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Claire Guillouet admits to being panic-stricken when she found out she would be teaching French on a small college campus in rural southeast Arkansas.

Guillouet had just completed her master’s degree in French linguistics and didactics at Rennes University, located in a city of 206,000 people in northwest France. “I thought I would get bored very quickly and would not meet a lot of people,” she says. “It’s been just the opposite.”

Guillouet is one of two teaching assistants spending the year at the University of Arkansas at Monticello through the auspices of the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program. The program is sponsored by the International Institute of Education in association with the U.S. State Department.

Samanta Gonzalez of Argentina also came from an urban setting. Gonzalez recently completed a master’s degree in English at the University of Nuestra Senora de la Paz in Buenos Aires, a city of over three million. Her assignment at UAM has become a pleasant surprise.

“Monticellois a great place to be a Fulbright TA,” Gonzalez said. “I come from a big city and living in a small town in a rural area is quite different than living in a city. I love living here. People are nice and polite, they invite me to participate in different activities and parties. They welcome me into theirhouses as if I were a member of their family. That’s why I’m not homesick yet.”

Guillouet and Gonzalez will spend the 2013-14 academic year teaching classes in French and Spanish, helping sponsor foreign language clubs and activities on campus, visiting foreign language classes in area high schools, completing volunteer work in the community, and sharing their expertise and foreign language teaching methodologies with high school teachers at the annual Arkansas Foreign Language Teachers Association meeting. The Fulbright Program also requires Guillouet and Gonzalez to enroll in six hours of classes at their host institution.

Guillouet and Gonzalez got to experience a dose of American (and Arkansas) culture last weekend when they attended their first college football game at Convoy Leslie Cotton Boll Stadium.

“I am meeting more and more interesting people every day and I get a chance to discover and understand American culture,” Guillouet said. “I even understood American football last week. The next step is baseball!”

Gonzalez likes the simple joys of small-town living. “What I like most about Monticello are the sunsets,” she said. “It is such a beautiful experience to watch the sun set every day. My favorite part about being in America is that there is a large amount of resources as well as opportunities. I hope to be able to enhance Americans’ understanding of Argentinian culture. I love teaching. It is very rewarding and something I am passionate about.”

Jim Brewer
Director, UAM Media Services