Students in the French Program tell us about their careers and how they plan to further their impact in the world

Rachel: “Hello! My name is Rachel Shapin. I graduated from MSU in May of 2021 with a major in Biosystems Engineering and a minor in French. This August, I will return to school as a medical student at the Medical School for International Health (MSIH) in Beer Sheva, Israel.

I began studying French in high school and fell in love with the language immediately. Developing the capacity to interact with people from many cultures intrigued me. When my school canceled French 3, I continued to pursue the language by reading books, watching movies, and corresponding daily with pen pals.

The summer after my sophomore year at MSU, I studied abroad in Pau, France, where I finished my minor. I served as the Vice President of the MSU French Club during the 2020-2021 school year. In 2020, I taught a summer French class for children through MSU’s Center for Language Teaching Advancement.

My studies of French and other foreign languages instilled in me a global mindset, which led me to pursue career and volunteer opportunities with an international focus. From 2016-2018, I served as a tutor at the Refugee Education Center in West Michigan. I currently volunteer as a Spanish-language interpreter at Exalta Health, a low-income medical clinic in Grand Rapids. I also teach English as a second language to elementary schoolers. After medical school and residency, I plan to serve as a physician in an international context.”

Rachel Shapin

Chris: “I am from Monroe, Michigan. I hold a bachelor’s in Chinese and a minor in French from Michigan State University and a Master of Law in China Studies from the Yenching Academy of Peking University. While studying at MSU, I received the prestigious Gilman and Boren scholarships to study Chinese in Harbin and Hangzhou, China, respectively. I am currently a French teacher in Munich, Germany, and my languages include French, Spanish, Mandarin, German, and Portuguese.  

I decided to learn multiple foreign languages because I recognize the huge impact polyglottery has on international bridge-building and uniting disparate communities in this increasingly globalized world. Through acquiring fluency in five foreign languages, I have learned to weaponize my global citizenship; connected with my African heritage; and ultimately discovered my purpose in life: to serve as a competent American cultural intermediary on all corners of the planet.

I was recently awarded the prestigious 2022 Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellowship — a two-year graduate program that will support me to receive a master’s degree in an area relevant to U.S. foreign policy. Upon graduation, I will become a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, embarking on one of the most challenging and rewarding careers of service to my country. I will work to promote peace and prosperity around the world.

Chris Murphy

Matthew: “Bonjour! My name is Matthew Fazekas, and I am a junior majoring in International Relations with minors in French and Philosophy & Law. I started studying French in middle school, and in the many years since, I have found learning French to be such a rewarding experience. I originally took French courses at MSU to simply fulfill course requirements for my major, but my positive experiences with all the French faculty and realizing how fulfilling learning a foreign language is pushed me to continue my studies. In only about three years, the French program at MSU has not only significantly improved my French skills, but my confidence in speaking the language.  

I was selected as one of the winners of the 2021 American Journal of French Studies undergraduate essay competition for my essay, “Aveuglé par la Ville des lumières” or “Blinded by the City of Lights.” With help from Dr. Tuttle, my paper, written entirely in French, explores the issue of homelessness in Paris and how this reality often contradicts the idyllic image that many tourists have of a major metropolis like Paris. The paper finished 12th out of more than 1,300 submissions in the American Journal of French Studies competition and will be published in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of French Studies. 

I am not sure where my French studies will take me in the future, but I know I will be leaving MSU with a true skill that I can use both in a professional setting and if I decide to travel abroad. I couldn’t be happier with my experience learning French at MSU! 

Matthew Fazekas

Mariam: “As an Indian-American Muslim female from Sterling Heights, Michigan, with family from Lucknow and Mumbai, India, I shared multiple identities at a young age. Similar to my multifaceted background, I found myself equally passionate about both of my distinct majors: Physiology and French. As my inquisitiveness for a career in these diverging fields proliferated, MSU encouraged my heterogeneous interests by allowing me to pursue a number of extracurricular roles, including a chemistry teaching assistant, a resident assistant, a Doctors Without Borders: MSU Chapter E-board member, a Dean’s Research Scholar and research ambassador of the College of Natural Science, and the President of French Club. 

After traveling to Ghana through MSU Brigades to operate as a medical volunteer in an under-resourced community that lacked healthcare providers within a 50-mile radius, I witnessed Akan women being denied the female physicians they preferred for their sensitive medical needs, which ultimately harnessed my desire for a career in women’s health and education. As I grew perplexed by challenges other francophone minorities – like the Northern African population – faced, I pursued a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Morocco to gain an illuminating perspective of the difficulties Moroccan women face in modern society, including gender discrimination and limited access to education. As a recipient, I hope to contribute to Moroccan women’s struggles to attain self-empowerment through education and aspire to later serve in under-resourced francophone countries as a culturally-sensitive and informed physician and educator, empowering women in closing the gender disparity in education and healthcare someday.”

Mariam Sayed