Life as a French and Francophone Studies Major

I'm extremely sorry about the long hiatus. I explained the reason why I was gone on the Facebook fan page but long story short this was my last semester as an undergraduate and I was forced to drop my distractions and focus on finishing strong. I had so many essays to write during the past month alone. I probably wrote about 50+ pages in the course of 3 weeks so as you can imagine, I am exhausted and don't feel like writing an academic paper for quite some time but I do feel like reflecting on the five past years studying French.

If you would like to read what I have to say about majoring in French just click on read more because this is going to be a long blog post.

When I graduated high school in 2008 I was 100% certain that I wanted to continue studying French. My reasoning behind that decision was because I truly loved learning the language but even then I entered San Diego State University as an undeclared student. Because I knew SDSU had a great International Business program and I knew that would be something that my parents would highly approve of I decided to take classes that would count towards the International Business major. Freshmen year (2008-2009) was honestly a nightmare for me. I went from graduating with honors in high school to failing classes for the first time because I was studying something that didn't appeal to me. I didn't want to major in business, I'm not even good at math! While I was struggling to adapt to the college system I found that I the only place I felt comfortable was in my French classes. During my first year at SDSU I took a course about Francophone Culture and a Grammar course with one of my favorite French professors at SDSU, Amy Harker. The two classes I took were not extremely hard but they were a lot more challenging than the 4 years I had spent learning French in high school. What I loved about those two classes was that Professor Harker was not only encouraging but strict. One wasn't allowed to slack off in her class so I was forced to make the effort to practice my French and take my time on homework assignments. She was also keen on calling on the shy students to answer questions or read out loud, which at first would make me very nervous. I wasn't comfortable with my spoken French at the time but then I realized that none of the people in my class had a perfect French. We were all pretty much in the same level so there was really no need to feel self-conscious. I felt so comfortable and happy in my French classes which was the complete opposite of how I felt in my other classes.

I can easily say that those two classes were the reason why I choose to major in French. I really found the place where I belonged and even though I knew people wouldn't be too happy with my decision I decided to stop caring about what others think. Once I entered my sophomore year I decided to go ahead and declare French as my major but I wasn't sure whether I should also get a minor or double major. A lot of research went into that decision until I settled for majoring in French and Francophone Studies and minoring in European Studies. It was a decision that didn't make my parents too happy because it really doesn't have a career that is attached to it. Whenever I would tell people that I was majoring in French I would immediately get asked "Why? What are you going to do with that?" I didn't know what to answer but I quickly learned to stopped caring about what other people thought. It was the first time I had made a selfish decision, the first time I wasn't doing something to please someone.

During sophomore year (2009-2010) I really started to take French more seriously and naturally my grades started to reflect my hard work. It was also in sophomore year that I started researching about studying abroad. I attended all the study abroad meetings but unfortunately I discovered that most of the programs that got exposure on campus were a semester long. I did find about the CSU IP program online and kept the requirements on the back of my head as I continued taking French classes. I went from taking one French class a semester to two in sophomore year. I took more writing and grammar courses which is to be expected of, but the class I benefited from the most was phonetics (my first upper division class). Learning the French phonetics alphabet was a pain, I'm not going to lie, but it helped me understand all the distinct sounds in the French language. In class we would practice all the sounds over and over which would make my mouth hurt. Sometimes it was hard to keep a straight face in class though, especially when we were practicing the nasal vowels. It was such a fun experience which forced people to loosen up. Another thing that made me love that class was the fact that professor Holly Ransom would make us speak English with a French accent so we could understand what it's like for a French person to learn English as a second language. All the constant practice helped my spoken French tremendously and it also resulted in me pronouncing some English words with a French accent. I was bummed out when I found out that I couldn't continue learning phonetics and I hope the French department will offer more phonetic classes in the future.

From there I stepped into the world of upper division French classes and I quickly discovered how much reading I had to do. In junior year (2010-2011) I started learning French literature. The classes I took covered French literature from the middle ages to the 20th century. It was challenging course, I have to admit but it was also a very rewarding one. French literature really tested my reading and comprehension skills, as well as my patience at times. As beautiful as French literature can be there are things that just seemed unnecessary or didn't make sense to me whatsoever. I guess that's part of being an artist, having the freedom to create whatever the hell you want. Apart from literature I also started learning about French history. The first semester of junior year was spent on studying Ancient French History which honestly sucked. I love history but the way the class was taught was absolutely horrible. First of all our "textbook" was the French history for dummies (in French of course). The problem with using a book like that is that it assumes that the reader has previous knowledge about the subject and that is how the course was taught. Since I was interested in French history I basically taught myself a lot of the events in French history myself. All we did in class was go over questions. That's it! It honestly felt like a waste of time. All I wanted to learn was more about Napoleon and the French Revolution but I honestly could have done that on my own.

In junior year I began to prepare myself to go study abroad. I started visiting the study abroad office to ask questions and I found out rather quickly that the advisers really weren't familiar with the CSU IP program. I remember feeling incredibly frustrated about that. I kept going and being told the same thing. "All the information is on our webpage." Seriously? After feeling like I completely wasted my time trying to ask the authoritative figures for help I decided to ask students that had studied abroad. From there I started saving up and making sure that everything was set for me to leave to France. I applied to the CSU IP program in February of 2011 and I clearly remember how relieved I felt once I submitted the application. The months after were brutal for me because all I wanted to know was whether I got accepted or not. I went through the interview and then in April I got the letter I had been waiting for. I GOT ACCEPTED! I honestly shed a couple of tears that night because I was so happy. The only reason why I even stayed in San Diego was because my parents had promised me that I could go to Paris for a year, so I had been waiting for my chance to return to Paris for quite some time.

