As a major you will be expected to reach near fluency in your language skills and to gain an understanding of French literature and civilization. If you take part in the popular Hamilton in France, you will spend a year in Paris and pledge to speak no English with others in the program.

Audrey de Maegalhaes '14 in France.
Audrey de Magalhaes '14 in France.

A student’s success: free-flowing French

The realization hit her during her junior year in Paris: Audrey de Magalhaes ’14, who speaks several languages, had become a French speaker. When she met her first host family, she says, she was nervous; she could not form a single French sentence. A few months later, when her mom came to visit her in Paris, de Magalhaes did all the talking for them both.

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“When I would ask a question in French, I didn’t have to think about the question in English or Portuguese and then translate it. It just sort of came in French to me,” says de Magalhaes, a native Portuguese speaker and a double major in French and world politics.

De Magalhaes is taking Arabic, too, at Hamilton College. She’s still figuring out what she will do after she graduates but is certain it will involve languages and, she hopes, travel.

“I don’t especially want to work as a translator, which is the first thing that you sort of think of when you speak many languages,” she says. She wants a career in which she can immerse herself in a language and its culture.

Elizabeth Collins '10 in the Alps.

A graduate’s progress: a passion and a Ph.D.

Elizabeth Collins ’10  follows her passion. She just started a doctoral program in French and Francophone studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her study abroad in Paris when she was at Hamilton College was a major influence on her career and academic path.

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Right after Hamilton, Collins taught English at a public high school on the island of Réunion—a French island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar, where the French government hires young people to be language assistants in public schools. From there, she taught French for two years at a private schools in Ann Arbor, Mich. She’s also led trips to France and taught at summer language camps.

Collins studied French in part because it allowed her to pursue her many interests – history, literature, sociology, art history, government and more.

“Following your passion and considering your post-graduation future don’t have to be mutually exclusive,” she says. “The experiences I’ve had, the skills that I have acquired, and the connections I’ve made thanks to my study of French combined with Hamilton’s emphasis on communication and writing have opened many doors for me so far.”