Mercedes Varela - Grinnell College

This semester was supposed to be the culmination of my studies. It felt like I had been preparing nearly of my life just to have this opportunity. I started studying French in middle school and I enjoyed learning the language so much that I continued with it into high school. It was my favorite subject and it made the most sense to me. Upon entering university, I knew that I wanted to continue studying the language, maybe even until I attained fluency. When I learned that my university offered study abroad programs in France, I was even more enticed because it meant that I could have the opportunity to truly immerse myself in the language that I loved learning about. For nearly a year before my departure, I worked extra hours at my job to pay for the immigration documents and travel expenses required for the VISA process, studied for written and oral examinations required to identity my level with the language, completed applications for scholarships to cover the costs of living abroad, and organized airplane and train tickets to assure that I arrived on time for the program. After this expensive and stressful preparation process, my objective finally came to fruition this semester as I began immersive French studies in Nantes, France during the first week of January of 2020. Unfortunately, my experience came to an early end during the second week of March due to the mounting concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While I am grateful for the time that I did get to spend in France, I am unsure as to when I will have the financial stability and support to engage with another educational opportunity like this that gives me the option to take courses at a university with other French students, teach French high school and middle school students on a weekly basis, live with a host family that promotes my mastering of the language, and be onsite to understand the cultures that the language represents.

Despite this setback, I am planning on continuing to pursue my passion for foreign language and education through attaining a paid internship with an organization that uses education to help youth whose primary language is not English.


Mercedes Varela is a third year student at Grinnell College where they are majoring in French. They are also enrolled in a program that is preparing them to receive the license to teach both French and Spanish at the secondary level upon their graduation in 2021.