Students Experience the Francophone Working World through Community-Based Experiential Learning (FREN 346)

Students share about their experiences in a community-based experiential learning course that enables students to work with partner organizations within the francophone community. 

Source: Unsplash / @christinhumephoto

“This language-driven internship allowed me to deepen my oral, written and listening skills in French through immersion in francophone culture and daily interactions with the project manager.”
Undergraduate Student, Sauder School of Business

French 346: French at Work is a language course taught by Dr. Sylvia Bascou-Vallarino that gives students the linguistic skills to interact in a French-speaking workplace—from learning the appropriate etiquette to interact with colleagues and higher ranking employees in a respectful manner, to applying for bilingual job positions, writing a CV and cover letter, and participating in job interviews and job fairs in French.

In alignment with UBC’s Strategic Plan, FREN 346 also includes a Community-Based Experiential Learning component whose main objective is to increase understanding of how community engaged learning adds value to community partners and the student’s learning process.

Dr. Sylvia Bascou-Vallarino, Lecturer of French

After two semesters of coordinating 23 projects and stablishing nine partnerships, Dr. Bascou-Vallarino increased her ability to guide students toward the successful accomplishment of interdisciplinary learning outcomes through the use of community engaged learning pedagogical practices.


Experiential Learning

Students spent 20 hours working on projects with partner organizations from Vancouver’s French-speaking community in the educational, non-profit, and private sectors. After planning each project, identifying the challenges, and working closely with French-speaking project managers and implementing their directives, students gave two in-class presentations to describe the planning phase and the outcomes of their projects.

The experiential learning component encourages practical, work-integrated, and extended learning opportunities. Community-based service projects help students maneuver through the unique linguistic challenges that are not present in traditional classroom environments, while gaining exposure to bilingual and French job positions offered in the Francophone community.

Source: Unsplash / @saulomohana

Success in the Workplace

FREN 346 proved to be successful in equipping students to thrive in the French-speaking workplace.

In May 2020, former undergraduate student Gabrielle Llanos, Double Major in Spanish and International Relations, received a summer job offer at Réseau Femmes where she had done her internship for this course. She had the opportunity to organize a virtual yoga and relaxation session and virtual networking workshops for UBC students during the pandemic.

In February 2021, Isabelle Sarria, Major in Political Science and Minor in International Relations, obtained a position as Legislative Assistant in the office of the Leader of the Opposition in Ottawa using the skills she learned in the class to write a strong C.V. and cover letter, and to conduct herself professionally at the job interview—all in French.

Community-Building During the Pandemic

In addition to equipping students with the skills to work in a French-speaking context, it was also a chance for students to contribute positively to the francophone community. As the nation went into lockdown in March 2020, students helped service providers establish links with the wider community that was very much in need of staying connected during the pandemic.

For instance, Multidisciplinary Sciences student Charlotte Hill worked with La Boussole Francophone Centre on a letter-writing project titled « A portée de plume » (“Within Reach of the Pen”), which aimed to maintain contact between members of the East Vancouver community and the Collingwood School in West Vancouver in a physically distanced manner during the pandemic.

Project of Charlotte Hill.

Additionally, Sauder School of Business students Pablo Garcia Pena and Chenia Anderson worked with Réseau Femmes to translate a set of documents to encourage communication between parents and their children, and about identifying risky situations.

Project of Pablo Garcia Pena and Chenia Anderson.

Student Testimonies

“I have the confidence to apply to jobs that require knowledge of the French language.”
Undergraduate Student, Sauder School of Business

Partner organization: France Executive Circle

“We curated an online database of European-linked business clubs, chambers, and associations operating in Canadian provinces, with the goal of connecting the European business community across Canada. The classroom portion of FREN 346 strengthened my vocabulary and comfort level with the array of terms and expressions prevalent in francophone work settings. Additionally, the project component of the course provided me the opportunity to manage a real-world project with an external stakeholder and timely deliverables, while balancing a university course load.” – Jeremy Davies, Co-operative Education Student

Partner organization: Réseau-Femmes Colombie-Britannique

“My project entailed interviewing francophone women throughout British Columbia to recognize them for their positive influence in their communities as women in leadership, entrepreneurship, politics, education, and personal aid for RFCB’s 30th anniversary. The most valuable lesson I learned from this project is the importance of service leadership and how it positively impacts the lives of others, especially those in the francophone community. This language-driven internship allowed me to deepen my oral, written and listening skills in French through immersion in francophone culture and daily interactions with either the project manager or the nominated women. ” – Gabriela Lopez Gonzalez, Sauder School of Business Student 

Partner organization: Best of France

“I worked on a marketing project where I developed a bilingual press kit to advertise Best of France’s labelling program for food establishments—a task which involved both graphic design and copywriting. The most valuable lesson I learned from my experiential learning project was the importance of employing an iterative approach when collaborating with others on design-based projects where there is no single “right” way to design something. The most valuable discovery I learned from FREN 346 was that, with a little bit of practice, I have the confidence to apply to jobs that require knowledge of the French language. The lessons and activities in FREN 346 helped me regain my confidence in communicating in French.” – Larissa Franco, Sauder School of Business Student

Partner organization: Société de développement économique de la Colombie-Britannique (SDECB)

“I translated articles written by francophone entrepreneurs on the SDECB website from French to English. The most valuable lesson I learned was time management and independence. Since the internship was remote because of COVID, there was little supervision, which forced me to set tangible goals for each week, fix a dedicated time period for the job, and update my supervisor on my progress regularly.” – Andrea Quintana, Sauder School of Business Student (Finance)

Partner organization: Réseau Femmes

“We translated two documents of more than a thousand words each from English to French. Both documents will be posted on the website « Jeunes Leaders des relations saines » as a support to help relationships between parents and their children. The final product includes two documents that parents can read to be informed not only about what their children learn during the support sessions but also the way they can help their children at home. The documents teach them how to start a dialogue, how to ask questions and how to identify early signs of unhealthy relationships in their child. Outcomes the CBEL component of the course has been a rich experience that gave us the opportunity to work on a project that has a real impact on the community and gave us the opportunity to improve our French in a professional environment.” – Pablo Garcia Pena, Sauder School of Business Student (Accounting), and Chenia Anderson, Sauder School of Business Student (Finance)