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Meet Our Team: Alice Amundson

Meet Our Team: Alice Amundson

As our fall session begins, we would like to introduce you to our team. Our first interview is with our receptionist, Alice Amundson.

Meet Our Team: Alice Amundson

As we’re all getting back to school and beginning fall classes at l’Alliance Française du Westchester, we thought it would be the perfect time to get to know some of our staff and teachers better! For our first interview, our intern Julia interviewed receptionist Alice Amundson about her work with the Alliance Française, why she began studying French, and what it was like to live in francophone countries. You can find their video interview on our YouTube, linked here and listed below, and can follow along with this transcription:

JULIA: Bonjour, Alliance Francaise! Today, we are going to be interviewing our wonderful receptionist, Alice.  So, to begin, pouvez-vous vous présenter ?

ALICE: Oui ! Je m’appelle Alice, je travaille comme réceptionniste à l'Alliance Française du Westchester. Je viens du Montana. Quand j'étais au lycée, j’ai fait un programme d'échange en Belgique pendant 1 an. En Belgique, c’est où je suis tombée amoureuse de la langue française. Après, en 2011, j’ai déménagé à New York, dans le Westchester, pour aller à l’université, à Sarah Lawrence College. Et là, j’ai continué d'étudier le français. Dans ma troisième année, à l’université, j’ai étudié pendant un semestre à Paris, et puis, après mes études, j’ai enseigné l’anglais en France pendant presque un an. Maintenant, je suis très contente de travailler à l'Alliance Française. Et dans mon temps libre, j’aime découvrir la littérature francophone, et je fais de la danse classique et du yoga.

JULIA: That’s so cool! Can you talk a little bit more about your experiences in Belgium and in France?

ALICE: Yeah! So in Belgium, I did a rotary youth exchange program, and that was for a year, like I said. I lived in a really small town called Malmedy, it’s in the East of Belgium, in the Liege province. It’s about two hours by car southeast of Belgium. And so, that was probably one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Both living in Belgium and studying abroad in Paris, there was a really big learning curve at the beginning, definitely culture shock, and when I went to Belgium, I knew very little French. I had done a couple years of French in school and so I almost learned the language from scratch, so that was a huge learning curve. But the thing I love about living abroad is that you really get to know a culture and the people who live in that country, the national identity. I lived with host families when I was in Belgium and I am still friends with them today. I am still friends with some of my classmates that I met there too. And because I did a rotary program, I got to know other exchange students as well, which was really fun. The program took us all over Belgium, too. And in France and Belgium, Wednesdays are typically half days, and so we would get together and we’d go to different towns and different cities around our region, so we really got to know the different areas and different cities, which was really fun. And then in Paris, I’d never lived in a big city before, but at least at that point I could speak the language! But studying at the university level and living in a big city was very challenging, but once again it was a great way to get to know Paris, get to explore Paris, and learn a little bit about the French education system too at the university level. And then, when I was working in France, I did the Teaching Assistant Program in France, and I was placed in a town called Niort, which is a medium-sized town. It’s in the central west of France, just east of La Rochelle.

And you’ll know, in New York, there’s New Rochelle, so the people who settled in New Rochelle were from La Rochelle. That was a fun tidbit I could tell my students. And that was really fun. There was less culture shock, because I had already lived in France before, and I was an English teaching assistant for elementary school kids, so that was really fun to work with that age group. We mostly did games and songs to learn English, and the kids, at least with all the primary school assistants that I talked to, everyone said that the kids loved them, and that was my experience, too, that the kids are really excited to have assistants from England, and the U.S., and other parts of the U.K., and Ireland, and India. You’re kind of a novelty to them, and they’re really excited to learn about your country, and who you are. So that was really fun! I lived with a family when I was teaching as well, and they had two school-aged children, so that was fun. And another thing that I loved about living with host families is that it’s just another layer of learning about the culture and what life is like in another country. So, learning their family recipes, and cooking with them, watching French TV, that kind of thing was another great way to be more immersed in the culture and learn more about the country. And then, obviously, immersion is such a good way to learn a language. When I was living in Belgium, it took me, I would say about 4 or 5 months to really get the language, but still that’s pretty fast!

JULIA: Totally. And when did you begin working with the Alliance Française du Westchester? 

ALICE: I started working at Alliance Française in January 2020, so I’m still relatively new, and it was almost right before we had to transition because of COVID-19. 

JULIA: What kinds of things do you do daily for your job, for the 2 months before COVID, and then since COVID?

ALICE: I do a lot of fielding emails and telephone calls. I help with registration for classes, I address inquiries about classes from prospective students. I answer members’ questions, and I also help out with social media a little bit, too. Post COVID, I’ve taken on a little bit more of a technical assistance role, since all of our classes have been moved to online. I’ve been helping members figure out any technical problems they’re having, helping members get used to online platforms like Zoom and Google Hangouts for classes. We’ve also been trying out Apple Learn, which is another online class platform, so getting used to that. I have also helped with organizing and promoting cultural events. Obviously cultural events online are very different than in person, so being there on a screen to monitor the live chat and Zoom, lead breakout groups, that kind of thing for the cultural events. And then, as some of our members know, we’ve been sending out newsletters for Culturethèque, our digital library, and also online Francophone cultural resources, and so I’ve done a little bit of editing and sending those newsletters.

JULIA: What is your favorite thing about working with the Alliance Française?

ALICE: I have to say, our team is really great! Everyone is super nice, and very helpful whenever I have any questions or any problems, and it was a really welcoming atmosphere to enter into. And then, I also love the community on a whole. I like that we all have this shared interest in French and Francophone cultures and French language, whether we’re American, and anglophone francofiles, or francophone people living in Westchester. The staff, I find this community really kind and welcoming. It’s also great to be part of a multicultural team, as well. I’ve learned more about France and other part of the world working with our teachers and administrative staff.

JULIA: And I know you touched on this before, when you were speaking about yourself, and your experiences living abroad, but when did you start learning about French language and culture, and was there something that really made you want to start learning about it?

ALICE: At the school I went to, in 6th grade, we had the option to learn French. We could choose between French or Spanish, and I chose French. I was doing ballet, and had been doing ballet since I was little, so that definitely made me interested in wanting to learn French. I was also really interested in fashion design at the time, and I dreamed of living in Europe, so French seemed like the best option. Like I said, I really got serious, I wanted to become fluent after living in Belgium. That kind of showed me that it was possible for me to speak a second language, because learning languages when I was in school had kind of been a struggle. I wasn’t predisposed to learning languages, they were more challenging for me. But after living in a country that spoke a different language, I was like, “Oh, this is possible, and this is something that I really want to learn and get good at.”

JULIA: Is there anything else you want people to know about you?

ALICE: I’m here to answer any questions that you may have, help you register for classes, help you find the right class for you or the right program that we offer that’s right for you.

JULIA: Alright, well thank you so much for letting me interview you, and being our first interview!

ALICE: Thank you! Have a great day. Bonne journée!