French Program Alumni

A French major prepares students for all kinds of opportunities and experiences after college, regardless of the career field. Here are a few examples of what our students have done after graduating from Wheaton.

Sophie DinesMy French major has opened so many doors for me to interact with people all over the world in a more charitable way. Language is a door to people’s hearts, and speaking with someone else in French gives me so much joy, especially if they love the language as much as I do. I’ve used my French to interact with so many different people— talking to a Parisian and a Canadian seated next to me on an airplane from Atlanta to Chicago of all places, living with my retired host family in Rennes, France, bartering with a man for items at a market in Tunisia, teaching my American students at the high school level how to speak this amazing language and love other cultures, hearing from a friend on campus how her HNGR placement in Senegal affected her life, and worshiping the our Lord at small evangelical churches and in large Catholic cathedrals all over France. Without this language my life would have less color, would be missing a deeper dimension of engagement with and care for others that I have simply because I can speak such a global language as French. And because of my French major at Wheaton, I see the kingdom of God in a fuller, more global way. I hope to use my French, after I graduate, to teach high school French here in America and, eventually, on the international mission field.  

Charity KittlerI completed my double major in French and Studio Art in 2008, then fell into a career in tech. Over the years I spoke French when traveling (Montreal, Paris) but rarely had other opportunity. That changed when I accepted a monthlong artist residency in Morocco in 2018. I found both French and Spanish incredibly useful during that trip, and loved my experience so much that I applied for and won a Fulbright to return. French opened doors to both the residency and Fulbright, has made learning Arabic easier, and gives me confidence to tackle whatever travel opportunity next comes my way.

Isaac KawateFor me, studying French was crucial in fulfilling my liberal arts degree. Liberal Arts is designed to create a well-rounded person, and by studying French, I was able to study almost every subject, but in French. In addition, I was able to study abroad twice, which opened my eyes to so many issues in this world.

It has given me new perspectives on many issues and has really shaped my worldview! French is a beautiful language, but my knowledge of French is only a small portion of why learning this language has enriched my life. In other words, learning French was a gateway into developing a deep appreciation and curiosity of many other cultures.

The biggest benefit to learning French has really been the way it has broadened my worldview, and has equipped me with the tools to understand and interact with people and narratives from around the world.

Andrea KohlenbergWhen I came to Wheaton I did not know that I was going to major in French. But as I completed my required language competency, I realized how much I enjoyed studying language and the community of French learners at Wheaton. I am so grateful for the opportunity to study in such a thoughtful and welcoming environment. By majoring in French, the door to the francophone world has been opened to me. I got to study abroad for 2 months in Rennes, France and I have made friends all over the world. I am able to enjoy a wider spectrum of books, film, music, and art, and my personal perspective of world events as well as my personal knowledge of God functions more broadly in the human expression of language. Learning a second language broadens one’s capacity to experience life and God’s creation. By majoring in French, my spiritual, intellectual, and emotional life has been affected for the better.

In Fall 2018-Spring 2019 I interned for the US Department of State through the Virtual Student Federal Service program. I worked on a project by the US embassy in Niamey, Niger that promotes Nigerienne women entrepreneurs through discussions and community on a Whatsapp group moderated by me and 2 other interns, one of whom is my boss. My job was to encourage conversation in French about different topics related to both business and politics, as well as exchange cultures and learn cultural diplomacy.

Jonathan LiversedgeThe choice to study French was, for me, an easy one. Who could turn down in-class croissants? The French program at Wheaton did allow for my fair share of French food, but this turned out to be the least of its gifts to me. As a Masters student in the History of Christianity, the knowledge of written French that I gained in college has opened up a plethora of research opportunities. In fact, I am currently working on cataloguing 17th century French Bibles for my professor or access Jean Calvin’s original writings, I have the tools I need thanks to the wide variety of literature I was exposed to in the French major. Beyond my particular research, knowing French has made new job opportunities available to me. This past spring, I was thankful to be able to instruct a graduate-level course on reading French. I hope to teach after my studies are completed, so this was an invaluable experience, and just one more example of the ways in which a knowledge of French can open unexpected doors. For all of the ways that the French major has helped me to advance in my own plans for the future, what I most valued about studying French at Wheaton was the constant focus on how French is a means by which we can love our neighbors. Speaking to someone in their own language is a way to demonstrate a spirit of hospitality and a desire to connect. I got to experience this first-hand living with a French family and building relationships entirely around the French language. Although I am no longer with those friends, the lessons I learned about patience and empathy have formed a significant part of my perspective today.

