In France, Cultural Immersion at the Community Level - Hobart and William Smith Colleges
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Torea Hollister 1

In France, Cultural Immersion at the Community Level

In the French cities of Rennes and Aix-en-Provence, more than 600 miles apart, Margaret Hollister ’20 and Adrianne Torea ’19 are enjoying an immersion in French language and culture emblematic of Hobart and William Smith’s top ranked study abroad program — the second consecutive No. 1 ranking for the Colleges. As Hollister and Torea take on new coursework, live with host families and teach English to local students, their experiences reflect the significance of local engagement and new points of view in the Center for Global Education’s programming.

A double-major in French and theater, Hollister is excited by the challenges and rewards of working across languages and cultures. She is enrolled in Le Centre International Rennais d’Études de Français pour Étrangers (CIREFE) where she and her classmates from all over the world take courses taught entirely in French. She is pursuing her certification in Teaching English as a Foreign Language certification (TEFL) through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), a nonprofit study abroad and intercultural exchange organization, and will spend 30 hours throughout the semester in a French classroom, engaging with English language learners.

“Due to the fact that CIREFE is an international school, my common language with the professors and the students is French,” says Hollister, who chose to study in Rennes because of the program’s unique teaching practicum.

Torea and her host mother pose for a photo in Montagne Sainte-Victoire.

Torea and her host mother pose for a photo in Montagne Sainte-Victoire.

In Aix-en-Provence, where she is studying at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Institut Américain Universitaire, Torea continues to work toward fulfilling the course requirements for her majors, media and society and psychology, with courses like “Human Development in Cultural Contexts” and “France as Seen Through It’s Movies: Post WWII to the 1970s.”

Outside the classroom, she has embraced the cultural and community offerings in the city, playing on a French basketball team and tutoring a Fren­ch middle school student in English.

In Rennes, Hollister joined Atélier Théâtre — the Theatre Workshop — offered through CIREFE and plans to travel along the coast of Bretagne to find the small village where she has ancestral roots.

As Torea puts it, “There is already so much to do and so much that I want to be involved in here.”

Her experiences at HWS, she adds, have been pivotal to adapting to life abroad: “The things that HWS has taught me to value, such as relationships with professors, going to office hours, utilizing resources, challenging myself in the classroom, and being able to adapt to new environments—all of those things helped prepare me for this experience.”

On campus, Hollister is a member of the Phoenix Players and Three Miles Lost, while Torea is a member of Psi Chi, an international honors society in psychology, and works in the HWS Office of Communications. She was a member of the Heron basketball team for three years.

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