Every October and March, 300 high school students of French arrive on the U campus for a College in the Schools (CIS) French Field Day. For many of the high schoolers, these field days are their first exposure to a college campus. A good percentage of these students go on to enroll in the U with minors or majors in French.
By Lydia Belatèche
They attend French courses alongside college undergraduates and participate in roundtables hosted by graduate students. They eat croissants with French professors, search for French elements on campus during a scavenger hunt, and admire French art at the Weisman Art Museum or learn to play African drums.
“When I came to the CIS Field Day, it was like a village" says former CIS student Iman Mefleh. “The U was its own community, like a nested city."
Since 1986, Minnesota high school students have been taking college-level courses in seven world languages and ten other subject areas at their own high school. Their teachers are trained by University faculty, and the students receive college credit for their efforts. As a result, they can enroll in advanced-level courses as soon as they enter college.
The field days represent a year rich in connections. Former CIS students of French at the U mingle with current CIS students and teachers. High school teaching assistants from France and Africa bond with speakers of French at the U. The field days also represent a year rich in challenges. After all, CIS students take the equivalents of intermediate French college courses, French 1003 and 1004, at their high schools.
Two former CIS students shared how CIS language courses influenced their academic careers and world views.
CIS Fuels Advanced Language Study: Jon Keljik
Jon Keljik (B.A. '05), a 2001 graduate of Burnsville High School, studied CIS French under Liz Lund, herself a U graduate in French. Jon felt he was getting a jump start on his college education through his CIS French course, but much more than that, he lauds the course for fueling his fascination with foreign things: "I study [foreign languages] to make communication across cultures easier. …Each new language opens more opportunities to talk with people around the world. My languages have helped me in a variety of jobs and my international experience helped me get a job teaching English in Japan."
In addition to studying Japanese, Dutch, and Italian at the U, Jon also participated in the U's Study Abroad Program in Montpellier, France. In fall 2007, Jon began a Ph.D. program in history at George Washington University.
CIS Provides a Head Start: Iman Mefleh
Equally ambitious in her plans after graduating from the U in 2008 is another former CIS student , Iman Mefleh, who attended Minneapolis’s South High School. She credits the program with helping her get a head start on her double major of French and global studies. Iman hopes to pursue an M.A. in second languages and cultures education at the U. Her battle cry: “Teaching languages is a way to save the world." Iman studies Swahili and Finnish at the U, and has also studied Arabic and Ojibwe. During summer 2007, Iman worked for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in their language and culture program and has spent previous summers as a counselor for the French program at Concordia Language Villages.
Iman says that the CIS course allowed her to see the French language as a “real world language." She adds, “We had to write in French more than we ever had. I liked that. It pushed me to do better. I could not just get by and get As. C’était un défi."
Lydia Belatèche a senior lecturer of French and assistant coordinator for CIS French. She was recently elected president of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French.