Tell us why you decided to do this program.
I was looking to gain internship experience this summer, but I was unsure of what in-person opportunities would be available. After searching for something meaningful to fill my summer, Dr. Reisinger told my class about this program. After her initial description, I was sold. I love studying the French language and culture, so getting to apply this discipline to an internship experience and get two class credits was the perfect way to fill my summer. I had interned in Paris, France, two years prior, and I had really enjoyed partaking in another work culture firsthand and was eager to similarly engage with another French company. Immersion is the best way to become fluent in a language; seeing as French fluency is a goal of mine if I could not go to Provence, this 6-week intensive program seemed like my next best option.
Thinking back to what you expected this program to be like, would you say anything surprised you or turned out differently? I was pleasantly surprised by how fitting my internship placement was. Not only was my internship with APtimium at the intersection of two industries of great interest, fashion and consulting, but I got to do meaningful work for the company as well. I wrote white papers to aid in commercial development efforts and helped advance the company’s LinkedIn page. Most importantly, my boss was amazing and always ensured that I enjoyed my work and profited from the experience just as much as she did.
Tell us about your greatest takeaway from this program.
One of the biggest points of emphasis throughout the program was on understanding the entire Provencal culture, rather than just the glamorized version that Americans often have of the region. We learned about the gorgeous countrysides that Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh painted, but we also learned about the strong Islamophobia that North African immigrants face. While I had learned about Islamophobic laws and the stance of the French government on laïcité (secularism) in past French classes, Dr. Reisinger exposed us to the people most affected by these policies. For example, Professor Yumna Masarwa spoke to us about her research in determining whether Algerian immigrants in Marseille feel properly integrated into French culture. We discussed the differences between integration and assimilation. We read Cinq dans tes yeux, a book about a man who watches his city of Marseille become gentrified. In addition to gaining an objective overview of Provence, we got to see the many faces of the Provencal people and how their own identities blend to create the Provencal culture(s), thus giving us a fuller understanding of Provence.
How did/will this program affect your career interests or next steps after graduation?
The company I worked for, APtimium, offers production and management consulting services to small fashion companies. Although I have always had a general interest in consulting, I never thought it could be combined with fashion in this sense. I always thought that if I did consulting work, I would have to give up my love for fashion, but my internship showed me that there are possibilities for both. Generally, there are so many different professions to explore, beyond the few that we hear about most. I have so many interests, and this internship showed me that I do not necessarily have to pursue only one of them.
What advice do you have for other students considering this program?
If you are genuinely interested in learning more about Provençal culture, from art to immigration, I would suggest this program. Given how small our class was (six students), it was important for all of us to fully engage with the material and in our class discussions. Our interest in the subject matter is what kept our conversations lively and engaging. Similarly, all of us put a lot of effort and hard work into our internships. We were passionate about our work, and we were always eager to talk about it in class. This dynamism is what made the program work, so if this program similarly excites you, apply!