“Language, Immigration, and Religion: Comparative Multicultural Education in the U.S. and France” was a unique Study Abroad program sponsored recently by the Clayton State University Department of Teacher Education and the College of Education at Georgia State University.
This new cross-university program focused on the educational experiences of students of color in France and United States. During the three-week Maymester course, Dr. Erica Dotson, assistant professor in the Clayton State Department of Teacher Education, traveled to France with four undergraduates from the Clayton State College of Arts & Sciences, and three Clayton State MBA students¸ along with Dr. Alyssa Dunn and 10 undergraduate and graduate students from Georgia State.
According to Dotson, the group engaged in cross-cultural comparisons of education for minority K-12 students. These contemporary struggles were contextualized with an historical examination of colonialism and school integration/assimilation. Participants worked with students in a French elementary school, toured Paris by a boat on the Seine River and participated in a number of themed walking tours of both Paris and Montpellier, such as the Changing Face of Paris Immigration Tour and the Black Paris Tour.
“As a result of these experiences, these young scholars considered and analyzed the ways that language, culture, and religion are transmitted and transformed in both in-school and out-of-school contexts,” says Dotson.
Maybe even more meaningful were the comments from the Clayton State students who took part in the program, and had their dreams made real.
"It was an experience of a lifetime and has left an imprint that will never fade," says Hollie Montgomery, a Clayton Stateundergraduate from Locust Grove.
“My entire life changed in a blink of an eye. From the time I stepped off the plane in France, my entire perspective on life changed,” says Brittany Fredericks of Decatur. “The buildings were so reminiscent of the history books that I’ve read and made me feel as if I was a part of them. As I inhaled the Parisian air, my eyes were glued to the narrow streets and fast moving people who packed the streets. There were always many people out, from sunrise to sunset. The historical museums and architect will forever be a satisfying memory for the rest of my life.
“My experience in France has changed my view of the life I currently live and opened my mind to an entire different way of thinking and believing. To be able to meet and speak with the French of many different ethnicities in their language empowered me in many ways. I became accustomed with their way of life and became a Parisian. This experience has impacted my life tremendously and has made me realize there is way more to see than just Decatur, Ga.”
"We are the world. Race is a social construct of power. It has nothing to do with biology. There is no superior race just one race -- the human race,” adds Dalia Matthias, an MBA student from St.Croix, Virgin Islands. “I could fill a book with the wonders of my experience while on this study abroad program. I learned a lot about my history, American history, and French history. Everything that we were taught in the classroom seem to come alive once in France.
“I observed the differences and similarities in our culture and our way of life. I went from being a tourist in France to a traveler. I went to the Eiffel Tower, I visited Versailles, and I had the opportunity to interview some locals. This trip allowed me to have a panoramic view of the world. Our differences should not separate us, it should bring us together. Dr. Dotson and Dr. Dunn are passionate teachers and I learned a lot from them. I would recommend this program to others.”
The quote, `he who does not travel does not know the value of men’ really summarizes my perspective about travel, especially after traveling abroad,” says Ke'Shaundra Way, an MBA student from Atlanta. “No matter how many books you read, pictures you see, or stories you hear about a particular country or culture, there are no words to describe how your perspective changes when you are actually in that moment. You become one with the way of life of complete strangers, which is an enriching experience that will last a lifetime.
“I can still visualize the details of all the beautiful architecture and remember trying to keep my voice down during free-time with friends because it’s culturally acceptable. You truly get to see your culture in a different light when you can compare it to someone else's, and only then you can really appreciate the value that diversity has to offer.”
"My experience was amazing. Having the opportunity to learn another culture was enriching and allowed me to broaden my horizon. I am honored to have been an ambassador for the university and America,” explains Brittany Williams of Jacksonville, Fla.
“This trip allowed to me to have a panoramic vision of Paris, a cosmopolitan city where we can see different ethnic groups -- Arabs, Africans, Jewish, etc. They have influenced and they continue influencing in this society. Paris that is so well known by its culture, finesse, elegance and its extraordinary cuisine that many envy it, appreciate it,” concludes Olinda Quinoes, a Clayton State undergraduate from Lima, Peru.