In Episode 8 of Profiles in Franceformation, I interviewed Sandy Anderson, a retired English teacher who is a fellow graduate of the Middlebury College French School, which I also attended. Sandy, an American, was born in Ontario, Canada, went to school in Jamaica, and considers herself a “third culture kid,” as she grew up without the same cultural references as her American peers. We talk about how she developed her career and the challenges of maintaining relationships and friendships in the community of expatriated Americans in France.
In this episode, we discuss:
- How Sandy started learning French as a child in Ontario, Canada, and continued her study through the British school system in Jamaica
- Why it was difficult to start college in the US as an American kid who had lived all over the world, and the challenges of making friends when you don’t have the same cultural references
- How arriving in France in 1969, just after the May 1968 riots, into a completely renewed French university system, gave Sandy the opportunity to take classes at the Sorbonne
- The difficulty of being a foreign student in a French university, where you can’t express yourself in French as well as a French student — and a funny story about when Sandy used the new “contrôle continu” grading system to her advantage
- What happened when Sandy wanted to stay in France after graduating from Middlebury, and how she was able to land a work contract teaching English back before the UK joined the EU in 1973.
- The crisis Sandy experienced after around 7 years in France when she ultimately decided to spend the rest of her life in France.
- How Sandy’s career developed over 30 years, from teaching English, to teaching technology, to teaching technology in English, and how she was ultimately downsized and forced into retirement
- The dangers of being hired as an autoentrepreneur instead of as a salaried employee
- Her main criticism of the French
- When other Americans think we’re communists because we live in France – and what communism (and real politics in France) actually looks like
- Why Sandy made the decision not to become French
- What irritates Sandy about the community of Americans in France, and the things she just doesn’t understand about some people who move here and about Americans back in the States.