For graduate student and French teacher Camille Meritan, being at Fort Hays State University is nothing like her old life. Camille, who usually goes by the nickname “Frenchie,” grew up in Normandy, France before she ever came to the U.S.
“It’s pretty flat,” Meritan said. “We don’t have hills, where I live. Or you could drive just one hour, then it gets really pretty. But where I live, it’s so ugly. It’s like a city of like 307 people. But it was close to the sea. Like on Sundays, I would just take the car and go and walk.”
After a visit to Colorado with a friend earlier in her life, Camille already knew she wanted to someday come back to the U.S. She loved everything about America.
One of the things that stood out especially, though, was the friendliness of Americans.
“French people are really rude compared to here,” Meritan said. “I was really amazed the first time I came to Colorado. You go into a store and people are like, ‘Hey, how are you?’ The first time, I turned to my friend and said, ‘Do you know her?’ ”
One of the biggest contrasts between Meritan’s life in France and Meritan’s life in Hays are in the differences between the college campuses. The biggest ones that her French university lacked were all the extracurricular activities that Fort Hays has to offer.
“We didn’t have sports,” Meritan said. “You couldn’t go to any events like football games and stuff. So it was really boring – you didn’t meet people.”
Her college in France was government-paid, meaning she also didn’t have to pay tuition, so having to meet tuition costs in Hays was initially a challenge. Thanks to her job as a French teacher on campus, however, Meritan was able to meet those costs and pay for her living expenses as well. The job she accepted was to be a graduate assistant for French, but she ended up teaching the class. In doing so, she discovered her own love for teaching.
“If I can get hired here as a teacher, I’ll take it,” Meritan said. “But if I have to go back to France, I guess I’ll take another PhD in sociology. But if I can stay here and get a teaching job, I’ll do that. I really want to stay in America.”