The UIndy Francophone Club introduced the University of Indianapolis to a bit of French culture, during their French Week from April 7-11.
The Francophone Club is a recent addition to the menu of Registered Student Organizations after the former French club disbanded. According to Assistant Professor of Modern Languages Peter Vakunta, the main focus of French Week was to make the club’s presence known and to convey its purpose to the university.
“The point is to sell ourselves and to let the community know that we are here and that we have a purpose,” Vakunta said. “It is important to us to export the francophonese experience from the classroom to the community.”
French Week began with a giveaway table on April 7 in the Schwitzer Student Center Atrium. The club gave away T-shirts in exchange for the correct answers to basic Francophone trivia questions on topics ranging from vocabulary to geography.
On April 8, the club featured a French themed meal in the dining hall. According to Vakunta, the important thing for the student body to take away from the meal was an understanding of the many different cultures that contribute to the hybridity of Francophone cuisine outside of France.
“We are going to have some meals that represent Cameroonian, Seychellese and Gabonese culture,” Vakunta said. “But it is impossible to serve any certain food that is representative of the entire culture. There are over 56 French-speaking countries outside of the French hexagon, and you cannot represent them all in one evening.”
Le Café Français marked the halfway point of French Week on April 9. The café hosted an informal discussion-based forum in which a diverse group of individuals with Francophone backgrounds, including Vakunta, Assistant Professor of Modern Languages Sarah Ohmer and two students, shared their experiences with attendees. Topics of discussion ranged from cuisine to cultural imperialism.
Also among the Francophones who spoke at Le Café Français was Executive Director of the Honors College and Associate Professor of Modern Languages Amy Allen Sekhar who described herself as a Francophone by choice.
“I learned to fall in love with someone else’s culture,” Sekhar said. “And I feel lucky, because I can choose to put it on as I wish.”
The Soirée Ciné, or movie night, was on April 10. The film shown, entitled “Le Dîner de Cons,” is the original version of the more recent remake, “Dinner for Schmucks.” After the film, a short discussion took place about the cultural aspects.
The culmination of the French Week activities came with a fundraiser for the nearby Laurelwood community, which has a number of families with children who live below the poverty line.
UIndy Francophone Club Treasurer Carolyne Wilhelm, a freshman international business and French major, said the event raised $500.
Wilhelm said that it was great to see so many people get involved throughout the entire week.
“What French Week meant to me was that we were able to bring a culture that most students only hear about to their front door. Engaging students with a language and the various Francophone cultures that we love was an amazing experience,” she said. “Every member of the French Club worked hard to create a fantastic week, not just for the club but for the community around us.”