Stagiaire Speaks – Julie Menat at Alliance Française de Bhopal
For several years, the 14 Alliance Françaises in India and Nepal have strived towards creating a real dialogue and meaningful exchange across local and French cultures. This is achieved by teaching the French language and through diverse cultural and educational initiatives.
Every year, these fourteen Alliances host stagiares or interns from France for different job profiles. Above and beyond their regular responsibilities, these stagiaires become ambassadors of sorts, representing French culture in the host country. In this interview, Julie Menat – a stagiaire at Alliance Française de Bhopal – gives us some insight into the unique challenges and triumphs of living in a foreign country.
Can you please tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in a small village where I pursued my schooling till I was 17. Evidently, I hadn’t traveled much before I went to the university. I was in a handball team for ten years and I also took music lessons to play the piano. But I’m not really good at it anymore! I did my Bachelor’s in Sociology for three years out of which one year was spent in Romania with ERASMUS. It was in Romania that I decided to change my specialization to Français Langue Etrangère (FLE) because I didn’t see myself as a Researcher or Anthropologist.
From Sociology to FLE is a sea change – what motivated you to take the plunge?
Truth be told, I had always wanted to be a teacher. In Romania, I started giving classes to non-French speakers. This experience made me realise that being a French teacher would go hand-in-hand with my personality. FLE is designed to equip you with the skills for teaching French as a foreign language. That’s how I decided to join the University of Chambéry to complete the first year of my Master’s in Français Langue Etrangère et Seconde – Didactique des langues et des cultures. Then I joined the University of Clermont-Ferrand to complete the second year of the same Master’s with a specialization in Pedagogical Technology.
Can you please tell us why you chose India for your internship?
I had wanted to visit India ever since I was a little girl. As part of my graduation, I was expected to do an internship for 3 to 6 months. I saw an opportunity and decided to apply at all the different Alliances Françaises in India. In general, I would also add that moving out of your country gives you an edge over others. It increases your chances of getting better jobs, speaking another language and also of having a different specialization like I did.
And how did Alliance Française de Bhopal happen?
For the purpose of my internship, the project proposed by Alliance Française de Bhopal was the most interesting. I am currently in-charge of the Conversation Class, the C1 class and the freshly launched Classes for Kids. Alliance Française de Bhopal has also proposed a new offer of courses in intensive, regular and fast track modules. Besides these, I will be conducting a training session for the teachers of AF Bhopal and Indore to familiarise them with the new méthode “Saison” . All in all, it’s been a rewarding decision – the friendly atmosphere in AF Bhopal really is the icing on the cake.
People often talk of a culture shock when they live abroad. Was it difficult to adjust to Bhopal – in terms of the city, the culture and your students?
There wasn’t much of a culture shock because I had already spent some time abroad in Morocco, Romania and Eastern Europe in general. I was already accustomed to living in a cultural environment different from mine. Anyway, the people I meet in Bhopal on an everyday basis are so nice that it’s easy to get acquainted with them. The expectations of the students are a little different though. For example, when I used to work with the Red Cross, there were a lot of migrants for whom learning French was a matter of survival. Here, the students learn French as a hobby or for professional reasons. So the classes and methods are very different from my perspective. Other teachers might think differently.
A wide range of activities were proposed including a Book Fair where I actually found and bought a book called Julie est amoureuse. There were also demo classes, an Indo-French skit, a presentation by Campus France and a cooking workshop. The waffles we had during the Open Day were delicious! Many people participated enthusiastically in these events and I learnt a lot by attending the demo class for kids. I’m now looking forward to the kids class which will be starting at AF Bhopal on February 3, 2016.
Before we conclude, did India live up to your expectations and is there anything you plan to do before you leave?
The country’s been fantastic! It is exactly as I imagined – I would say even better! Thanks to the food and the weird things that go on in the streets, like people selling brooms on bikes all day long or moving sellers in general. I have already visited a little bit of Bhopal and Indore. But I really want to see some Hindu temples and tigers.
AF Bhopal hopes to surprise Julie even more with not just the cuisine but also the culture. We hope that she has a pleasant stay in India!