Teaching in France: The Value of International Experiences

By Sabreena Croteau (Class of 2015)

Over the summer, I was excited to find out that I had been accepted to the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) in the Academie de Lille, which is the education district of France’s northernmost province, Nord-Pas-de-Calais. As I had always intended to take a gap year before graduate school, I was very excited for this opportunity to live in another country, learn the language, and get to know the community around me. I have not been placed in Lille, the city center of the north, but rather, in a really small town, Beuvry, which is about forty minutes outside the city by train. It is situated next to Bethune, which is a slightly larger town, as far as the north is concerned. This area of the north shares many characteristics with the post-industrial old mill towns of New England, including Willimantic. The area’s prime industry used to be mining. Today, all the mines have closed, but there is little alternative economic interest in the cloudy north and these small town struggle to have enough jobs and bring in various businesses. However, unlike New England, the immigrant populations are rather small, though they most certainly are growing.

            I have found the people in the area to be kinder and friendlier than my experiences when I studied in Paris, and of course, far far better than all of the American stereotypes about the French. Though, of course, there are some perceptions that are not entirely off. Baguettes are a daily necessity here, I will have four vacation over my seven months staying here, and I have been handed a glass of wine in the teachers’ lounge more than once. I am very grateful with how patient I find most people to be as I stumble through a conversation in French and living in the north has made it more necessary to speak French than when I lived in Paris. Between the teachers and my school and my housemates, I am forced to try and it has already lead to improvement even if my accent is horrific.

Picture Sabreena France

Smiling Sabreena (back left) with international and French colleagues during a friendly dinner.

            It was certainly interesting to be here for the US election. My teachers are extremely informed about American politics and my French high school students often know more than their average American peer. Despite having an extreme right of their own, talking about politics with French friends and teachers usually ends in a conversation that is extremely bias towards the American left. Honestly, I think this is because, having a completely different left to right spectrum… the American right is simply difficult for them to understand. I often find myself trying to explain the history and characteristics of the United States that has resulted in the spectrum that we have. I think that they are particularly curious given Brexit and the rise of conservatism in their own country. In many ways, I think I have learned a great deal about American politics by getting to look at through the eyes of foreigners and by having to try to explain our system to them.

            This is also true of the other language assistants that live in Bethune. Though there are other Americans, I am the only one from not just New England, but also from the east coast. Despite always knowing that the US is very different depending on the region, it is interesting to see those differences at play. It has definitely made me want to experience more of my own country and has also made me appreciate some of my experiences that are distinctly New England. However, there are also English language assistants from Canada, Britain and Australia, as well as Spanish language assistants from Latin American countries, the two I see the most are Mexican and Venezuelan. Besides learning French culture and French experiences, I also get the experiences of perspectives of those from other countries as well. When all of the assistants and some of our French housemates get together for dinner… or meet at the bar… it often becomes a trilingual event.

            Out of all the assistants I know, I am the only person who studied political science at university. Most are studying languages, a few languages and history. Some even had jobs as language teachers where they come from. Teaching English to French teenagers does not necessarily relate directly to my political science career goals. I get asked all the time why I wanted to do this. However, I think that the experience as a whole is invaluable to my overall goals. Besides learning another language, I also have the opportunity to build friendships and have conversations that teach me new things, not only about other countries, but also about my own. I think it is an important part of studying political science to be exposed to all sorts of other perspectives and allow them to challenge your own.

Life after Eastern… and a good one!

By Dale Thompson

Picture Dale Thompson2

Tall Dale in the back with heavy weight democrats Nancy Pelosi and Joe Courtney.

Graduation night was one of the scariest nights of my life. Walking across a stage in front of thousands did not bother me, as many professors can attest that I love the spotlight. It was the thought of what now? I had spent my entire life up to that point in classrooms, working side jobs and just grinding along. Now it was time to actually start my career, which I wasn’t sure I was prepared for!

Lucky for me I graduated during a campaign year, so there were many jobs out there. I had recently finished my internship at the Connecticut General Assembly, so I had many people I could call and beg for work. I had no idea that I was going to get a call back to work for the Democratic State Party. The party asked if I was interested in being a Regional Field Organizer, meaning I would be given a section of the state to oversee

Dale with democratic candidate for congress Joe Courtney

Dale with democratic candidate for congress Joe Courtney.

and coordinate a multitude of field events for any and all candidates running for office in my area. Due to where I was placed, I had the pleasure  of working along side the likes

of Congressman Joe Courtney, State Senator Mae Flexer, and many others. I have learned so much from this campaign, and I still have many days left! When I sat down for my first class at ECSU four years ago I had no idea I would end up here. I am so thankful for everything I learned from our great Poli-Sci Department!

So, if you’re a senior reading this blog, wondering where you’re going to end up in May, just know that you have the skills to go far, probably even farther then me! While Eastern may not be the biggest school in the state, it definitely prepares you for the real world. Do not worry about a thing, you are going to be fine.

