French students add to cultural mix at DWC

If you hear someone speaking French around the town of Epworth, it’s not your imagination! A baker’s dozen of eager college students from France arrive at the Divine Word campus on January 26, 2009.

The students are here as part of the French Student Program that was established eight years ago between Divine Word College and the ICES (Institut Catholique d’Etudes Superieures) or the Catholic Institute of Higher Studies, located in La Roche, Sur Yon. In conjunction with their Masters Program in Political Science, the French students study American and Iowan government and politics, while also becoming familiar with our language and culture.

Dr. James Russett, VP for Academic Affairs at Divine Word College, says, “This really is a win-win situation. Both our ICES and DWC students identify with, respect and learn from each other. I’ve seen relationships develop between them based on mutual curiosity, engendering understanding and friendships.” Last year, the French students went to presidential campaign rallies while studying at DWC. “This year,” Russett adds, “they will be here as a new president takes over – what a wonderful opportunity for someone studying international relations and government.” 

During the two months that the students study at the college, they stay with host families in the area for a real taste of Midwestern life and hospitality. Mark Singsank, DWC Director of Development, and his family hosted a French student for the first time last year. “We found it to be very rewarding,” Singsank says. “We learned many things about life in France and helped our student learn about life in the United States.” This past summer, Singsank and his family went to France, where they visited “their” student and met her family. She acted as their tour guide for the rest of their stay. “We had talked about hosting a student for years,” Singsank adds, “and it was a great experience for our family. We learned about the French people’s perception of the United States and in turn, we are more knowledgeable about the French culture and language.”

Chris Sauer is a professor and the Coordinator of Special Programs at Divine Word College. He says, “This program has been successful and educational for both the French and DWC students, as well as the entire college and surrounding community. It enhances the international mission of Divine Word College.”