News & Events

First Person: Being Acadian for a Day

By Leana Tajkov
Media Relations Intern & French Student

Bonjour y’all!

Please take a minute to sit comfortably in your chair and hear the story about a long-lost Acadia...Let me take you on an amazing journey to Lafayette, Louisiana, a small town with a big heart for French language and Cajun culture. A group of students from the University of Mobile led by French professor Barbara Brousseau spent the weekend of April 12-14 in French-speaking Louisiana.

Saturday was reserved for the visit of the Cajun museum, a swamp tour, and a visit to the Vermilion Ville, a living history museum and a folk life park. This was a great opportunity for students to experience the history of Acadians, the descendants of the 17th-century French colonists who settled in today’s Louisiana. Vermillion Ville, the history museum, is very lively and accurately shows the ordinary life, culture, and lives of the Acadians during slavery and after the Civil War. It was a great opportunity to look into history and live in the 18th and 19th centuries just for a few moments, picturing everyday life in this land.

Barbara Brousseau, French professor, emphasized the importance of this experience: ”This trip was meant to be a hands-on experience where students participate in activities that make the Cajun community real and worthy of study and appreciation in modern time.”

“La cuisine de maman” restaurant gave that soft touch of real southern cuisine after the visit to the museum and the swamp tour. After the long tour at the village, the next destination was Borden’s, the last Borden’s ice-cream shop in the territory of the United States. The last stop of the Saturday trip was a Cajun restaurant with live traditional Cajun music that can be heard only in this part of Louisiana.

“We heard directly from them; we ate with them; we danced with them; we listened to their musical traditions; we prayed with them” said Brousseau.

Visiting the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, one of the most beautiful cathedrals whose history reaches 200 years ago, was a great opportunity for the students to experience Sunday mass and learn more about the Catholic denomination. The visit to the Tabasco factory on Avery Island was the last adventurous stop of the weekend. The Tabasco tour consisted of a brief history of the Tabasco sauce and its development. The mini-tasting of the Tabasco products was provided in the little country store that had the irresistible spicy scent.

Besides practicing French and creating new friendships, this trip was very educational, with the idea of bringing Cajun culture and French language closer to the students who are learning French.

“I was excited to learn about a part of America that still speaks French. We get into this mindset that to experience culture we have to leave the country, but it is amazing to travel only four hours and find a new world with its own special history and language” said Elizabeth Miller, French tutor and one of the students who took part in this trip.

“The French language for me is a tool to expose students to the fact that we are all ‘citizens of the world’ and that the Lord truly has ‘the whole world in His hands,’” said Brousseau, emphasizing the importance of learning and living the language and also opening our minds and souls to new experiences.

Brousseau is planning on organizing more trips to French-speaking areas in New Orleans, Washington, D.C., Paris, and Canada in order to bring the classroom knowledge and practical knowledge closer.

The magical scent of the southern food, tabasco sauce, swamp, and old houses of the Acadians will never lose its place in the minds of those six students who had an opportunity to meet a whole new world just down Interstate 10 from the University of Mobile.

Photos by Leana Tajkov

University of Mobile French students on a swamp tour. Leana Tajkov at right.

French class at Vermilion Ville

Vermilion Ville house