Rowan students awarded fellowship in France

Rowan students awarded fellowship in France


A seven-month immersion experience in France may sound like the stuff dreams are made of, but for outstanding Rowan seniors Amy Ribinsky and Kaitlyn Gaffney, it’s about to become a reality.

The students in the Thomas N. Bantivoglio Honors Concentration in the Honors College were two of just 1,500 students across the entire United States to be selected for the prestigious Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) fellowship program. From October 2019 through April 2020, Gaffney and Ribinsky will be living and working abroad, teaching English to elementary and secondary school students while immersing themselves in French language and culture.

A lifelong love of French language and culture

Ribinsky (at right), 22, from Medford, double-majored in Communication Studies and International Studies. Though she minored in French during her college career, she has known the language much longer. “I have loved learning French since I was little,” she says, “and I am looking forward to immersing myself in the French culture and sharing my own culture with my students.” She will be teaching students in Toulouse, a region in the South of France.

For Ribinsky, who anticipates graduating summa cum laude this month, this new chapter of her life perfectly ties together her past experiences and her goals for a bright future. “I have been teaching ESL for the past year with my internship at Literacy New Jersey and have absolutely fallen in love with it,” she says. “I can't wait to expand on that foundation next year before pursuing a career in study abroad or working at a university.”

Sharing a passion for language and communication

Gaffney (at right), 21, from Denville, is a senior Writing Arts major with minors in French, English, International Studies and Creative Writing. Her work assignment will include teaching in up to three secondary schools in l'Académie de Lille in Northern France. While the French language is clearly one passion of Gaffney’s, it’s a larger love for language and communication that drew her to her field of study and this opportunity.

“I have always been fascinated by the study and practice of communication,” Gaffney says. “I love that the field can be approached and explored in so many ways – creatively, professionally, globally. In this way, I have always most dearly enjoyed my studies in communication, writing and foreign languages.”

For Gaffney, the trip will be a welcome return to the beautiful country. “I learned about TAPIF when I was studying abroad in Paris and immediately recognized the fellowship as a perfect opportunity to share my passion by helping French students access another language—in essence, another method of communication—and another population of the world with whom communicating is possible.”

Gaffney will draw from the encouragement and exceptional caliber of education she received at Rowan from the Writing Arts and French Studies departments as she teaches her own students. She hopes to “contribute, in some small way, to the quality and accessibility of language education for young people.”

What is TAPIF?

Being chosen for TAPIF is a win-win opportunity. For the French elementary and secondary schools to which Ribinsky, Gaffney and other participants are assigned, bringing in native speakers strengthens foreign-language education programs. The educators have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse themselves in French culture and polish their own French language skills.

Ribinsky, Gaffney and their fellow American educators aren’t alone in their efforts. TAPIF is the American cohort of the international Assistants de langue en France program, managed by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States in conjunction with the French Ministry of Education. Part of the Centre international d'études pédagogiques, or CIEP, this program operates in 60 countries across the globe, bringing 4,500 young people to France and French-speaking territories French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion to teach 15 different languages to students.