Letter from Anne-Marie Detourbet, '59
to Darren Drabek, International Student Coordinator
I was a French international student at Skidmore just over 50 years ago: I spent only one year at the College, 1956–57, in the class of ’59. I had been awarded an assistantship grant from Skidmore, including tuition, books, and room and board. In addition, my travel expenses were taken care of by a Fulbright grant. I still think it was an invaluable gift, for which I remain thankful.
My academic background was a full three-year cycle in the only business college open to girls in France at that time, plus extracurricular activities as a cub-scout chieftain. I had six years of English through high school and three years of intensive business English at college. So I had no real difficulty understanding the professors. But their way of teaching was quite different: small groups, friendly attitude. One teacher asked me why I did not participate more, but I had not been educated to do so! Multiple-choice questions was another problem, because I did not know how to study to be able to answer them; they were unknown in France at that time. But I was quite good at writing essays. I took Advertising, Labor Relations, and a government course with Henry Galant (what a good teacher he was!). In addition, I took English literature including "The Rape of the Lock" (a hard time!) and an American arts course which I still enjoy to have chosen.
Of course, airplane flights were scarce and expensive, so I traveled by boat, crossing the Atlantic on the Ile de France. My luggage was a huge trunk and a vintage suitcase that I could not carry. (My father probably had ideas of transatlantic journeys which could not apply to a student...)
Although I had a warm welcome at Skidmore, I would advise international students to stay at least one week with a family prior to joining the college, to get the basics of US social codes and habits. It took me a while to understand what was Columbus Day, and I discovered Halloween and Thanksgiving. Also the dating system was different. I later realized I had been much too critical, comparing the USA and France.
I had marvelous dorm friends at Peabody House, who helped me the year round and invited me to their homes. As a matter of fact, my husband and I had dinner in Paris last night with the daughter of one of them, and last year we hosted the son of another one with whom our son had made an exchange 30 years ago. So friendship and welcome are long-lasting. Thank you so much.
With best regards,
Anne-Marie Detourbet ’59