Carl Cornell | St. Lawrence University Modern Languages

Carl Cornell

Carl Cornell
Class year: 
Francophone Studies
Lebanon, CT
Teaching Assistant for French, French Club, Selection Committee for the France Program, Student Athletic Trainer, Intramural Softball

Why did you choose St. Lawrence?
Having grown up in a small, countryside town, I wanted a school that had a rural feel and yet had a community to which it contributed; I was looking for a university in a small “college town.” SLU and Canton fit this description perfectly. To tell the truth, Canton feels big to me; the town in which I grew up has more llama farms than Burger Kings, supermarkets, movie theaters, and stoplights combined (one to zero).

When did you start studying French?
I started learning French in seventh grade. I was never particularly drawn to studying languages (I had enough issues writing in English!) but I stuck with it through high school. I had a great French teacher for my senior year of high school; she encouraged me to continue my study of the language in college. I went on a school sponsored trip to Quebec City in February of that year, during which I decided that I really wanted to keep studying French and improve my speaking ability. After graduating from high school, I set a goal of being fluent in French by the time I graduated from college. One of the most gratifying moments of this whole experience was getting to see her after returning from my year abroad; I gave a presentation to her AP class and was able to speak to her completely in French, which was nothing more than a dream two years before.

Why did you decide to study abroad your sophomore year?
I met with my French professor, Professor Caldwell, early in the fall of my first year to discuss my goal of being fluent before leaving college. He suggested that I go to Rouen my sophomore year for a couple of reasons. In the academic planning sense, it gave me more course flexibility; the most interesting language courses are the 400-level courses, which require a solid comprehension of the French language. By going abroad my sophomore year, I now have two years on campus to take these classes; otherwise, I would have spent my sophomore year reviewing grammatical structures, verb tenses, and scattered vocabulary and then only have my senior year to explore these classes. Secondly, why wait? Becoming fluent in a second language is not something that necessarily needs to wait until you are arbitrarily “mature enough” your junior year.

What was your favorite part of your year abroad?
For the year-long students, the program includes a three-week internship in January; I spent mine working with an English teacher at a middle school in Rouen. While I did learn a lot about the French school system while I was there, I think I learned more about how the English language works! The teacher with whom I worked was a French woman who spoke near-native English with a fantastic British accent; she gave me some great insight into learning a second language and getting the most out of my experience. The students were great as well; I even got the chance during the last week to teach a class on my own (shhhh! Don’t tell the principal!).

Where did you get to travel while you were in Europe?
I was all over the map. I had traveled internationally before (ten days in Japan when I was fifteen, two weeks in Scotland a couple years later), but this was the first time I was able to travel extensively in Europe. La SNCF, the French national railway, is so easy and convenient, even if the French don’t realize it. I spent a week in Italy in the autumn, I took a day-trip to London in December with a group of French friends, and in the spring I primarily traveled within France. My favorite city was Aix-en-Provence, which is found in southern France, just inland from the Riviera. It’s such a charming city; it has a distinct French feel with numerous cafés, daily markets, and cobblestone streets, yet it also has a rather international population and a melting-pot culture.

Now that you’re back on campus, what are you doing?
I am heavily involved in the Modern Languages Department; I’m a TA for a French 103 class, and I’ve joined French Club and served on the Selection Committee for the France Program. I’m also starting to learn German; now that I have a solid grasp on French, I’m thirsty for another language! German is completely different from both French and English and I’m enjoying the challenge! I’m looking into research opportunities for next summer relating to the French language or the French or French-Canadian culture. And, of course, I’m still taking French; I’m finally into those upper-level courses!

What are your plans for the future?
After graduating from SLU, I plan to pursue a PhD in French or Francophone Studies. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher but I’m equally excited about the research opportunities and continuing to improve my French. To be honest, I miss living in France, and a PhD in French would also afford me the chance to study in France once again. I see this as the perfect way to continue doing what I love.

Photo caption: Standing on the Quai Saint-Étienne, in front of the Rhine River and the Quai des Pêcheurs, Strasbourg, France, April 27th, 2009