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Q&A with Laure Primerano, Fulbright Scholar at Gannon University

Published: 05/12/2022

Laure Primerano, Fulbright Scholar FTLA, a foreign language teaching assistant

Laure Primerano, Fulbright Scholar FTLA, a foreign language teaching assistant

Can you tell us about where you are from and how you came to Gannon? Why did you choose to join the Fulbright program?

My name is Laure Primerano. I am Gannon’s current Fulbright Scholar, more precisely, I am here as an FLTA, a Foreign Language Teaching Assistant. I am originally from Belgium, a country in a region of Northwestern Europe called the Low Countries. I crossed the Atlantic last summer to come and teach French language and cultures here at Gannon University. In 2021, I graduated with a master’s in French language and literature.

I had been thinking about joining the Fulbright program for a while and seized my last MA year as an opportunity to finally apply. I have had the chance to travel in a lot of different countries (from Japan to Canada) and being in touch with different cultures was extremely formative in both my professional and personal development. I felt like the Fulbright program was a way for me to give back to the global community and hone my skills as a teacher.

Gannon University was amongst my top choices because of the importance the university attaches to culture when it comes to language learning. The location was also ideal, as I really like snow and cold weather, so I was happy to be selected to come to Gannon. 

Can you describe the work that you are doing here at Gannon through the Fulbright program? What courses are you teaching?

There are two sides to my role as a Fulbright Scholar at Gannon. Primarily, I work as a language teacher. I’ve been able to assist beginner French learners in their discovery of the French language through my work as a TA and tutor during my first semester here. I also teach intermediate French and supervise an advanced French independent study. It’s been a real pleasure to see my students get more confident and at ease with the French language. I saw them evolve as French speakers and become able to interact with advanced authentic material. I am really proud of them!  

Secondly, I also act as a cultural ambassador. I teach two French culture-focused courses. The first one, GLOBL 391 takes a specific approach to Francophone culture and explores it through the lens of pop culture while the other, GLOBL 292 offers a broader approach to Francophone culture. I really enjoyed discussing different aspects of Francophone society such as Belgian humor, Senegalese feminism, and the impact of the BLM movement with my students! I also organized cultural activities with the French club, gave guest lectures during the year, and worked as a dramaturg for the Schuster Theatre’s most recent production. It’s been a lot of fun!

You were also involved in the Schuster Theatre production of Emilie: La Marquise Du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight. What did your involvement look like and why was this important to you?

In the beginning of the second semester, Professor Angela Howell contacted me because the Émilie team needed a French speaker to help with the French in the show. When I read the title of the play, I couldn’t believe it! As a graduate student, I focused on French women writers of the XVIII century. Emilie du Châtelet, one of the most prominent women of letter, female scientist, and philosopher of her time, was at the core of my research as an XVIII century specialist.

I felt like I could offer more than language advising and got involved as a dramaturg. I corrected the actor’s French pronunciation but also gave them all the background information they needed on XVIII-century society, Émilie’s and other historical characters’ lives.

Taking part in this project was important for me since it combined my roles as a teacher and cultural ambassador. Despite all the amazing things she did, Émilie is still not very well known in and outside of France, so it was a pleasure to share my knowledge with the students. It enriched their own portrayal of their characters and made them as historically accurate as possible. I also have a background in performing arts so it was nice to be involved in a theater production again!

Why was it important to you to bring your expertise and cultural experiences to students at Gannon through the Fulbright program?

My inspiration when coming to Gannon was to be a gust of fresh air for my students in their French language and culture learning journey. I know that it is sometimes hard to stay motivated when learning a new language, especially when you live in an area where native speakers are hard to come by. Even if we live in a globalized society, it is so easy to be oblivious to the world outside of your familiar bubble.

As a Fulbright scholar, I worked to build a bridge between my students’ culture and the Francophone culture. I had at heart to teach my students about the diversity of the French-speaking world and to show them different of points of view on this world we all live in together. Being open to different cultures and able to learn from them is a real asset in our ever-globalizing society.

From a purely linguistic point of view, I also wanted to inspire my students to maybe look at the French language a different way. To be an efficient language learner, I think it’s important to take the language out of the textbooks and approach it as a living, constantly evolving entity. That’s what I have conveyed to my students through my language courses.  

What has been most memorable to you about this experience?

To be able to finally experience the US higher education system both as a teacher and as a student (the Fulbright program allowed me to audit two courses per semester) has definitely been life-changing! Belgium has a very traditional approach to higher education: classes are lecture-based and, most of the time, we only have one final exam to determine our grade for the whole semester. My year as a Fulbright has allowed me to experience a more dynamic and communicative approach to education. I loved interacting with the students and connecting them with the French language and cultures in new creative ways.  This has been deeply enriching, personally and professionally, and I would say I learned as much from them as they learned from me!

I was also able to experience US culture in ways I never had before! In Belgium, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving and we’re not so big on Halloween. Being able to experience a traditional family Thanksgiving and go to a proper American Haunted House on Halloween for the first time in my life really gave me a sense of “living the US”. I am truly lucky to have met so many people here in the US who were willing to teach me a little about their culture and include me in their family celebrations. 

Anything else you'd like to add? 

A note for all the Americans reading this interview: what’s up with the carpet? I have never seen buildings with so much carpet in my life!! My feet are going to have to get used to the coldness of Belgian tiles and wooden floors when I get back.

According to Martha Kosir, Foreign Languages Program Director and Honors Program professor, “Laure has extensive knowledge of 18th-century French literature and did an in-depth study of Émilie du Châtelet for her Master’s Degree. At the same time, Emilie du Châtelet is one of the female authors included in Laure’s Ph.D. research proposal submitted recently. 

In addition to her studies in French literature, Laure holds a Master’s degree in performing arts, and has worked with theater companies in the past.

All these experiences have made her a perfect consultant for the upcoming play. It is very exciting that Gannon’s theater department chose this play this year, just as we’re hosting a Fulbright who specializes precisely in this area of French literature.”

As a language instructor and cultural ambassador on campus, Laure has delivered an exceptional learning experience to our students. Hailing from Belgium, she has offered an additional dimension to learning about the French-speaking world. We are truly excited and grateful to have had the opportunity to host and learn from Laure, and Laure from us. 

Her personal experience with the French language and the cultures it represents, enhanced student learning in the classroom and beyond. Especially significant was her work with the Schuster theater in the production of Emilie: La Marquise Du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonighther guest lectures in other courses within the School of Public Service and Global Affairs, a lecture about the Fulbright program open to the entire Gannon community, her help with the language program’s multilingual signage project, and her work with the French club. She has done an outstanding job in fostering these critical learning opportunities for Gannon students.

The Mission of the Global Languages and Cultures program after all is to provide students with a comprehensive educational experience. We strive to promote a sense of community through global education. Hosting an FTLA, therefore, fits perfectly with our mission and the mission of the School of Public Service and Global Affairs.”

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