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French Connections: Professor Connects Student to French Town From Class Reading

Posted Nov. 29, 2010

Kent State University is making great strides not only statewide and nationally, but also on the global scale. With the help of technology, Kent State students and professors are now more connected to the world than ever before. And, Kent State University's international reputation is growing among people who have never set foot on American soil.

Bailey (left) on her French visit.

Anna Bailey (pictured, front left), senior international relations major and political science minor, recently visited Ploubazlanec, a town in the Northwest part of France. The town is the setting of Pecheur d'Islande by Pierre Loti, a novel Bailey read in her French Composition class. The novel focuses on a Ploubazlanec fisherman named Yann, as well as the importance of North Atlantic cod fishing to the community.

Bailey was so enthralled by the work that she decided to visit the town and absorb its unique culture, so with the help of her French professor, Dr. Richard M. Berrong, Bailey was able to coordinate travel and housing in France.

Berrong conducts his French classes very differently than the average foreign language class - instead of having students converse with each other, Berrong invites his various friends in France to talk with his students through videoconferences. This allows the students to experience how the language is used by a native speaker, rather than through a textbook. "They find this exciting - if a little intimidating at first - because, unlike the usual, it is real," Berrong says of his teaching methods.

Bailey first met Pierre Floury (in red shirt), the curator of the Ploubazlanec Historical Society Museum, during one of Berrong's videoconference exchanges. Floury's interesting remarks about the history and culture of the town helped compel Bailey to travel to France.

Floury, who said that his grandfather's cousin "Grand Yann" was the inspiration for the character Yann Gaos in Pecheur d'Islande, gave Bailey a tour of the museum to help welcome her to the town. "Inside [of the museum] you can find hooks and sinkers of every size and shape, model ships, as well as pictures and memorabilia from boats," Bailey says.

Her visit drew interest from journalists, and Bailey was interviewed for a variety of newspapers including Ouest France, which has the largest circulation of any daily newspaper in the country.

Kent State is well-known in that region of France, says Bailey. "Everywhere I went ... the people would smile and say "Ah! Oui! Je sais Kent! Avec Professeur Berrong!" which translates to "Oh! Yes I know Kent! Professor Berrong!"

To see an example of the videoconference Anna Bailey and her fellow French Conversation classmates had with Pierre Flory, go to and enter the password "password1."

By Erin Dwinnells