Sam Gradess

Sam Gradess
Sam Gradess
Francophone Studies and Psychology
Poestenkill, NY
The Singing Saints, the Laurentian Singers, International House, Calling All Saints, Language Resource Center Tutor, Study Abroad program in France, France Program Blog

I knew when I chose St. Lawrence that I was going to continue my study of the French language. I had four wonderful, and challenging years of high school (and college) French with my teacher, Mr. Jeff Brown, a SLU class of 87 alum. My transition into my first year with Dr. Caldwell was pleasant. I would describe him as bien-cultivé. I enjoyed the amount of culture that manifested itself in his class work, from studying different regions to Francophone countries or seeing movies by Renoir and doing article reviews from Le Monde, the leading French newspaper. As a result, I declared my major in Francophone studies spring of freshman year. I felt the major in Francophone studies, versus just French, represented my interest more accurately, both culturally and linguistically.

In my sophomore year, I started working for the French writing center, editing papers mostly from the introductory and intermediate levels of French. It has been a rewarding job on campus because it is a helpful reminder of what to do and what NOT to do when writing a paper. In the fall of 2009 I studied abroad on the France program. I highly recommend the program to anyone interested in gaining proficiency in French. The use of host families and courses taught by French instructors allows for immersion with the language. I even had the opportunity to join a club soccer team and try capoeira through the Université de Rouen. I was able to go to museums (including the Louvre in Paris) and monuments for free. Not only that, but we were able to compare the French culture with Senegal. The country of teranga (hospitality in Wolof) was a great place to represent our studies in one of our courses: Cultures of Francophone Africa.

Since coming back, I have served as the Teaching Assistant for French 103 and 104 labs. I have applied and been nominated to be a Youth Development Volunteer for the Peace Corps in Sub-Saharan Africa at a French-speaking post. I attribute much of my nomination to my proficiency in the language. I am still waiting on my final invitation to the country in which I will serve, but it has been an exciting journey. This spring break, my choir, the Laurentian Singers, will be touring in Ottawa, Montreal, Paris, and Normandy! My role in the choir has been to polish pronunciation, especially those French r’s, and translating many of the pieces.

Studying French at St. Lawrence has been an exceptional experience, allowing me to explore several different French-speaking cultures. Independently I have explored Montreal, Belgium, and Morocco in addition to France’s program in Normandy and Senegal. It has inspired me to start studying Spanish, which is difficult, but rewarding. A quote from my Teaching Languages class truly expresses my passion for language learning: “You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once.” –Czech proverb