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Assistantships - Kyle Williams '06

The English Teaching Assistantships through the French Embassy are a fantastic way to use one's French studies and immerse oneself in French culture. My placement was in Pontivy, in the academy of Rennes (Brittany). Since many study abroad programs are based in Paris, or one of the other large cities, this has been a unique opportunity to see a part of France I might never have come to otherwise. Although I had never even heard of Pontivy before last summer, I now have a thorough admiration and appreciation for my French home: From the Breton monk who first built a bridge over the Blavet and lent his name to the village, to the Rohan family whose 15th century château still dominates the downtown, to Napoleon himself whose grand plans for Pontivy led to a brief time of importance and power when the city was known as Napoleonville, this hidden valley in the middle of Brittany is steeped in history and tradition.

My favorite aspect of my sejour has truly been the day to day life here along with the other assistants (two Germans, a Brit, and a Colombian here in Pontivy - French is the common language, which is great for all of us). I teach between 1 and 4 classes a day, generally with 12-15 students per class, which allows me to work closely with them and get to know each student personally. My school, the Lycée Joseph LOTH, is a historical landmark that also dates from the time of Napoleon. Collaborating and sharing ideas with the other assistants and professors has been a great opportunity to use the language as well as learn about French education and society. Outside of school, I have had such experiences as navigating the French administration to get paperwork done to receive social security and other benefits, being inconvenienced by transportation strikes and celebrating National Education strikes, riding my bike everywhere, and spending time with the French - my students, my neighbors, and new friends. I know I will miss walking the crooked cobblestone streets and catching glimpes of the château on the way to my school.