Club Series: La Maison Francaise
French Housing Community Combines Culture And Language For Its Residents
Published: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 6, 2013 22:10
It’s hard to mistake Chestnut Hill for Paris, but that mistake is easily made at La Maison Francaise, or “The French House,” at Boston College.
La Maison Francaise is a special interest housing community located in Voute Hall. La Maison Francaise strives to provide students with access to the French language within a multicultural living environment.
“Students proficient in French reside in apartments with others speaking the same target language,” said Didem Alkan, the house’s graduate fellow-in-residence since 2012.
“Residents commit to speaking French in order to optimize learning potential and exposure to the language,” she said. As graduate fellow-in-residence, Alkan organizes, along with the residents, activities designed to improve the residents’ French language skills and to enhance their knowledge of Francophone cultures.
In addition to speaking French with each other, the residents are also expected to attend at least two of the many cultural events that the house puts on each month. Furthermore, the residents are required to organize at least one of these events during their stay at La Maison.
“Most of our events are open to the public,” Alkan said. “We show at least two films per month, we play French Scrabble, and every month we have a ‘Salon de The’ in which we discuss a topic chosen by a resident.”
Although some events are reserved for residents only, most are open to anyone at BC interested in the French language and culture. All French-speaking students and faculty are encouraged to attend La Maison’s activities, which include film screenings, guest speakers, special dinners, and outings to museums.
“In my elementary French class, we are strongly encouraged to attend events at La Maison Francaise,” said Greta Quintini, a student in her first year of French and A&S ’17. “It is a great resource for us to expand our knowledge of French language and culture.”
This month, the screening of the films “Entre les Murs” and “Persepolis” are among the featured events happening at La Maison, which also include a music festival and a presentation on French bread. Activities are posted on a monthly calendar that can be found in the Romance Languages department located in Lyons Hall.
“This year, we are also planning to organize a French film festival, if we are accepted for the grant,” Alkan said. If the funding is received, several films will be shown in a festival this March, and other student organizations such as Hillel, the African Students Organization, and Delta Pi Phi will contribute to this multi-cultural festival.
Admission to the house is available to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Additionally, a limited number of spots may also be available to students seeking residency for only one semester. Students looking to apply for housing at La Maison should be at least moderately proficient in French and have a genuine interest in participating in the language and cultural events offered. To apply, students must submit an online application by late January and attend an interview conducted in French with the graduate fellow-in-residence. Prior to applying, interested candidates are encouraged to attend events at the house.
“You lose everything you learned if you don’t continue to practice a language,” said Alkan, who is not a native French speaker herself. This is why La Maison Francaise and its events are so useful for everyone interested in maintaining and improving their French-speaking skills. Alkan, who leads the French discussions that take place after events, said that living in the house has greatly improved her French skills.
“La Maison means community,” said Christian de los Santos, a resident of La Maison and A&S ’14. “We share the same appreciation and quest for experiencing the best of the French culture and language. Every day should start with a ‘Bonjour!’"