The Tufts in Talloires summer study abroad program was back in full swing this summer after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From May 17 to July 1, various Tufts faculty members and approximately 70 students returned to the beloved Tufts European Center in Talloires, France, and spent six weeks learning, collaborating and connecting with the local community.
In an interview with the Daily, Tufts European Center Director Gabriella Goldstein explained the history and legacy of the program and campus. The main building on the Tufts European Center campus is the Priory, a monastery dating back to 1018, which was acquired by a Tufts alumnus, Donald MacJannet, who gifted it to the Tufts community in 1978.
“Having seen World War I and … World War II, [MacJannet wanted] a place where people are going to come together and have important conversations, where they are going to exchange ideas … and feel a sense of global citizenship, so that there will be peace,” Goldstein said. “And so that’s kind of our legacy.”
In Talloires, students can take two courses for college credit. The courses are taught by Tufts faculty, and the course options span across multiple different disciplines, according to the program’s official website.
In explaining the program’s curriculum, Goldstein highlighted that all nine course options have a pedagogical connection to Talloires.
“All of the classes that we offer here need to show a connection to this place. Not Talloires specifically, but there needs to be a reason that they’re going to be taught here,” Goldstein said.
One of the courses offered this summer was The French Enlightenment: Art and Political Thought, co-taught by Vickie Sullivan, a professor in the Department of Political Science, and Andrew McClellan, a professor in the Department of History of Art and Architecture.
Sullivan explained that while she focused on teaching Montesquieu’s and Rousseau’s thought through the course, McClellan taught the trajectory of art history in the 18th century.
Sullivan reflected on her co-teaching experience with McClellan this summer.
“I really enjoyed learning from [Professor McClellan]. I know him as a colleague, … but I didn’t know him as a teacher,” she said. “It was great because I felt like I was a student when he was teaching.”
Sullivan also told the Daily about some of the precautions that students and faculty took, in light of the presence of COVID-19. She said that they wore masks out of courtesy during the first week because people were traveling from different places.
“That being said, people got COVID but the cases were mild,” Sullivan said.
Once the students were acclimated to campus, Sullivan noticed that students were excited for intellectual and social engagement in Talloires.
“The students who were there this year were really sort of the COVID generation and they had been deprived so much. … They just threw themselves into everything and just had a blast,” Sullivan said. “This year, the room was packed, … you couldn't keep the students away. It was anything, any sort of intellectual engagement they were really excited for.”
Another course offered in Talloires was Animation in the Alps, taught by Joel Frenzer, a professor of the practice in media arts at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. For his course, students documented their immersion experience in Talloires through the medium of animation, Frenzer explained.
Frenzer added that his class had the opportunity to attend the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, the largest international animation festival in the world, and for their final, all 12 students shared their animated short films with the entire Tufts in Talloires program.
“We [had] a screen and a projector and they hadn’t really seen their work with an audience like that before,” Frenzer said. “[A lot of the films were] personal, they get vulnerable, and real and honest. And there is an emotional transformation that happens by watching all their work that you can feel with the audience. … They got a standing ovation and they were just so proud.”
Frenzer further noted that the Tufts in Talloires program allowed him to get to know his students on a deeper level and befriend fellow Tufts faculty members from the Medford/Somerville campus that he wouldn’t have otherwise met at the SMFA.
“The program is excellent because of the bonding with other faculty. … All these faculty that I would never come across, we are in the same small French village for six weeks together, and we go out to eat together, and we talk and we know each other’s families,” Frenzer said.
Outside of the classroom, students and faculty had the opportunity to explore the local community and connect with each other, Goldstein added.
“I think the community piece is important. So we have a field day of games that we do. …. We do hikes. We invite all the children from the community to come here. … We did a watercolor painting afternoon,” Goldstein said. “So as much as possible, trying to … [have] facilitated activities that will help people connect with each other and feel more comfortable with us.”
Tufts in Talloires students and faculty do not just interact and explore the local communities as outsiders, but they also live with them throughout the program. An integral part of the Tufts in Talloires program is that students are required to live with a host family in Talloires or Annecy, and they have the option to have a Tufts housemate.
Camille Smokelin, a sophomore who participated in Tufts in Talloires this summer, shared that she lived alone with an older French woman, which enabled her to practice her French skills and learn about French culture.
She also told the Daily about her typical day in Talloires, which included spending an average of three hours in classes at the Priory and the rest of the day out and about.
“I would go to class and … after that, you would just go to the beach and continue to spend time with people outside of the classroom setting,” Smokelin said. “I felt like that was the most special part of it, that you got to, number one, be in such a beautiful place that encouraged community in that way but also get to see your peers as students and also as friends, so continuously, seamlessly in one day.”
If students are interested in participating in the Talloires program and, by extension, summer abroad programs through Tufts, they should apply early, look into scholarship opportunities and reach out to the Tufts European Center, junior Lucy Millman explained.
Reflecting on her time in Talloires, Millman noted that while the program has its distinctive advantages, accessibility and affordability remain to be an issue in her view.
“Everyone I came across are some of the most lovely and wonderful people I've ever met. The region is beautiful. Those are some of the happiest and most lovely six weeks of my entire life,” Millman said. “I just hope that it gets the funding it needs to continue to be more accessible, because I think the only thing that would make that program better is that if everyone on this campus has the opportunity to partake.”
After two years of upheaval amid the pandemic, this summer’s return of students and faculty to Talloires reignited a flame of excitement and appreciation, both in and outside the walls of the Priory, which will continue to spark and grow as the future unfolds.