Students studying French had a global experience from their classroom in Freedom Hall recently when Anne Bornschein, a French instructor, provided them a virtual connection to a French-Canadian author whose work they studied this semester.
Students enrolled in Introduction to French and Francophone Short Stories video-conferenced with author Caroline Legouix in French on April 9. Students from Intermediate French and French Conversation and Composition courses, as well as Associate Director of Prospect Research Kim Braun, an alumna of the French program, also attended.
Legouix participated from her home in the Laurentides, north of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The group discussed her collection of short stories, Visite la nuit (“Visit at Night”).
The book is made up of 19 short stories that treat a variety of themes including loss, departures, and mortality. During the event, Legouix shared background information on her inspiration for the stories, and students were able to ask her questions.
“I enjoyed listening to the author’s reaction to the questions we asked her,” said senior French major Ndobolo Bukasa. “It was a great privilege listening to how her life experience related to the book.”
“Knowing the background information makes the stories more meaningful,” agreed sophomore biology major and French minor Michaela Kolenkiewicz.
The discussion took place entirely in French. Sophomore French and psychology major Sasha Brown particularly appreciated that Legouix was “very accommodating to our skill level. She made us comfortable and excited to know about the writing process.”
Bornschein made the exchange possible for her students by applying to Rendez-Vous Littéraires, a competitive process through the Center for Francophonie in Quebec during the fall semester.
Educators across the Americas can apply to the free program, which allows for academic Skype-like exchanges with an author. The authors write in French and live in the Americas. Bornschein learned she had been successful in early December and incorporated selections from Legouix’s book into her spring semester syllabus.
This is the second year in a row that Widener’s French program has been selected to participate in this program.
“This was a wonderful chance for Widener students to put their French skills to use in an authentic interaction,” Bornschein said. “Sometimes the French-speaking world can seem far away, but through this program, we brought a published French-speaking writer directly into the classroom. It’s such a rare opportunity for students to study a work of literature and then have all their lingering questions answered by the author herself—I was thrilled to be able to facilitate this enriching exchange.”