French major Camille Harrington's advice for new students

Written byAshley McClure-French

“My experience in the Cajun & Creole Studies program has given me a sense of self-confidence because, being a Cajun and growing up in the heart of Cajun country, I have a unique experience and knowledge that I can bring to the table, especially in the world of Francophone studies.”

Camille Harrington
Abbeville, La.

Where I'm From

I’m an Acadiana native with a family tree full of Cajun roots. 

Where I Am

I’m a French student exploring the importance of my own unique cultural knowledge in the Francophone world.

Where I'm Going

I am going to get certified to teach French immersion in Louisiana and preserve Cajun & Creole culture.

Camille Harrington is an Acadiana native who is passionate about learning and teaching others about her culture. She found the perfect way to pursue that passion in UL Lafayette’s French major with the Cajun and Creole studies minor.

“Whenever there is a dialect that is as unique as Cajun French, the way we use language affects how we perceive the world,” she said. “That’s why I want to work to really preserve the dialect and continue to develop while also help to preserve the traditions that have just been so heavily commercialized, stereotyped, or just lost.”

Before coming to UL Lafayette, she didn’t know the opportunities available within the field.

“I thought that pursuing a career – especially in Cajun and Creole studies – was just not viable or something that I could do as a full-time job,” she said. 

“But I was made aware of the Escadrille Louisiane program,” she said. “There’s a whole world of opportunity that I never knew existed until I encountered the Department of Modern Languages at UL Lafayette.”

Camille's Advice for French Majors

Camille has four big pieces of advice for new students.

1. Don’t be intimidated

With four years of high school French under her belt, Camille tested out of some of her beginner French courses after taking the Advanced Credit Exams.

“If someone is planning on taking any kind of language courses while at UL Lafayette and they already have any degree of knowledge in that language, I recommend they take that exam,” she said. “It is so useful.”

Because of the Advanced Credit Exams, Camile was placed into Intermediate French II (FREN 202) in her first semester.

“I knew I was a freshman in a class with a bunch of juniors and seniors – which, I will be quite honest, going into it, I was having nightmares,” she said. “But I felt so welcomed. A bunch of the older French majors and minors took me under their wing.”

By working together with her peers, Camille was able to get through challenging circumstances, like going into a course taught entirely in French.

“It was intimidating for me,” she said. “But I love that we have such a diverse faculty, many from countries such as Belgium or France or countries in Africa. 

“They know that this is your second language and you know far more than you think,” she said. “You will never be left high and dry.”

2. Explore the course offerings and other opportunities

“Just poke around and take a look at all the different courses that we offer,” she said. “When you get to your upper-level courses, there is such a variety of French courses and options for the different electives that you can take. There were some things that I didn’t realize you could do a whole class on.”

Camille’s favorite class so far has been her Introduction to French and Francophone Literature (FREN 311) with Dr. Amadou Ouédraogo.

“Dr. Ouédraogo is from a former French colony in Africa, so he was able to give us such a unique perspective, which I especially appreciated because a lot of time Francophone Africa is glossed over in a lot of French studies,” she said. 

“Being able to compare and contrast French literature versus Québécois literature versus Louisiana literature versus Francophone African literature,” she said. “It was — hands down — my favorite class.”

While her classes are important, Camille also knew she wanted to become involved on campus. 

“It’s incredible how many student organizations there are,” she said. “The one that definitely takes the most of my time is the Ragin’ Cajun Catholics. I’m practically always in the Catholic Student Center.”

Camille is also part of a research lab on campus that utilizes her specific field of study. 

“I am part of a research lab with Dr. Elena Babatsouli in the Department of Communicative Disorders,” she said. “She is doing a research project connected to Cajun French, so you have your speech pathology students and a few of us French majors working together. 

“I really have been blown away at how many research opportunities are available to undergrads – not just in STEM fields, but also in the humanities,” she said.

3. Trust the professors

“I cannot speak well enough about the faculty,” she said.

When Camille’s classes moved online for the Spring 2020 semester during the COVID-19 pandemic, she ran into some technical issues.

“A piece of farm equipment hit our telephone line, which is also our internet line, so I did not have internet for about 24 hours and in that 24 hours we had a test online,” she said. 

“My dear professor – I sent him a very panicked email in what was probably broken French – he was so understanding,” she said. “I was like ‘Wow, professors are human beings!’”

Camille’s professors are just as supportive when there isn’t an emergency.

“The professors always seem like they’re there to help you,” she said. “It is intimidating knowing that I’m going to spend the next hour and fifteen minutes trying to make sure I get all the details for my assignments and everything in a language that I am not fluent in yet. 

“You feel at ease, though,” she said. “They are masters of teaching French as a second language.”

Camille loves that she gets perspectives from all over the Francophone world right in her own backyard.

“By the time I graduate I’ll have had professors from Africa, France, Romania, Belgium, all over — and I don’t even have to study abroad to do that,” she said. “Diversity is the program’s greatest strength."

4. Check out the Cajun & Creole Studies minor

“This minor in particular is one that can be merged well with a lot of majors,” she said. 

For Camille, a major in French was a good pairing with the Cajun and Creole Studies minor, but she recommends it for other majors, like music or history, as well.

“Even if you just need a minor and you have no idea what you want for a minor, take a look at it because there are so many courses offered for it that kind of go under the radar and they are little diamonds in the rough,” she said. 

Camille recommends the minor for out-of-state students to get to know Louisiana as “more than just gumbo, crawfish, and the New Orleans Saints.” 

“Seeing the depth of our culture and how the various indigenous people and people of color as well as the French settlers and the Spanish settlers and how that came together to make one of the most unique cultures that we have in America – I feel like that is something just so valuable to at least just consider looking at,” she said.

As an Acadiana native, Camille has found there are benefits to learning about the culture she grew up in.

“My experience in the program has given me a sense of self-confidence because being a Cajun and growing up in the heart of Cajun country, I have a unique experience and knowledge that I can bring to the table especially in the world of Francophone studies,” she said. 

This sense of self-confidence in her culture has shown Camille that UL Lafayette is the perfect place for her. 

“I am someone that before I make any kind of decisions, I will do a ton of research,” she explained. “And even then, I will second guess my decisions. 

“But choosing UL Lafayette to study French versus any other university – even an ivy league – I never doubted that decision for a second,” she said. 

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