January 12th, 2017
I was lucky to be invited by Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, the President and CEO of ACEI (Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute) to attend an event at the residence of the French Consul General in Beverly Hills, on Monday, January 6.
The event was the reception for the France Alumni USA Launch. The idea is to enable meaningful connections between those who have lived and studied in France and now find themselves living back in the states, with the French Culture here in Los Angeles, as well to encourage students from France to study in the U.S. At least on the surface.
The event marked the latest endeavor to form new cultural alliances between Francophile/ Francophone professionals in the arts, science and technology. Many of us there, in fact most of us spoke both English and French, and presentations were done in both languages.
Considering the troubling transitions of government–– in our own presidential election and the up-coming April presidential election in France, it is imperative that we find new ways to better understand each other to work together to create new paradigms for our respective societies.
How people go out into the world for life, business, pleasure, and even love, is greatly affected by their own cultural pre-dispositions. It is so important to learn a new culture, to immerse yourself in its language, customs, and ideas to facilitate and anticipate and resolve differences in fulfilling and constructive ways.
The French Consul General, Christophe Lemoine, warmly, and easily charmed the audience by acknowledging the joys and appreciation of French wine, culture and history, and extoling the virtues and strengths of the French education system. He explained how important it is that we continue to seek out and foster an educational exchange between our two countries, and invited several speakers to share their points of view on “Multi-Cultural” immersion. This exchange is particularly successful in the exchange of cultural and artistic endeavors.
Learning a second language was once a must in U.S. education. I was one of the lucky ones, having studied French from Second grade all the way through high school and college. I even went to live and study in France and on that night found myself in familiar company.
Not only did it gift me with the confidence of being able to travel almost anywhere in the world and communicate, it opened the receptors in my brain to the ability to learn and absorb language in general, encouraging me to learn other languages, in my case Spanish and German. I doubt I would have done that without learning French, and immersing myself in French culture from a very early age.
Albeit through colonial conquer and rule, the French culture spread and became the lingua franca in most of the world, enabling people to communicate when they did not share a common language. In 1920, The League of Nations pronounced French as the official Language of Diplomacy worldwide. Up until 1990 my US Passport was written in both French and English, then was changed to include Spanish as well. I so appreciate that!
I love speaking other languages, because it has allowed me to truly understand the way people think, their cultural expressions in art, business, spiritual beliefs and life. It is like a magic key to a doorway one did not realize was previously there.
That evening, we stood at a table with a young, married, bi-cultural couple; she is French and he is American. They met while attending a university in France. Obviously, a successful cultural exchange! She is in International Admissions/Student Affairs here at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California and shared with us the alarming fact: Due to the recent shift in presidential powers here and the non-inclusive immigration platform of the incoming party, she has noticed a steep drop-off in queries from students around the world, wishing to study here in the United States. Prospective students are of course mirroring global feelings of uncertainty and concern.
I asked her husband what he perceived were the differences between the education systems in France and those of the U.S. His response was quick at hand. He said that in France they teach following a pedagogic model of passive listening to lectures, while in the U.S, students have access and the ability to have meaningful discourse with teachers, aids and other students. While he loved and greatly benefited from the more well-rounded studies required in France, he preferred the more engaged creative model in the American Universities.
This just made the feeling of needing to connect on a variety of different levels with those outside the United States an even stronger imperative for myself and many of the people we talked to. We the people, have, to find ways to come together, as our governments are not presently setting exemplary standards.
That creative and collaborative exchange of ideas, was really, what the evening was about. Finding a pathway in challenging and rapidly changing times, to engage in new ways of creative collaboration across many platforms: the arts, sciences, technology and of course education, to change and enrich our selves and the societies we live in.
Vive la différence.
Jeannie Winston is a frequent guest blogger for ACEI’s Academic Exchange. Jeannie is an artist and writer living and working in Los Angeles, California. Jeannie completed her undergraduate studies in Illustration at The Arts Center of Pasadena, California. Her vast and intricate knowledge of Los Angeles and its cultural history bring a new perspective to our understanding of the City of Angels. She draws her inspiration from the natural and inhabited world around her. She is especially inspired by her observations of cultural fusions and how people strive to invoke spirit in daily life.