Alliance Française de Grand Rapids 2014-2015 Scholarships Winners


The winners of the two 2014-2015 Alliance Française de Grand Rapids Scholarships are Kelly Harris (left), awarded the annual $1200 Alliance Française de Grand Rapids Scholarship, and Esther Schuurman (right), winning the $600 Gary Morrison Memorial Scholarship. Kelly Harris will be a senior at Calvin College next year and is preparing Majors in French and K-12 Education and a Minor in International Development.  Esther Schuurman will be a junior next year at Calvin College and is majoring in French and Elementary Education. Congratulations, Kelly Harris and Esther Schuurman, on your achievements.


Scholarship Application Essay from Kelly Harris


 Aspirations and Future Goals

 “To have another language is to possess a second soul.”

      This quote of Charlemagne is one that I have only recently come to understand and appreciate. When my knowledge of French was much less extensive, I viewed French as a set of grammar rules out of a textbook. It was simply another class to attend and another grade on my transcript. During my senior year of high school, I came to enjoy my French language course and I came to appreciate the French I would encounter. I would often turn to the Quebec-based radio stations and listen to radio shows and French music before falling asleep. As the year went on, my desire to speak more fluently and to embrace the French culture as much as I could became much stronger and more dominant in my life. I had become rather entranced. I decided to double major in French and Education in the hopes of sharing this newfound love for a beautifully descriptive and poetic language, thus opening the doors for new cultural experiences. Charlemagne’s quote was becoming more and more apparent in my life. As my knowledge of the French language grew, a part of me became eagerly attached and passionate about this “second soul” that was developing within me. I sought out a number of cultural experiences thereafter. I participated in a French language development program at the University of Montreal, Quebec where I studied language and culture in total immersion for a month. In the fall semester of 2013, I studied abroad at the University Stendhal in Grenoble, France where we participated in numerous cultural and linguistic activities. Additionally, I went to Haiti with a group from Calvin College this past January where we taught French to Haitian students at an English academy. All these experiences have greatly increased my understanding of French language and culture and have fueled further my interest to seek out similar growing experiences.

     I believe this scholarship is very well-suited to my future goals and aspirations. As a double major in French and K-12 education, I have made an intentional decision to pursue French and education together. In coupling these two studies, not only am I actively furthering my knowledge in French and in education as separate studies, I am also pursuing them with a sense of solidarity. I am interested in pursuing French with the goal of fluency, and I am dynamically choosing to engage others in this journey of discovery of the French language and culture. I find it an amazing privilege to further pursue my passion and share that with others to promote the joy I have found in learning a foreign language.

     Along with this double major, I have taken on International Development as a minor with a specific interest in francophone Africa and francophone Africa diaspora. It is an aspiration of mine to pursue teaching within the scope of development. My knowledge of French language and culture will be a crucial tool in forming relationships and bridging a gap between different cultures. I have looked into a number of international schools in Haiti, Morocco, and Tunisia, and it is my hope that I will be able to obtain a teaching role in a developing Francophone country.

     Calvin College promotes a teacher’s assistant program in France offered to graduates with a Bachelor of Arts in French. Assistants teach English to French-speaking students, but all teachers should have a growing knowledge of French language and culture. It is my hope to take on this position in one of the school districts in France during the academic year of 2015/2016.  

   I am open to many possibilities about what the future might hold in terms of exact location; however, it is without a doubt in my mind that French will play a fundamental and essential role in the path I choose—whether that be in francophone Africa or in a high school here in Grand Rapids. This excites me deeply as I am continually looking for new and exciting ways to incorporate my growing knowledge of the French language and culture so that in turn, I may share that passion with others.


Scholarship Application Essay from Esther Schuurman


     I have always loved the French language. I remember learning the colours with my first grade teacher and her green puppet who spoke French, the cows in my third grade French textbook who said “Comment ça va?” and “Comme çi, comme ça” to one another. I can still recall the song I learned to help with the conjugation of the verb “aller” and my utter horror when my high school French teacher introduced us to the subjonctif verb tense.  From grasping the beauty of “Le Lac” by Lamartine, to feeling proud for understanding the jokes in Moliere’s plays, the French language has fascinated me since I was very young.
     In the fall of 2013, I spent a semester in Grenoble, France. While there, I studied French at the Centre Universitaire pour les Etudes Francaises, lived with a host family, regularly attended a French church and bible study, joined the local orchestra and enjoyed the sites and sounds of the city. Never in my life have I felt more alone, more lost, more excited and more exhilarated. The language barrier was frustrating at first, but by the end of the semester, I was so proud of the progress I had made and so sad to leave this culture I had begun to understand and fit into.
     As a Canadian, learning French has been very important for me. I have many more job opportunities available to me because I speak both of the official languages.  As well as studying French, I am studying elementary education. My dream is to become a French teacher, or (after more study to improve my French further) to teach in a French immersion elementary school. French teachers are in high demand across Canada, so I hope this is a job that will take me around the country, or even the world. I would like to travel while I am young, and have considered teaching abroad as well as in Canada. The French major I am working on, and the French culture I lived in during my semester abroad will help prepare me to be a French teacher in a Canadian school or an international school so that I can pass my knowledge on to my students.


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