Cali Pettit -French

March 25, 2024

Cali Pettit graduated from SSU in 2021 with a BA in French and Early Childhood Studies (Development).

Tell us about your studies at SSU.

I loved my time at Sonoma State. I was a double major in French and Early Childhood Studies, with a concentration in Development. SSU gave me some of my very best friends, and I met faculty who have been so incredibly supportive and have ultimately changed the trajectory of my life. I took lots of courses that interested me, and I was very involved on campus. I studied abroad in Lyon, France, which was an experience I will never forget. Sonoma State has an incredibly supportive environment, and I wouldn’t change a thing about my four years there.

When you were at SSU, did you have any idea of what you would do after graduation?

Yes, and no. In some ways, that was kind of fun. As I delved deeper into my subject matter, my plans changed as I grew and became a more confident scholar. I actually went into undergrad thinking I would be an occupational therapist. Once I started seriously studying French, however, I knew I was going to use that in my future career in some way. I left Sonoma thinking I was going to teach young children in a French-immersion classroom (which may still happen!), but now I’m on the trajectory to work in higher education, and hopefully, become a professor like the ones who have been immeasurable in my success.

Tell us about your trajectory after SSU.

Immediately after I graduated, I started my studies at UC Davis. I knew I wasn’t done learning and I knew I wanted to continue improving my French. Since then, I’ve spent two years here finishing my M.A., as well as taking Italian and teaching Elementary French (French 1, 2, and 3) to undergraduate students.

How did your studies or activities at SSU influence your future job opportunities / choices?

I think one of the biggest factors that influenced me to continue learning French was my time abroad. I studied abroad in Lyon in January of 2020, not knowing at all what was coming. It was supposed to be one semester, but for obvious (global pandemic) reasons, I had to come home early, after only two months spent in France. Even though my time abroad was short, it was a huge factor in my self-assurance of my French-speaking skills. I gained a lot of courage by speaking French with strangers, taking some very academically rigorous courses, and travelling around Europe. When I left France, I knew I was not finished. Roughly two and a half years later, I was able to return to France, just for a few weeks this summer, and stepping back into Lyon, it felt like coming home. If I hadn’t studied abroad, I don’t think I would be the person I am now. I would be lacking in a lot of self-development, and I wouldn’t feel as accomplished in my abilities. I’m grateful for the time I spent in Lyon, however short, and I’m incredibly thankful to SSU and my professors for encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone.

How has your French major helped you in your career?

I’m currently finishing up my M.A. in French and Francophone Studies and I’m about to pursue my Ph.D. in French, specifically studying 17th and 18th century theatre. I started studying French in high school, and I came to Sonoma State with a decent level of French, but still with much to learn. I began reading French literature for the first time and I improved my pronunciation and accent. What I learned in my four years in the French program at SSU gave me the courage to continue my studies in French. I came into Sonoma State nervous about speaking up in class, and I left as someone who is willing and able to take charge of her academic passions and is actively working to have a voice in academia.

What is working in your job (or jobs) like? What challenges or benefits have you found?

Currently, as a part of my program, I am a Teaching Assistant/Associate Instructor in French. I really love teaching, and it’s been a great experience. In general, though, I am not a fan of public speaking, so at first, it was a challenge to stand at the front of the classroom. Now, I really like it, and it’s been so much fun to connect with my students and see them grow over the course of the quarter. I’ve found that because of my position, I’m more confident and I’ve found a way to speak more eloquently and explain my ideas with more precision. 

What advice do you have for current students? 

Go to office hours! Ask for help if you need it! I think making efforts to talk with my professors and connect with them served me very well. I grew very close with several of my professors, and I know they’re rooting for me to succeed, and they are willing to help me along my path in any way that they can. It can be scary to be vulnerable and try new things that challenge you, but it is so worth it. I never thought I would be pursuing a doctorate, and I wouldn’t be where I am now without the support of my past faculty members who helped me make this all possible.

What do you see yourself doing five or ten years from now?

I will have graduated from UC Davis with my doctorate, and I’ll be teaching, in one capacity or another. Maybe I will be a professor or a lecturer at a university, or maybe I will be working with young children, teaching them French. I just know I want to keep speaking the language I love while encouraging others to find the same passion and spark in the French language as I have.