Faces of Rhodes

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Emily Sullivan ′13

Hometown: Glenview, IL
Major: French
Minor: Religious Studies

Academic Interests/Passions: In addition to French literature, I am particularly interested in studying gender and sexuality. This past summer, I was a Regional Studies Fellow, and I researched sex education in Memphis City Schools. I am currently taking two fascinating courses in Sociology and Religious Studies on gender/sexuality, which serve well in continuing my research and academic growth. I am also currently writing my French thesis on Marguerite Duras’ book L’Amant.

Extracurricular activities: Communications Web Coordinator Intern (RSA), International Peer Advisor (iPA), RIRS Fellow 2012, Springdale Elementary School tutor (2011), Humane Society volunteer, Amnesty International Publicity Coordinator (2011). 

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

I was initially looking at liberal arts colleges on the East Coast—Rhodes wasn’t even on my radar! However, when my father looked at the Colleges That Change Lives book and saw Rhodes, he encouraged me to check out the college website. I then decided to schedule a visit, and well, the rest is history. I not only found the Southern hospitality to be very attractive, but I also loved seeing how much love students had for their campus. Additionally, I knew that I wanted to go to school in a city—particularly one as underrated as Memphis, that is not only soulful, but provides many internship and community engagement opportunities.

How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes College?

I was much more of an introvert and not really a risk-taker during my freshman year at Rhodes. However, I underwent a huge transformation when I studied abroad on direct exchange at the University of Poitiers in France during the 2011-2012 academic year. This unique opportunity—which pushed me out of the comforting environment of Rhodes—helped my maturation process and strengthened my critical thinking skills. Rhodes is a very nurturing yet academically challenging environment, which clashed with the chaotic French system I faced upon arrival. With the skills I acquired at Rhodes, I developed the confidence to travel independently and economically throughout France, England, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Palestine, Israel, Italy, and Greece! As a result of my study abroad experience, I have become much more responsible, self-reliant, and accountable for myself. I have learned to take advantage of Rhodes’s excellent resources—the outstanding faculty, study abroad, rigorous academics, and fellowship opportunities—in order to develop myself as an individual.

Why did you choose to be a French major? How do you think a major in Modern Languages will benefit you in your future career?

I knew that I wanted to study abroad for an entire year on exchange, and I recognized that majoring in French would allow that opportunity. In addition, I loved that French courses comprised a plethora of subjects—literature, history, art, sociology, gender/sexuality, etc. Not only am I able to study an abundance of subjects in French, but I also have developed strong, lasting bonds with faculty members. The intimacy of the department is one of the most rewarding aspects of the major. Currently, there are only two senior French majors and four faculty members. I typically meet with my advisor and other faculty members once a week for a few hours in order to further develop my thesis, which is a very rigorous but gratifying process.

Next year, I plan to work as an English teaching assistant in Paris. The French Department at Rhodes has a connection with the Lycee Duruy in Paris, which is one of the most prestigious high schools in Paris. This exchange permits a Rhodes student to teach in Paris for an academic year, while a French teaching assistant is given the opportunity to conduct a conversation class at Rhodes. I was fortunate enough to be selected for this honor, and I plan to use my time abroad to discover whether teaching is the career I’d like to pursue. However, Rhodes has taught me a very important lesson that people oftentimes overlook—that your major does not dictate your career! Although my future career may not include speaking French on a daily basis, the ability to be able to speak a language other than English has given me leverage and confidence.

Compiled by Ellie Skochdopole

Tags: Modern Languages and Literature, Religious Studies, Illinois