Kevin MarbleI currently work in camp and music ministry in the French Alps, so as you can imagine, French plays an important role in every aspect of my life. Whether helping to run a ski camp, writing songs for church, preaching, or building relationships in my community, my time in the Modern and Classical Languages Department prepared me well. I remember developing an independent study course with Dr. Savage in which I was free to study missions in French contexts around the world. That freedom and support really helped me as I sought direction for the future. What a blessing it was to have professors like him and Dr. Abel. The relationships I was able to develop with them have lasted and continue to bless me.

Studying French at Wheaton prepared me with a knowledge of the language and the culture of France and the Francophone world. In my first year in France I was daily thankful for my previous studies, as they formed the base from which everything else was built. Thanks to the language and cultural knowledge that the Modern and Classical Languages Department offered me, as well as a Christian perspective of living cross-culturally, I was able to transition well and flourish as I began to build a life in France. I have fond memories of my time studying French at Wheaton, where I was not only able to learn valuable skills and knowledge, but also make meaningful friendships with my professors and classmates.

Jen Pollock MichelI graduated from Wheaton in 1996 with a French major, and for five years, taught high school French and English on Chicago’s North Shore.

Currently, I am a published author and speaker, and while I’m not using my French education in my professional endeavors, my language degree has shaped the trajectory of my personal life. In 2011, my husband and I moved our family to Toronto, Canada, and enrolled our five children in a French bilingual school. Currently, they are all fluent in French, and our oldest daughter is now studying at McGill University in Montreal, using her French on a daily basis. I am also regularly using my French in my interactions with families at our children’s school as well as with my husband’s work colleagues. Anglophone Canadian friends are often joking that while they were raised with every opportunity to learn French, it’s their American friend who speaks better than they do.

Studying a foreign language opened the door to global curiosities for me in college. It gave me the courage and interest to study abroad and understand cultures different than my own. Ultimately, my degree prepared me, even my family, to respond to God’s call to move to one of the world’s most cosmopolitan and secular cities.

I’m incredibly grateful for my Wheaton education and the investment of my professors.

Stanley OkoroI came into Wheaton my freshman year as an engineering major but I had already developed a love for the French language as a high schooler. I wanted to continue learning about the language and the culture and very soon my French classes became my escape. The passion of my professors helped stoke my interest in French and Francophone literature and film and I gradually made progress in mastering the language without ever being near the top of the class. Funnily enough, while I was at Wheaton and even after I graduated I never had any desire to visit France, but God had other plans. Three years after graduation, I found myself on a plane to France to serve with Greater Europe Mission for a few years in Northern France. Three years soon became five and I am currently approaching 10 years in France. At the moment I lead a church planting team alongside my wife, who is French! It is incredible to me to see how the Lord kindled a love for the French language in high school, how he stoked that fire while I was at Wheaton and how He has been able to use that love for the language and the culture to serve the advancement of His kingdom here in France!

Sara Grace RosselliI’ve always loved French, ever since I was a little girl. I was fascinated with the way the language sounded: its rhythm, melody, and overall beauty. Growing up, my mother wanted me to learn a “more practical” language, but after a few stints in Spanish and Chinese, my mom could see that I was still set on learning French. When I switched high schools my sophomore year, I took the opportunity to sign up for French and I immediately fell in love with the language and culture. So, when I got to Wheaton, it was an easy decision for me to add French as my minor.

The summer of 2019 I went to Western Europe with the Education Department in an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of the values and cultural practices that undergird their educational systems. A large part of the trip involved visiting French, German, and British classrooms and observing a typical classroom in action. Being the only French speaker on the trip, I was able to sit in and observe a normal classroom, whereas my other classmates were sent to observe small group English tutoring. I was privileged and blessed to experience the education practices of the common French classroom, and I’ve brought some of that knowledge back to my own classroom.  After including some of the practices I observed in France into my teaching, my classroom community has become safer and my students more loving toward each other.

