A summer at La Ville-Lumière

A summer at La Ville-Lumière

Two Pierce College students are saying “Bon Voyage!” this summer as they head to France for a study abroad scholarship program.

Called “The Paris Study Abroad Scholarship,” it gives students from California colleges the opportunity to study in France to absorb the culture, language and education in the country.

The two students who were selected from Pierce, Anita Semsarha and Shirin Alizadjahani, are French students studying under French professor Denis Pra.  The scholarship recipients were picked through an application process that was limited to a small group of students.

The students in the program will be spending the entire month of July abroad.

The foundation that sponsored this trip is the H. Dennis and Anne Beaver Foundation located in Bakersfield, Calif. They originally started this abroad program approximately 30 years ago to help students deepen their ability to speak a foreign language -primarily French- and expand their knowledge and tolerance of other cultures.

H Dennis Beaver, a Loyola Law School graduate, grew up in the Los Angeles Area before relocating to Bakersfield where he became a deputy district attorney for the Kern County District Attorney Office. Although most of Beaver’s career history didn’t require learning another language, he is a strong believer that learning different languages and immersing yourself in cultures from a different country can positively affect your life.

“French has been an incredible gift in my life,” Beaver said. “And for people who learn it, learn a foreign language well enough, and who are able to maintain a dialogue with native speakers, it opens an incredible world. It is one of the most wonderful intellectual feelings you can have, that few ever accomplish.”

Beaver also attended Los Angeles Valley College and California State University of Northridge (CSUN) before getting into Loyola Law School. He credits his fluency to his time at these schools.

“I had amazing teachers while attending Valley College and doing a minor in French at CSUN,” Beaver said. 

Beaver also noted that most of the students who attend this program at least minored in French, while some of them became French teachers.

Most years, only one student gets selected for this trip, so Pra was delighted when he had two candidates chosen. 

“This is a good year, I would say, because two students have been given the opportunity to study in France, with airfare, accommodations, and all the visits,” Pra said. “It’s a win-win because not only are they going to France, but they can also earn credits.”

Semsarha was interested in the program because of her goals of becoming a French literary translator, and was grateful for the opportunity to expand her knowledge of the French language and culture since it was an opportunity that’s fairly rare for a community college campus.

“I feel like it can be a life changing experience for a lot of these students,” Semsarha said. “I think it’s incredibly beneficial having the opportunity that you otherwise would not have access to.“

Alizadjahani recently moved to America, and she decided to take a French course along with English simply because she was interested in the language. She was then motivated to take more courses which landed Alizadjahani in the position to apply. 

“I enrolled in French 101 and it was very interesting, and it pushed me to continue,” Alizadjahani said. “He was one of the things that really made me interested in learning more about the French culture.”

Alizadjahani has expressed high hopes for the upcoming trip. She aims to gain more knowledge about French culture and attain new conversational skills. As a pre-dental hygiene student, she hopes that this can help her expand the variety of people she is able to help.

“I am so excited about this scholarship, because I want to learn more about French culture, people, everything,” Alizadjahani said. “I think being there would be a great opportunity to learn all those in a natural way.”