During the summer of 2011 as I started to prepare myself about studying abroad I realized that there wasn't that much information about studying abroad in Paris. That led me to start the blog in July 2011. I started documenting my whole journey from the visa process till the day I got on a plane and left San Diego. My senior year (2011-2012) was spent studying in Paris. That was honestly the best year of my life. I got the opportunity to study at the Sorbonne Paris IV which was one of my dream schools. I don't want to sound like a pretentious French major but it was honestly such an honor to have studied at the Sorbonne. I only took one course at the old building in the V Arrondissement but that was enough for me. My experience studying in Paris really forced me to become an independent learner. I had never been challenged like that in my life. It was the first time living on my own and having to take care of myself. Let me say, I matured more in 10 months than I did during the previous 3 years of college.

I mostly took literature classes but then I made sure to take some random classes as well (all in French, of course). I took two cinema classes which were interesting. One of my cinema classes had me writing screenplays in French which was a rather interesting experience. Another memorable class I took while I was in Paris was History of Paris. Even if the class was not as challenging as I had hoped for, I really learned a lot about Paris and went to places that I probably wouldn't had gone to. As much as I learned at school, I learned even more outside. I got the change to travel to different countries in Europe and see how different people live. Although I didn't speak the same language sometimes, I had to learn to get past the language barrier.

My time in Paris honestly flew by and before I knew it I had to return to San Diego to finish my last year of college. I like to refer to my 5th year as my super senior year (2012-2013). I knew that studying abroad would set me back at least one semester but I didn't care. In fall 2012 I got the news that I was done with my French major. Great! But the only problem was that my grades from Paris didn't arrive until December and my grades didn't appear in my transcript until March 2013. Since I didn't take a French class in the fall I started to explore Italian and European Cinema. I wish I would have had the opportunity to minor in Italian but when you're a French major your schedule is not flexible at all. While I was taking Italian I met Professor Sacco. I have to admit it took me a while to adapt to his teaching style but once I did I really started enjoying his class. Thanks to my background in Spanish and French I picked up basic Italian pretty easily but that doesn't mean that I didn't make any mistakes. I clearly remember mixing up Italian and French a couple of times during the semester much to my professor's amusement. Towards the end of the semester he started telling me to take his business French class. I was hesitant to take it because I didn't want to relive my freshmen year nightmare but he assured me that it didn't involve any math so I said ok.

This past semester I took the business French class with him and you know what? I really enjoyed it. It really raised my confidence not only in French but also in my ability to be a team leader. I enjoyed how unconventional this class was. We weren't taught from a textbook, we had to teach ourselves and write case studies about France, Canada, and Francophone Africa. Its crazy to spend 4 years studying French at the university level and not once in those 4 years were we taught anything about Canada or Africa. I was forced to learn how to work in a group in this class. It was frustrating at times but I was very proud of my group's work. I also got the chance to meet other people majoring in French because by the time I came back from France all my friends in the program had graduated. The case studies we wrote will be published eventually which is crazy. I never thought that I would co-write something that would eventually get published in my life.

My college career has been filled with plenty of ups and downs but I am very proud of where I am right now. I remember being intrigued about France since I was a little kid watching Madeline and now I have the opportunity to say that I am a French and Francophone Studies graduate. During my years studying French at SDSU I saw the department face some major changes. The European Studies department got hit pretty hard, so much that I couldn't finish my minor as planned. I'm still getting the minor but my upper division classes had to be substituted with other classes that had nothing to do with Europe which sucked.

And now for my opinions about majoring in French... What do I think of the past 5 years? To be completely honest I felt like most of the things I learned as a French major belong in a museum. As much as I love learning from the past, I think learning about current issues is equally as important. There was one class about contemporary France but one class isn't enough in my opinion to learn about contemporary French culture, the current issues, and French politics. Also I believe that there should had been at least one class about Canada and Francophone Africa. Its amazing how these two large regions get neglected by the program. Another aspect that is neglected in my opinion are speaking skills. More upper division phonetics classes would allow students to perfect their spoken French so by the time they graduate they feel 100% ready to make business with the French, apply to work at the French consulate, etc. I know that my complaints about the program will not do much, especially with the way the CSU system is currently doing but I just felt like getting that off my chest. If you want to major in French expect to spend more time working on your grammar and studying things that belong in a museum, rather than focusing on what's going on in France today. Because of that those who are majoring in French need to be independent learners throughout their career. It is up to you to stay up to date with what's happening in the Francophone world.

I have no regrets whatsoever majoring in French, in fact it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Sure, I don't know exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life but I'm sure I'll find my path eventually. For the meantime I'm going to try to find a job and save up as much money as I can so I can return to France. Emigrating to France is my #1 goal at the moment and I'm very determined to make that happen.

To those who read the whole thing I applaud you because I know this was a very long post. Make sure to stay tuned for more study abroad related posts this summer and like always I would like to thank all of your for reading the blog, your support means the world to me.

À la prochaine !


  1. i'm an upcoming senior in high school and plan on applying to SDSU as a french major. i'm soooo glad i came across your blog because it's EXACTLY what i was looking for. thanks so much for sharing your experience. i highly appreciate you and your blog! i'm hoping SDSU will recognize my love for the French language and accept me heheehe. Salut!

    1. Salut Alison.

      That's great! I'm glad you're finding the site helpful. If you need me to cover anything just let me know and I'll write a blog post about it. Also if you need any help feel free to email me, I'd love to help any way I can.

      Bonne chance ! :)