Volunteer work in Bordeaux
Martina Berger (Middlebury College)
In Bordeaux, I volunteered at an after school program for children, teaching them English vocabulary and giving mini-lessons on U.S. history and culture. It was so fun - the kids loved learning about my life at home and how it was different to life here, and they knew a surprising amount about U.S. politics and history, especially given that they weren't even 10 years old yet. I even got to volunteer for a big weekend event at the end of the spring! It definitely taught me a lot as well - I learned new vocabulary and built on my oral comprehension and expression skills, not to mention learned more and more about everyday life and growing up in France!
Emily Conn (Wartburg College)
Jeunes Loisirs Nature
During the semester I have been helping students with their homework. This is quite an interesting and fun position since the kids are adorable and the instructors are all great as well. The students are in middle school, so the subjects are not super easy but also not super difficult. The subjects I really only helped with are Math, English, and occasionally Spanish. Luckily, though, I was only asked to help in subjects I feel confident in. While helping these students, I have realized more about the student education system when I see the type of homework some kids have at the end of the day. I am very glad I chose to work with these kids because it has been an awesome experience for me and I've loved helping and creating connections with the kids.
Kathleen Foley (Bowdoin College)
Société Saint Vincent de Paul
This association serves people in the area in hard times, such as those struggling with homelessness, unemployment, or poverty, and provides them with the ability to receive their mail at the association’s mail desk, apply for small grants to help to pay for necessities, and sit down for a warm drink and a snack, among other services. In my morning volunteering shift, I alphabetically sort all of the the mail that the association receives. In my afternoon shift, I hand out the mail to those who come in to receive their mail. The work is relatively easy, but it can be difficult from time to time when you see people in very difficult situations.
David Hogan (Middlebury College)
At the Bordeaux food bank, I have had the pleasure of interacting with welcoming and caring people. I usually work from about 8:30 to 1:30, but everyone takes a coffee break together at 10 and lunch at 12:30 or 1. I have also had the opportunity to do a variety of different tasks. Some days, I accompany other volunteers or workers in a truck to pick up the food that supermarkets are giving to the food bank. On other days, I have helped divide the food that comes in into the different food groups, different types of vegetables, milk products, etc. It is very interesting to watch the association's system of collecting, sorting, and distributing food to reduce both hunger and waste!
Alice Kim (Bowdoin College)
Centre Animation Jeunesse
I'm a tutor at a youth center called Centre Animation Jeunesse (CAJ). I go to CAJ every week to help middle schoolers and high schoolers with either math or English. The people at CAJ are incredibly warm and energetic people -- the directors, volunteers and students. Helping the same students every week and having conversations with the directors at CAJ was a great opportunity for me to feel more integrated in the community.
Gabbie Santos (Middlebury College)
The association « Union Nationale des Aveugles et Déficients Visuels » (UNADEV) was founded on November 16th 1929 in Bordeaux by Jules Hourcade, a blind poet. UNADEV’s services are diverse and include the national coordination of regional activity centres, sports, household assistance, communication services, documentation and information services, information technology services, and donor services.
As a student volunteer, I participated in a guided visit to Bordeaux’s Pont de Pierre. I learned how to properly guide a visually impaired person and spent the afternoon in conversation with participants of the planned excursion. Other responsibilities as a volunteer included administrative tasks with the General Secretary.
Rosa Shipley (Kenyon College)
I find that my extracurriculars truly serve to enhance the rhythm of university and home life, all through connection with language and local culture. I volunteer at the Banque Alimentaire de Bordeaux, sorting food with other volunteers which then gets dispersed throughout the region.
Alyssa Taylor (Middlebury College)
In my community service activity I work at a non-profit which finds housing and provides meals for a variety of people in need. I spend my Wednesday mornings helping with a specific service which takes identification photos so that people can have photos for their passports or other forms of identity at a hugely discounted price. Each Wednesday I have the opportunity to meet men and women of different nationalities and all ages who come into the office and I also witness the generosity and kindness of my co-workers who devote so much of their time to helping others.
