A Discussion with Faculty Director Sandra Rousseau

1 April 2024
students sit by canal in Paris

Faculty Director Sandra Rousseau, who will lead French and Francophone Studies in Paris, discusses the immersive language learning environment and cultural exploration opportunities that this Spring 2025 program offers.

Sandra Rousseau

What inspired you to plan French and Francophone Studies in Paris?  What did you hope to accomplish?

Paris, whether we like it or not, is one of those cities that a lot of folks dream of visiting one day. Giving Carleton students the opportunity to be in the city and to look at it through a critical lens matters to our department as we strive to both motivate our students to learn French, and to decolonize French and Francophone studies.

What makes this program different from other study abroad programs?

OCS Paris is one of the oldest Carleton programs. It has run smoothly for decades and has struck a good balance between linguistic immersion, cultural discoveries and intellectual pursuit. Home stays with French families are a central part of the program and have enabled Carleton students to create lasting connections to France.

What does a typical day look like on your program?

Students get up and have breakfast with their host families, then commute to take classes with the program director and with French professors. Sometimes classes take place in museums or parks, sometimes they are in a more ordinary classroom. Students study, have coffee, and hang out—all the things they would do at Carleton—but they are in Paris and they are living their lives in French. In the evening, we will sometimes have events to attend: a play, an opera, a concert, etc. It is about making the most of Paris while balancing academic demands.

What does the housing situation look like, and what are the benefits of this living arrangement to students?

Students stay with families, which allows them to get more first hand experiences of French ways of life. They get to meet children, grandparents, to travel with their host families over long weekends, to observe what people cook, how conversations around a table play out, etc. Students also have to communicate in French everyday and are confronted with various accents and registers of French, which is very helpful in improving their linguistic proficiency.

What are you most looking forward to?

I am most looking forward to enjoying the Parisian cultural scenes. There are so many plays, concerts, comedy shows that students will get to experience. That will be the most striking difference between Paris and Northfield! That and the quality of bread!!!

What advice would you give to students to encourage them to study abroad during their Carleton career? What benefits do you see to the experience in general?

Learning intellectual material and thinking critically is essential to growing as a citizen of the world. But experiencing cultural differences, being somewhat uprooted, figuring out how our identities play out in various contexts, is central to understanding who we are and who we want to be. Living abroad, in a foreign language, is a rare opportunity in life, and I hope Carleton students realize how lucky they are to get the chance to not only live out this experience, but to choose amongst a long list of fascinating destinations.

Sandra Rousseau is an Associate Professor of French. She has been at Carleton since 2015.