I am going to graduate with a license to teach French, but even if I end up teaching something other than French, I am sure that my knowledge of the language and culture will significantly impact my effectiveness as a teacher—no matter what educational context I find myself in.

Janie RowlandWhen I was a Wheaton student, it was very important to me to learn and graduate with a tangible skill. I loved my French classes, and knew that if I chose French as my major, I would learn the language as well as possible in those four years and be pushed outside of my comfort zone to study abroad. I am so glad that I did choose French, because studying in Paris during my senior year was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life. I was thrilled to return with a level of ease with the language that I did not know was possible for me! Immediately after Wheaton I became an ESL teacher in South Korea, and the director of my school appreciated that I had gone to the effort of learning a foreign language because I would better be able to understand and help my students in their pursuit of learning English. Upon returning to the States, I earned my teacher’s certification and spent four years teaching high school French. Being able to share my enthusiasm for the language and culture was very fulfilling, and my students were wonderful. I ultimately decided to go back to school for law, and I am looking forward to seeing how French will be a part of this next chapter. Learning a language and other cultures as well as you can is something that makes you stand apart in the job market, and provides opportunities to travel and connect with people outside your usual circles. I am so grateful for the role that French—both in and outside of the classroom—has played in my life.

Hannah SawyerI came into college knowing that I wanted to continue studying the French language, and decided to major in it my sophomore year. 

My interest in French started when I began learning it in 7th grade, and only continued from there. Throughout my years of study I have seen how French is utilized all over the world and how the Francophone world is interconnected and bursting with life and culture. Majoring in French has taught me so much about the world around me, as it has opened the door for me to be able to interact with French speakers from around the world.

I studied abroad as a senior, and my semester in France was one of my favorite experiences during my undergraduate studies. My language skills allowed me to connect with my host family to the degree that I am sure we will remain life-long friends. I had the opportunity to step out of my American context and be fully immersed in an entirely new way of life in France, something that helped me grow and gain a newfound sense of agency in my life. 

I am presently looking to work at a law firm as a Paralegal, and many of the firms I am reaching out to have offices all over the world, including in Europe and parts of Africa, places where French is highly prevalent. Every potential employer I have spoken to is impressed by my proficiency in French, and it helps to make me stand out in a sea of candidates. Professional experiences and internships are a great way to highlight soft skills that employers look for on resumes, but hard skills like proficiency in a language indicate dedication and high achievement, as learning a second language is not easy. I will forever be grateful that I chose to study French at Wheaton, a skill that I will be honing more and more throughout my life. 

Hawken SawyerAfter a poor high school French experience, I came reluctantly into French class to fulfill Wheaton’s foreign language requirement. Barely two weeks had passed before I knew I’d be taking French throughout my entire time at Wheaton. I now realize the French classes that I took have laid the foundation for what will be a lifelong adventure with this beautiful language. I will always be grateful to my incredible French professors at Wheaton, because their patient and skilled teaching was a primary motivator to continue in my courses. As long as language is a barrier, close friendships are almost impossible to form, and ministry is greatly impeded.

Because of my classes at Wheaton, I was able to connect with my host family and friends in Burkina Faso (where I went for my HNGR internship) in a way that will last a lifetime. I even went back to Burkina a year after graduating in order to attend a marriage of a dear friend from there! God is so good to have led me to this language. Currently, I am preparing to serve for 6 months in Senegal with an agricultural ministry, and I am so excited to see how the Lord will use my knowledge of French to bring him glory. By empowering me to communicate in French (and one day more languages), the French program at Wheaton has truly been a blessing to God’s Kingdom.  

Ariana SchmidtFor me, French has always opened doors both personally and professionally. My State Department internship supervisor arranged for my internship to extend so I could travel to Gabon to assist with an African trade conference, in large part because of my French skills. As a humanitarian aid worker in Iraq, I am grateful for my experiences learning French, both the joys and difficulties, because these experiences have helped me to lead multicultural teams more sensitively. Knowing another language allows you to connect with more people. In unexpected ways, God continues to bring French speakers across my path and I love being able to offer them the gift of speaking in their heart language. 