Dale campaigning in Connecticut

Dale campaigning in Connecticut.

Life After Eastern

By Kevin Schaffner (Class of 2014)

Polisci alumnus Kevin Schaffner

After graduating back in May 2015, I thought I was going to immediately find a great job. Heck, why wouldn’t I? I had years of military experience, had two internships under my belt, and had been working in financial aid for two years. The reality is, at least it was for me, that it is hard to find a decent job with only a bachelor’s. I spent my entire summer applying, interviewing, following up, and getting rejected. Needless to say, my summer after graduation wasn’t that great. However, there was light at the end of tunnel.

With money quickly running out I knew I had to do something fast. I contemplated going back to ECSU for another degree and reap the benefits of my GI Bill but I knew that would just be a waste. Then a good friend of mine recommended that I apply to the Masters of Public Administration Program at the University of Connecticut. So in the final hour I applied and shortly after I was graciously admitted into the program. To date, applying and attending the MPA Program at UCONN has been the best decision I have ever made. Here are a few reasons why I love the program and why you should think about applying.

  1. It is a ranked Public Administration Program at one of the best public universities in the country. Not only is this a ranked program but it is also intentionally small. The faculty and administrators focus on offering the best education to students so that when students graduate, they represent the MPA Program in their workplace. This has clearly worked since many agencies hire directly from the program and the most recent graduating class has a 100% employment rate in positions related to the field.
  2. The program works directly with many agencies and businesses around the state to provide paid internships which offer a generous stipend and credits. Also, second year students who are interning are eligible to receive a tuition waiver. The purpose of internship program is to give higher level work experience to students at well-known agencies and businesses. I am currently taking advantage of this program and am interning at Newington Public Schools as a Communications Specialist. I am in charge of generating positive press about the school district and love every moment of it.
  3. The course schedule and course load per class are extremely manageable. I always feared graduate school was going to be too advanced for me, but honestly I am finding my current work load much more manageable than in my undergrad. This is primarily because I typically have one class a day and the courses are applicable to what I intend to do after graduation. Ideally I would like to work for an agency that works in either transportation or foreign policy.

Currently there are not many ECSU Political Science graduates in the MPA Program and I do not understand why. Eastern’s Political Science Department does an excellent job preparing students for the MPA program. The quantitative and qualitative courses do a wonderful job preparing students for the analytical portion of the MPA program. Also the writing intensive courses at Eastern gave me a solid background in academic writing which will help me when writing studies and memorandums. From what I have seen, Eastern’s Political Science Department better prepares students for the MPA Program than UCONN’s Political Science department.

This opportunity has given me a direct path to my dream of becoming a public servant and I can finally see my end goal in sight. The contrast between who I was during the summer while looking for a job, and who I am now is almost indistinguishable. If you are not sure what you are going to do after graduation, I highly recommend you apply to the UCONN MPA Program. This has been the best decision of my life and I’m sure it will be yours too!

If you have any questions please feel free to email me at kevin.r.schaffner@gmail.com.

 

New members of the prestigious Honor’s Society for Political Science ΦΣΑ (Pi Sigma Alpha)

 

By Nicole Krassas

The new proud members of Pi Sigma Alpha ’14

On Monday, April 28, the political science program inducted 6 students into Eastern’s chapter of the National Honor Society for Political Science, Pi Sigma Alpha.  Our chapter’s name is Alpha Beta Gamma.  Pi Sigma Alpha was originally created before political science was an academic discipline to bring together students and faculty interested in studying government and politics from across a variety of academic areas.  As the study of politics became more formalized into an academic discipline it became a venue to recognize and convene the most promising students in the discipline.

Bill Welz ’10 welcomes new students to Pi Sigma Alpha

Our keynote speaker for the event was Bill Welz ’10 (Pi Sigma Alpha Member), who is currently the Executive Aide to the General Council in Governor Malloy’s Office.  Bill spoke about his path from college student to political professional with great clarity and eloquence and we are most appreciative of his time. 

In order to qualify for membership in the organization, students must be in at least their 3rd year of college and have junior class standing.  In addition, they must have completed at least 20 credits at Eastern and maintained an overall grade point average of 3.4 with at least a 3.2 in the major.  Very few students each year meet those qualifications.  The students inducted on Monday were Kyle Donovan, Matthew Hicks, Kenneth Lord, William McLaughlin, Harrison McNair and Je’Quana Orr. Please congratulate them if you see them!

Also present were the political science faculty and two of our three student members who were inducted last year, Nels Frantzen and Erin Daly who helped to make the event quite special.  Kate Schaen could not make it as she was at her internship in the state capitol and could not get to campus in time.  All in all it was a great event and we were happy to meet the friends and family who were able to come to support their inductees.