451 Quai Henri IV

Third Prize Yellow Ribbon
Owen VanderBilt
Third Prize, Spring 2017 Essay Contest

451 Quai d’Henri IV

In the town of Dieppe on the Alabaster Coast of France, there is a crumbling stone building that overlooks the boats docked in the harbor. Though the roof has long since collapsed and the walls fallen in, the door and foundations have held fast through the years. Every Sunday as I passed by this brick ruin, I could not help but stare and guess as to how it looked when its mortar was first laid. I was delighted when, near the end of my stay in France, I found a sign on the front of its moss covered gate with the words, “En Vente” meaning that if I wanted to, I could purchase this incredible relic.

As I am now coming up on my senior year of college, I find myself thinking back to that house often and checking the Dieppe listings. The house is still on the market and shows every sign of staying there for many years. When I mentioned it to my brother, we agreed that it would be a dream to fix up and own a piece of old France that we could use for reunions or as a base for vacations in Europe. Of course, the thought of owning this wonderful ruin seemed at first to be just a fantasy; however, as we continued to talk, the dream seemed to show more and more promise of coming to fruition. All it would take is some hard work.

The first step is to finish my studies here in St. Peter. While completing my courses for French and Computer Science, I would file my application to the Teaching Assistant Program in France for the 2018-2019 year. This program, nicknamed TAPIF is one of the largest exchanges for young men and women who wish to teach English to French high school and middle school students. Many Gustavus students as well as my brother have applied and served a year abroad. This program not only supplies students with teaching experience, but it also works wonders towards building fluency. I would need this TAPIF experience because of what comes next, applying for a post-graduate program in the French University System.

While many would assume that the English-speaking world is the leader in the Digital Sciences, this is simply not true. Much of the most cutting edge work being done in Set Theory and Machine Learning is found in French Universities. With some luck and my ability to speak and write French, I will be accepted into one of these institutions. International students, especially Anglophones are often preferred as they can read about research being done all over the world without a need for translation.

After completing my studies, I plan on returning to the United States and hopefully settling down and teaching as a professor of both French and Computer Science. While life in the States will be nice, I know I will be looking forward to when I can fly back to Charles-de-Gaulle. From there, I will be one train ride away from the town of Dieppe and the house that captured my imagination. Hopefully, if I keep practicing my second language, I will be able to bring my family and make it our little piece of history.