A 20-year-old honor student at California State University, Long Beach is spending the 1999-2000 academic year abroad after accepting a position as a foreign assistant with the French Ministry of Education.
In her new position, Sharon Hathaway, a senior with a double major in medical microbiology and French, will be teaching English conversation classes at one of the largest high schools in France-Lycee de Presles with about 2,300 students.
"Initially, it was a difficult decision," noted Hathaway, a President's Scholar at CSULB who is deferring her scholarship while in France. " I eventually decided that taking a year off from my studies and graduating later was worth it to spend a year in Europe. I really think this trip is going to be a defining experience in my life."
Hathaway is one of four foreign assistants hired this year (two American, one German and one Spaniard, all female). The high school she will be teaching at is located just on the outskirts of Vichy, a small city in a mountainous region of central France. She will work 12 hours a week for a salary of around $20 an hour.
The four assistants will share a three-bedroom flat located on the school grounds. Hathaway said the rent for the flat (including utilities) is under $70 a month each, and lunch and dinner are available at the school cafeteria for under $3 a meal.
"The center of Vichy is about a 15-minute walk from the school, and there is a good public transportation system consisting of buses and trains," said Hathaway, who also mentioned that she will receive seven weeks of vacation during the year. "I'm going to get a Eurail Pass, and when I'm not teaching, I intend to travel Europe. My last two semesters at Cal State Long Beach have been really, really busy. This is going to be a nice break."
Hathaway took four years of French in high school, but she didn't take the language during her freshman year at CSULB. Shortly after, she began to realize her skills in the language were deteriorating. So, she decided to take French, and, more than that, she decided to major in it.
Still, she never imagined her love for the language would lead to a year of teaching in France.
"When Professor (Elizabeth) Dahab told me she was going to nominate me for the position, I felt like I had been hit by a bomb. It was just out of the blue," Hathaway recalled. "I was just walking along having a nice semester, and all of a sudden, someone tells me I have an opportunity to live in France for a year. It was very surprising, but I'm really happy to have this opportunity."
She is also admittedly a little nervous about teaching. With students ranging in age from 15 to 21, there is a chance Hathaway will be instructing students who are older than she is.
"I've got a little bit of teaching experience but not in English conversation. So, I am a little intimidated," she confessed. "But, I contacted the woman who had the same position last year. She lives in Great Britain, and she just told me wonderful stories about how there are no discipline problems at the school, and how there are 20 English teachers who are all very helpful in giving lesson-plan ideas."
In addition to her teaching and traveling, Hathaway said she was hoping to take a few classes toward her French degree at a local college near Vichy.
Hathaway, the daughter of Tim and Miyo Hathaway of Costa Mesa, is a 1997 graduate of Calvary Chapel High School, also in Costa Mesa, where she was a National Merit finalist. That distinction helped earn her a full academic scholarship to Cal State Long Beach through the President's Scholars Program.
Established in 1995 by President Robert C. Maxson, the President's Scholars Program was created to attract the state's best and brightest high school graduates to the CSULB campus. To that end, the program recruits qualifying valedictorians and National Merit Scholars from accredited California high schools.
Public Affairs Offices/Campus News