What is Necessary to Succeed

First Prize Blue RibbonAshley Allen
First Prize, Fall 2017 Essay Contest

What is Necessary to Succeed

In my first year of elementary school, my change in school brought about a more significant change in the perspective of my five-year-old mind: the introduction of a French class. This class was no small feat, being entirely conducted in French with no help whatsoever from the teacher (or as I had interpreted at the time). I returned home, tears welling in the corners of my eyes, complaining to my mother about the strange new beast that was French class. My mother’s only response was to express her annoyance that the school didn’t choose a more ‘useful’ language such as Spanish. Yet, my first day in French class pushed me on a journey that would continue to span twelve years and beyond, guiding me in lessons in resilience, determination, and giving me the skill sets to reach my goals in life.

French has never come easily to me. Having apraxia, a learning disability which affects verbal speech, I always described English as my second language, going through years of speech therapy to reach the same level of verbal processing as my peers. Thus, to my dismay, French presented a not so unique challenge that brought me back to my days of continuous work. Yet, French remained the one constant in my school schedule, requiring me to put in double the amount of effort and time to stay with the pace of my class. Determination, perseverance, and resiliency became a constant in my life, stemming solely from my French class. As I progressed in my schooling, these same academic values drove me to accomplish and perform at my very best, all prompted from my continuance with the French language. These same values allow me to succeed in any aspect of my life, whether it be through breaking through my writer’s block, solving an unsolvable problem at my job, or merely pushing through the last set when working out.

Now, taking the ideals I adopted from the language, I want to use the linguistic side of French to further my career pursuits. My dream is to travel the world in a creative field. Currently, I am thinking of pursuing a career at National Geographic, one in which I would be able to explore the world, write about the stories of our society, and document my experience through art (more specifically photography). French would allow me to have the added bonus of not only standing out on a resume but also allowing me to interact with the locals as a traveler not a tourist, fully permitting me to immerse myself in my environment. I believe one of the most harmful assumptions is to assume everyone one encounters will speak English and will want to speak English. Even as a potential business and political science major, French is the second most used language in business and an official language of the United Nations. French expands my worldview, which I believe is needed in our increasingly globalized world.

Therefore, the ability to speak French allows me to interact with a broader range of people on my travels. Already, I am utilizing the language to fully take advantage of the opportunities presented to me. This summer, I will be teaching French to English speaking students in Paris and the south of France. I will be learning how to better navigate the city and improving my fluency. Additionally, I will be taking photos of my environment and the students to send back home to their parents in written updates, truly turning me into a proxy journalist for the trip. Finally, I am looking into studying abroad next fall at an art school sponsored by the Savannah College of Arts and Design in Lacoste, France. I would be studying photography and writing to further my dreams of becoming a global journalist. Having this prior experience, which was opened to me by my ability to speak French, I would be ahead of my peers when applying to a National Geographic position, allowing me to finally say that I get paid to do what I love: traveling the world and creating art.