, of course, eating French cuisine. But it took more than an alluring cuisine and romantic atmosphere to coax these young adventurers to France. For these recent graduates, the desire to learn and understand the world didn’t stop when they took off their caps and gowns last May.

Compared to selecting a career, moving across an ocean didn’t seem that scary to Cannata, a French and public relations major from Midland Park, N.J. “When else will I get an opportunity to travel and work in France and Europe? It is important to do the things that we love and get to experience the world before it’s too late,” she says.

Cannata was placed at a high school in Fountainebleau, a 40-minute train ride south of Paris. There she’s discovered that, although they don’t share a native language, American and French teenagers have a lot in common. They can be difficult to inspire to learn and they test boundaries when they think they can get away with it.

“They feel that they can get away with a lot because I won’t understand them, but in fact I do,” Cannata says.

Despite facing the predictable teenage attitude, she has enjoyed teaching with others who share her passion for language. However, her career dreams lie in another direction. Cannata hopes the language that she loves will play some part in her future career, perhaps working in the public relations department of a French company.

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