Erika Ireland ’19 has been selected by the Cultural Services division of the French Embassy in the U.S. to participate in the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF). She will spend seven months working at middle schools in Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, a French overseas department in the Caribbean.
A French and Francophone Studies and sociology double major who graduated magna cum laude, Ireland also worked and studied at the University of Rennes 2 in 2017. “The French program there was a complete immersion program, so I lived with a host family and took all my classes in French,” she says. One of her tasks during this time was teaching English language and culture to seventh graders.
The following year, Ireland was a trade intern for the U.S. Commercial Service at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, where she conducted background research on French and U.S. companies in the energy and medical fields and helped connect French companies with their counterparts in the U.S. for joint ventures. “I really liked the bilingual aspect of our office,” she says. “Many of the employees were French, and it was interesting to hear and speak French in a work environment.” The internship was supported through a Charles Salisbury International Internship stipend.
Ireland says she chose to apply to teach in Guadeloupe to expand her knowledge and understanding of the Francophone world. “I wanted to speak and learn French in a different environment,” she says. “I researched Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana and others. Guadeloupe looked the most interesting.”
She credits Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies Courtney Wells with encouraging her to apply to the TAPIF program. “He helped me improve my French and he showed me where French can take me,” she says.
An archipelago that includes six islands in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, Guadeloupe is considered an integral part of France. The official language is French, although Ireland says that many residents speak a mixed French Creole as their native language. “I’m definitely going to have a learning curve,” she says.
Although Ireland has not yet received her specific assignment, it is likely that she will be living and working on one of the two linked central islands, Basse-Terre or Grand-Terre, where most of the region’s 400,000 resident live. Her commitment to teach runs from October until April.
On campus, she served as a site recruiter and site leader for the Days of Service, a costume consultant with Koshare Dance Collective, and as president and treasurer of the HWS French Club.