History and French and Secondary Education, Oh My!

By Miriam Roth

Me in front of Chenonceau, my favorite castle of the ones I visited. It is a fascinating historical landmark— originally built in 1513, and both Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici "embellished" it. Also, it's just magical!
Me in front of Chenonceau, my favorite castle of the ones I visited. It is a fascinating historical landmark— originally built in 1513, and both Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici “embellished” it. Also, it’s just magical!

“What’s your major?” It’s a question that any college student has answered a thousand times, and I am no exception. My answer, though, is a bit of a mouthful any way you slice it.

Yes, I’m one of those crazy people who smashes three disciplines together and goes for a double major. I came to Hope tentatively leaning toward some combination of History and French, with Education lurking somewhere in the back of my head, and—well, what can I say? Three years later, this is where God has led me. I’ve had my ups and downs, but right now I’m three quarters of the way through my tenure as an undergrad, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In finding my way to studying History, French, and Education at Hope, I have the History department to thank. It was the outreach of History Professor Marc Baer which convinced me to come to Hope. Throughout my journey here, it has been a tremendous blessing to know that my professors are always willing to encourage and challenge me on a personal level. In fact, I have received incredible support from the faculty and staff of all three disciplines in which I am involved, and as a result I’ve had a variety of interdisciplinary experiences which have allowed me to combine my passions in exciting ways.

Here are some of my favorites:

Summer History Research in Washington, D.C.
Me with fellow Hope College researchers Ian, Sam, and Jon at the Library of Congress.
Me with fellow Hope College researchers Ian, Sam, and Jon at the Library of Congress.

As part of a two-month summer research project with faculty mentor Professor Jeanne Petit, I and three other history majors traveled to Washington, D.C. There, we studied documents about the 1918 United War Work Campaign that were housed at the Library of Congress and other archives. In addition to honing my historical research skills, I also got to work a little bit with French (reading and translating some French-language newspapers) and with Education (thinking about how to make our final project, a website, an accessible learning experience for the public). We also interacted with student research teams from Italy and Pakistan. I found these interactions to be wonderful opportunities to engage in intercultural learning, which is an important aspect of all three of the disciplines that I study.

Semester Abroad in France
Me with my friend Emily (a recent Hope grad) in front of one of Nantes's most famous attractions, the giant mechanical elephant at the Machines de l'Ile. The Machines are inspired by Jules Verne, and this one walks, carries people, and even sprays water out of its trunk!
Me with my friend Emily (a recent Hope grad) in front of one of Nantes’s most famous attractions, the giant mechanical elephant at the Machines de l’Ile. The Machines are inspired by Jules Verne, and this one walks, carries people, and even sprays water out of its trunk!

Last fall, I spent about three and a half months living in the city of Nantes, which is in historic Bretagne in northwest France. This was the perfect opportunity for me to grow my language skills and interact firsthand with French (and bretonne) culture, but also to engage with history and education.

I was able to take two history classes which, thanks to support from Hope’s history department, counted toward my major. One of these classes, “France and the Atlantic World,” allowed me to learn on-site by observing remnants of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century port activity around the city. I also visited numerous cathedrals, châteaux, and other historic landmarks in Nantes and around France.

On the Education side, I had an internship teaching English in a French school, for which I largely developed my own lesson plans and curriculum. With all of the opportunities that study abroad brings for all sorts of majors (and combinations thereof), I cannot recommend it enough!

Presentation at the National Conference of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)

Studying History Education means that I not only think about understanding and analyzing history myself, but also about effectively teaching students how to develop historical thinking skills and master key content.

As part of a project for an Education class and the Mellon Scholars Program this past spring, I conducted a case study on Document-Based Learning, a fairly recent initiative in History Education. This was my first substantial foray into History Education research, and I came away with new appreciation for and understanding of teaching history and thinking historically. As an added bonus, I have been accepted to present my research at the NCSS’s National Conference in Washington, D.C. this December, alongside social studies educators from across the country!

So, yes, I am one of those crazy people who smashes History, French, and Education degrees together, but looking at where such craziness has led me, I feel nothing but grateful for the path I have taken. I highly encourage any student interested in History to combine it with other majors and minors, and to engage in the wonderful opportunities that come with interdisciplinary learning.

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