Victoria Wiedorn (Lehigh University)
Centre Animation Jeunesse
The children's center of the town of Talence, or the "Centre d'Animation Jeunesse," is a lot like the Boys and Girls club. Volunteers will get to know the kids of the area and the people that work there, as well as help out with the kids' math and English skills. I learned more at the center than at the university. It is a real immersion into French culture, with a half hour of discussion with the kids before homework time and pastry classes on Fridays. I really enjoyed getting to know everyone, and always felt much closer to the French people after leaving. It was honestly my favorite part of my study abroad program.
Julia Angeles (Middlebury College)
Academic Year 2013-14
This year, I volunteered once a week for three hours with the Bordeaux chapter of the Blouses Roses, a non-profit organization named after their volunteers, men and women in magenta smocks who work to “provide smiles” to hospital patients and retirement home residents. Every Thursday morning, three Blouses Roses and I did arts and crafts with outpatients and their families at Bordeaux’s children’s hospital, as well as decorated the waiting room on our floor. Overall, it was a wonderful experience, both linguistically and culturally. I’m not the most artistically inclined myself, but the crafts were easy to learn with the help of the Blouses. Indeed, the women on my team were all extremely friendly and patient—and all spoke an impeccable French, which pushed me to do the same. Finally, it was rewarding to see the smiles on the kids’ faces as they finished a project, and to be able to help them take their minds off their reasons for being at the hospital that day, if only for a moment. I would definitely recommend this experience!
Volunteer work in Paris
Students are occasionally interviewed and selected to serve as English tutors.
"I would recommend this opportunity to anyone looking to exercise independence in tutoring. The students I met were curious and enthusiastic about learning. There were at most three who needed help with their English homework each week, which gave me the chance to get to know each of them. For me, this was a way of practicing my spoken French with younger people, and helped familiarize me with informal language and the French education system. I found it particularly interesting to address students' fascination-horror vis-à-vis American culture (especially after they'd seen "Bowling for Columbine"), given my position as a non-American studying in the U.S."
"In this case I was to help 6th and 7th graders with their homework: 'soutien scolaire.' Mostly it involved keeping the kids in their seats and doing their work. This work was the most fulfilling to me because it gave me the opportunity to see another side of Paris and to get to know these kids as well as to help them learn to study and hopefully have an impact on their lives. Working with the other volunteers was also a good experience to learn from them. Laure François, the head of the program, was also great to work with."
Many of our students, both graduates and undergraduates, get involved in teaching assistantships (in English) in Paris écoles maternelle, primaires, collèges et lycées. The students in general enjoy their experience of "English Assistants" in elementary, and secondary schools. Some of them even become friends with their professors and therefore establish personal contacts outside the school.
"My stage bénévole in the BAC +1 / +2 class of Mme. Hartmann was an enjoyable experience. Each week, I facilitated a discussion section in English, often with the help of another Middlebury student. Our discussions were intended to revolve around a news article in English chosen by us, the instructors, but frequently our discussions dealt with a variety of other topics (life in the United States, life in the home countries of the students, music, movies, etc.). Several times we arranged activities outside of class, which further encouraged the students to be open with us."
"My volunteer experience with Mrs. Hartman and her students is well-worth the 2 hours a week of my time here in France. It is a group of students who are preparing for tests to enter the universities and "grandes écoles" and they spend some time each week learning English grammar. When I arrive, the students often offer me coffee and biscuits and we talk during this break in between classes. Each student presents a report on an article in English and I also bring an article in English for them to read. I help them with their English pronunciation. However, I always seem to learn new French vocabulary myself each time I come when we translate between the languages in order to clarify ideas in the articles we read. It is an enriching experience for everybody because they can understand an American's perspective on current events while I have the opportunity to understand their French perspective on the same topic."