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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

French immersion

City College French professor Erica Piedra has spent much of her life mastering the French language. Piedra’s fi rst-hand experiences traveling abroad, especially the time she spent in Belgium, helped give her confi dence and form her approach to teaching. Photo by ||Jack Remson|| [email protected]

“Bonjour. Ca va?” she asks, while walking into her morning French class at City College.

Some students answer with a simple, “Ca va bien.” Others simply nod and smile.

French professor Erica Piedra walks up to her desk at the front of the room with a water bottle in hand and two large totes with stacks of paper. She looks at her class with her everyday smile and starts her lecture.

As Piedra writes past tense verbs and exercise questions on the board, her students see only their instructor. Few know the story of Piedra herself when she was a student embarking on a journey.

Piedra, 37, not only spent much of her life mastering the French language, but also traveled abroad, she says, experiencing life-changing moments that have influenced the person she is today.

As a 19 year old in 1993, Piedra set out to Belgium to work in a study abroad program, giving her a visa, a host family and a job at a restaurant, she says. Having taken two years of college French, she had knowledge of the language, she says, but it was difficult interacting with customers in the beginning. However in the end everything came together and when coming home after two and-one-half months, she was fluent in French.

Coming from a Latin family, Piedra was intrigued with the language.

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In her youth, Piedra’s parents had always been strict on her, but they were open to anything that pushed education, allowing her to travel abroad as a learning experience, she says. She had a real job for the first time, assisted her host family with chores and was able to go out for a cup of coffee or out to the movies while learning about a new culture and also gaining freedom.

All those experiences have made her a better professor.

“A professor becomes a more effective instructor being immersed in the language,” says Jesus Lopez, 40, a City College colleague and Spanish professor.

Piedra’s experiences have given her a better understanding of the language and culture, and by sharing them with her students, she hopes they get a different insight, she says.

“She gives a different perspective into French culture from her first-hand experiences, especially in Franco-Belgie culture,” says Jonathan Guerrero, 25, one of Piedra’s student.

Piedra says she set out to learn, which allowed her to become a better professor later on. But those experiences also gave her the freedom to leave her safe and comfortable lifestyle, taking her through self discovery.

“It allowed me to grow and see myself as an individual with my own voice and perspective,” Piedra says. “I would not have gained the self-courage to stand in front of the classroom.”

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