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Vol 37  No 14
May 19, 2005


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Not just for students

Teaching abroad

By Tracey Mills


Dr. Ronald Rompkey (R) in the courtyard of the Sorbonne with François Moureau, professeur de littérature.


It’s not unusual to hear the adventures of students travelling to the far corners of the world, but faculty also venture out of their offices and go off exploring. Dr. Ronald Rompkey, Department of English, has just returned from Bordeaux, where he was a visiting professor for one month teaching 18th century British literature and Canadian literature to undergraduate and graduate students.

“Working in Bordeaux was a rich experience for me,” said Dr. Rompkey, leaning across his desk. “Working at another university gets you out of your narrow framework and exposes you to other perspectives and people. It forces you to extend yourself and your boundaries.”

The University of Bordeaux maintains a large international relations program and invites faculty from all over the world to come and teach. Participants come from the United States, South America, Poland and Canada, to name just a few. The visiting faculty are then inserted into programs of study that correspond to their academic interests.

While in Bordeaux, Dr. Rompkey lectured on Margaret Atwood as part of the Canadian literature program and French travel literature in Newfoundland, a subject covered extensively in his latest book, Terre-Neuve: anthologie des voyageurs français, 1814-1914. He also covered a variety of subjects in the British literature program.

“Most of the students did not know where Newfoundland was, so I had to draw them a map before I could talk about the French presence in Newfoundland. A couple of American students in the class were curious to know if I knew about Great Big Sea, so you can imagine their surprise when I told them that I had taught one of them,” he said with a laugh.

The Canadian Embassy in Paris sends to all French universities with a Canadian Studies program a list of academics visiting in a given year. As a result of this, Dr. Rompkey was invited to other universities to lecture. During the month he was in Bordeaux, he also traveled to Avignon, Poitiers, and Granville, Normandy, and lectured at the Sorbonne on French travel literature in Newfoundland.

After finishing in Bordeaux, Dr. Rompkey stayed in Paris for a month reading dispatches from St. John’s at the Quai d’Orsay. “The same French consul was in St. John’s for 18 years, until 1903, so he got to know everyone in government and was well situated to comment on what was happening,” added Dr. Rompkey about his latest research interest. “I am interested in how he interpreted Newfoundland life for the French government at the time.”

As Dr. Rompkey points out, several colleagues at Memorial are researching Newfoundland’s connections with France as a result of the French fishery on the West Coast which finished in 1904. The departments of History and French and the Archaeology Unit in the Department of Anthropology are all involved in this research area in their own individual ways.

Dr. Rompkey hopes to get the opportunity to return to Bordeaux to teach again sometime in the future. “Participating in another university, operating in a different paradigm and language and trying to accommodate myself to this was challenging and exciting, but it made me realize that their goals are similar to ours at Memorial ­ we both want to provide an enriching educational experience.”

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