Solana Travel Writing, Spring 2021
It was a beautiful day in Lyon, France in the Fall of 2014 as Katie and I wound our way up Fourvière Hill. After having graduated College the previous Spring, I was accepted into a program teaching English abroad, so I packed up my bags to go to France for the first time. 4,561 miles from home, I started my journey knowing only one other person in the country: my friend, Katie, a fellow English Language Assistant, was stationed in Strasbourg. During the Toussaint school break in October, Katie came down to visit and explore Lyon with me. She and I decided one afternoon to hike up Fourvière Hill overlooking the old city (Vieux Lyon) to visit the ancient Basilica, Notre Dame de Fourvière. Vieux Lyon and Fourvière are two of the major tourist spots in Lyon, so we of course had to check them out on our “Tour de Lyon''. While I expected to see beautiful sights on our tour, what I didn’t expect was to discover a new way to live my life.
While atop the hill, we saw an older couple struggling to take a selfie, so, as any good tourist would do, I offered a picture swap: we would take their picture if they would take ours. With the backdrop of the picturesque Vieux Lyon below us, they readily agreed. In talking to the couple, I noticed that their French had a distinct accent to it that I couldn’t quite place. Being that we were all tourists, I asked the classic “where are you from?” and received a not-so-classic answer:
"On est citoyens du monde," the couple said as they handed me back my camera with a laugh and a shrug. “We are citizens of the world.”
It turned out that the couple was originally from Greece and had moved over the years from one country to another for their jobs; their unique accent reflected their time spent in the various countries. Katie and I felt a connection with the older couple for we, too, had embarked on a journey that had taken us to a new country and a new place to set down roots, temporary though they may have been. At that moment, I realized that I also wanted to be a citoyen du monde; I wanted to become a true citizen of the world just as they were, learning from different cultures and bettering myself by expanding my cultural horizon. That brief conversation outside Fourvière led my life in a previously unforeseen direction as I decided that, not only did I want to be a citoyen du monde, but I also wanted to help others find the joy of becoming global citizens, as well.
Since coming back to the United States, I have spent my years teaching French to American students and working with International students, trying to help all people appreciate and understand other cultures. While many language teachers prefer to focus on colors, clothing, or food for their lessons, thanks to the couple on Fourvière Hill, I took my teaching in another route. I decided to focus my classes on the heartbeat of la Francophonie and discuss real issues facing French speaking countries such as racism, environmental issues, and current events. I wanted to give my students a real taste of what it's like to live in a French-speaking country and grapple with the issues facing people in la Francophonie every day. To be a real citoyen du monde, one must have exposure to the culture beyond the surface-level "bonjour" and "une baguette, s'il vous plaît".
The legacy I hope to leave with those who know me is one of intentional internationality: the world truly can be changed for the better by learning to work side by side with people of different backgrounds. I have learned to be careful and deliberate with what I say, for if my life was changed by some casually spoken words from someone I met in passing, my words have the power to change someone else's life, as well. If I knew how to find that couple from Fourvière, or if I even knew their names, I would thank them for having such a profound impact on my life simply by being themselves and sharing a brief part of their story with me. While unintentional on their part, their legacy of intentional internationality has expanded exponentially and lives on in me, in the lives of my students, and in the lives of those with whom my students interact.
My name is Delaina Brock. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, I studied French most of my life but didn't have the opportunity to visit France until the Fall of 2014, when I worked near Lyon, France with a company called TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France). I taught English in two different middle schools for the 2014-2015 school year in the Academy of Grenoble. Since coming back to the US in 2015, I have been teaching French to both American and German exchange middle and high school students in Atlanta and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The title of my article is "On est Citoyen du Monde", which translates to "we are citizens of the world". The article details a particularly poignant but brief encounter my friend Katie I had in passing with an older couple who left me with the idea that we are all, in fact, not only citizens of our native (or chosen) country, but really citizens of the world. Reinforcing the idea of seeing each other as all fellow citizens of the world and breaking down the barriers that divide us has been my goal as I have taught in the US the last 5 years.