Rachel SteevesMy French professors not only taught me about the intricacies of language but also the intricacies of life. That is the advantage of learning languages - there is no particular subject constraint; you are free to discuss nearly anything while still improving upon your language skills.

Understanding another culture is extremely helpful when trying to understand one's own, giving new perspective on each aspect, including each aspect of a liberal education. It is very useful to understand a second culture and language in order to gain perspective on your native culture. The similarities, the contrasts, all shed new light on preconceptions and possible prejudices.

It is also surprisingly helpful to know French for reading classical English literature.

Jonathan VinesEvery major at Wheaton College hopes to accomplish several things in the lives of its students, namely that the classes and experiences shape the students in the present while also preparing them for the future. Studying French at Wheaton College has done just that for me.

As I have studied French here, I have learned more about the world and been better equipped to live in it while also being prepared for all that is to come after Wheaton.

Perhaps the best part about learning another language, and particularly French, is the ability you have to connect with people of other cultures. Few things can quickly connect you to a stranger as does speaking another person’s language, and this was my regular experience while I was in France during a study abroad program. Whether I was staying in a hostel in Cassis or an abandoned monastery on top of Mont Sainte-Victoire, I found myself making friends right away because I could communicate. The French language was a gateway into the culture and worldviews of those I met. In addition to the connections I was able to make with those in France, the reach spreads much further than France alone. Being immersed in French culture was a unique experience for those several months, but speaking French affords one the opportunity to interact with the most varied cultures that any single language can offer, reaching all the way from Guadaloupe and French Polynesia to Belgium and Luxembourg to Niger, Senegal, and Cameroon. No other single language can offer such a variety of cultures and people groups to learn from, and by speaking their language, you’re off to a great start.

While my French is not perfect yet, I am very thankful for the courses I have taken here at Wheaton and what I have learned while in the Modern and Classical Languages department. I leave Wheaton able to speak another language, which, in a sense, is to speak the culture of many hearts.

Kevin WoehrI graduated Wheaton College with a double major in French and Anthropology. Right after college, I was able to put my degrees to the test by moving to France for a year and working as an intern in a local French church. It was an amazing experience! I was so grateful for the strong foundation of French I had received at Wheaton College which prepared me to make the most of this opportunity. I was able to expand my knowledge of the French language more quickly and also immediately serve within the local French community. 

I am currently a Department of Justice accredited representative, working as the legal supervisor for the Chicagoland World Relief immigration legal services department. I still use my French quite regularly, by providing legal services to French-speaking immigrants, keeping in touch with friends from France, and also hanging out with French professors from Wheaton College!

Learning French truly has opened a new world for me and has enabled me to stand with our French-speaking immigrant community in a deeper way. I am grateful for all of the support from the French professors!

Delaney YoungOne of the central objectives of the Christian liberal arts education is the integration of faith and learning, as well as that of learning and living. One of the skills that Wheaton students develop and hone during their four years here is the ability to see connections between what they believe about God, what they know about the world, and what kind of people they are becoming. The opportunity to study French at Wheaton means that students are afforded a closer look at how God can use language to purify His people’s hearts and to restore His world. Language-learning invites us to practice the triad of seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking with humility found in Micah 6:8. In seeking to respect and understand another culture as one that is equally as beautiful and dignified as American culture, students practice the pursuit of justice. In sacrificing their time and energy to learn a foreign language that does not come easily, students practice the love of mercy. And in the mistakes that inevitably come with the language learning process, students learn how to walk humbly with a gracious and forgiving God. 

Learning French at Wheaton is ultimately an opportunity to think about the work that God can do in us as we engage in the discipline of language-learning and the work that God can do through us in the hearts of French-speaking people. There is a holistic nature to the way that French is taught here. Beyond the obvious professional and personal advantages that language-learning gives a student, the Modern and Classical Languages department at Wheaton also recognizes the profound spiritual edification that language-learning can bring, and thus is structured around a thorough integration of faith, learning, and living.