Posted by: SSU Lingua Franca | April 27, 2020

“What can I do with a degree in French?”

“What can I do with a degree in French?”

By Dr. Elizabeth Blood

I am often asked this question as I try to encourage students in our beginning language courses to continue with French and when I am recruiting prospective students to enroll in our World Languages and Cultures major. My answer usually begins by explaining that we have courses and collaborations across disciplines that will prepare students for work as French teachers, as translators, or for work in international businesses or nonprofits. However, this is not the real answer. The answer I want to give is much less appealing to career-minded students: “You can do anything you want!” Our major is a liberal arts degree; it provides students with a strong foundation in critical thinking, intercultural awareness, and communication skills, all of which are highly sought-after by employers in almost all fields.

To illustrate this, I contacted a number of recent alums of our programs to see where their careers have taken them. Michael May ‘19 has found a career in Higher Education Administration. He is working as a Senior Admissions Coordinator for International Admissions at Boston University and says “My position consists of helping international students from around the world with the admissions process. I get to use my intercultural skills every single day. At least once a week, I get to use my French skills, whether it’s helping my team translate a transcript in French or responding to an email.”

employers

Erin Foley ‘11 works as a Senior Strategic Account Manager managing large publisher partnerships for the Copyright Clearance Center in Danvers. She travels quite extensively in Europe and occasionally uses French with clients and with her boss, who is French.

Both Giana DiGiulio ’17 and Erin McManus ’12 G’16 received the French government’s TAPIF teaching assistantship to teach English in France for a year after graduation. Erin came back to Salem State to complete a Master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language and then returned to France, where she is currently teaching English and completing a second Master’s in administration for non-profit organizations, focusing on immigration and integration issues. Giana, currently completing her TAPIF fellowship (though schools are closed throughout France, so she is mostly hunkering down in her apartment), is also hoping to stay in Europe. She is applying for a Master’s program in International Management and plans to work for a large international company based in Europe.

Similarly, the cohort that graduated from the French major in 2017 has gone in multiple different directions: Christian Lopez ’17 is in the healthcare field, Nathalie Reyes ’17 (also an alum of the TAPIF program) has worked in customer service and on the staff of an education startup in Boston, Lisa Rusch ’17 is a high school science teacher, and Jeff Robinson ’17 is currently serving in the Army. There’s no one career path for French students; there are many!

Want to know more about the power of a liberal arts education? The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts created a video called “The Power of the Liberal Arts” (https://youtu.be/4yjgMwKh0XI). It contains excerpts of interviews with CEOs and business leaders in Massachusetts who majored in liberal arts disciplines and how it offered them the freedom to shape their lives and careers in the ways they did.

So, when people ask you “What are you going to do with a degree in French?” you can answer, “Anything I want.”


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