Feature Story

A Passport to France

March 17, 2016 – by Julia Stone '16

Ohio Wesleyan alumni, students, faculty, and guests shared information about study abroad opportunities in France as part of a special event organized by assistant professor Mary Anne Lewis.

OWU Enjoys ‘Tales, Tips, and Culinary Wonders from the French-Speaking World’

Inspired by visiting Ohio Wesleyan’s Spanish program in Salamanca, Spain, faculty member Mary Anne Lewis organized “Tales, Tips, and Culinary Wonders from the French-Speaking World,” an event centered on study abroad for the French program.

Lewis, assistant professor of French, put on the recent event with the help of current French majors, alumni, the Department of Modern Foreign Languages, the House of Linguistic Diversity, and Chef Shawnie Kelley-Foy.

Lewis told attendees that traveling to Salamanca reminded her of the excitement of spending a year in France.

“I remembered the way the world seemed incredibly rich in its diversity and cultural treasures – it seemed larger,” Lewis said. “And I remembered thinking that it also seemed smaller, more accessible somehow, all due to study of language and time spent abroad.”

During the March 2 event, Ana Oancea, assistant professor of French, also discussed OWU’s upcoming Tournées Film Festival. Funded by a competitive grant, the series will feature five films in French and one animated classic.

Five alumni from the French department presented at the event: Emi Keiser ’15, Maya Buening ’14, Ayana Colvin ’14, Cal Axe ’15, and Sarah Groendyk ’15. They discussed their study abroad experiences and how their study of French has played a role in their professional lives.

Keiser, who majored in Spanish, French, and international business, studied abroad twice while at Ohio Wesleyan: in Seville, Spain, and Brussels, Belgium. She now works as an information specialist at JPMorgan Chase in Columbus, using multiple languages and data-management skills acquired from her internship in Brussels.

Colvin, a comparative literature major with minors in French and film studies, was awarded the Dorothy Herbst Prize in spring 2014, which funded her travels to Aix-en-Provence, France. Colvin said the experience taught her to plan, budget, and rely on herself, which helped her transition from undergraduate to postgraduate life.

“I enjoyed learning about everyone’s abroad experiences,” Colvin said of the event.

Two current French students, Onyinye Okoli ’16 and Kaley Hoffman ’16, also presented about their travel experiences. Okoli participated in Bryn Mawr College’s six-week intensive French program in Avignon, and Hoffman studied in Aix-en-Provence for a semester with the CEA program.

Hoffman said, “I hope this will become an annual or bi-annual event. I think the turnout was great. We were so fortunate to have all five alumni agree to come back.”

Before students mingled, Shawnie Kelley-Foy, owner of Wanderlust Tours, discussed how southern French cooking is influenced by Mediterranean, Italian, and North African cuisine.

“Food is a unifier, whether across families or across cultures,” said Kelley-Foy, who also showed guests how to cook socca and a vegetarian tagine. Socca, a chickpea flour crêpe, is a traditional dish from Nice, France. Tagine is a traditional Northern African stew made in a clay pot (also called a tagine) with a flat, circular base and cone-shaped cover.

Hoffman said her favorite part of the event was the cooking demonstration. “It really allowed French majors and minors to get a real taste of southern French cuisine,” she said.

As they ate, attendees circulated the room and discussed travel experiences with students stationed at tables with slideshows from their time abroad.

Meg Teitelman ’18, a triple major in French, Spanish, and sociology/anthropology, enjoyed hearing what other students found interesting and challenging about going abroad. “I had already applied to one of the programs, and it was great to hear more about it from a fellow student,” she said. “It was really cool that the French department did something like this because it brought a lot of French students together.”

Lewis was impressed with the student presenters and hopes for the event to occur annually.

“I would like to see this kind of four-part event take place every year as a means for sharing information, building community, and energizing our department and the students in it," the faculty member said. “The event demonstrates just how valuable and relevant the study of foreign language, literature, and culture is, and celebrates the innovative and important work we are all doing in our respective fields.”