University of Kentucky

Kelly Hinkel ’11 AS enjoys her “once in a lifetime”
opportunity to live and teach in France

Kelly HinkelHaving grown up with a love for travel and adventure, Kelly Hinkel ’11 AS is pursuing her first professional job after college by working as a foreign language assistant at Lycée Emile Littré in Avranches, France.

Hinkel, who was a French and international studies major with a minor in political science, is originally from Oak Ridge, Tenn. The daughter of Greg and Vicki Turner Hinkel ’81 CIS, she was a Legacy student while at UK. Hinkel was a member of the UK Alumni Association Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow group and a TEAM WILDCAT member. She was also a member of the Student Sustainability Council and the Student Athletic Council.

Her early years on campus in Donovan Hall and Blazer Hall seem like light-years ago compared to her new duties “across the pond.”

“The program that I am working through is called the Teaching Assistant Program in France, but I am technically working at Lycée Emile Littré in Avranches, France (Emile Littré High School) as an Assistante de Langue Etranger (foreign language assistant),” says Hinkel. “Some of my responsibilities include discussion groups with students, sharing American customs and traditions — I gave each class a presentation on Thanksgiving and I am helping several different classes make a yearbook — and helping the teachers correct in-class assignments and oral presentations.”

Hinkel says that her program will last for seven months, finishing in May 2012. Originally, she says, she wasn’t certain about her job prospects after graduation, but the fact that she speaks French, studied in Paris the previous summer, and had wonderful experiences there, helped to firm up her plans.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduation, but I knew that I didn’t want to go to grad school straight away,” she says. “All the jobs I was looking into required some sort of ‘worldly’ experience, so I looked into several programs and applied to two similar teaching programs in France.”

As an international studies major, she says she had several friends who were applying to similar programs in France, Spain and the Peace Corps, which made the decision and the process a little easier. When she got accepted, she gave it more thought and decided that the chance to live and work in France and continue to travel was really a no-brainer.

“One of my life goals is to visit all 50 of the United States and so far I’ve visited 33. In addition to France, I’ve also been to Peru, England, Spain, Switzerland, Canada and Jamaica,” she says.(She hiked up Machu Picchu early in the morning to see the sun rise over the Andes Mountains.)

Hinkel shares an apartment at the school with a Spanish assistant and a German assistant. In France, she says it is very common for students and teachers to board at the school for the week and go home on the weekends. “It’s nice living with the other two assistants because we can share teaching tips and techniques,” she says. “Everyone always wants to know what language we speak to each other and the answer is French! Sometimes it’s rather difficult, but we manage pretty well.”

Hinkel says that one of the best things about living in France is that her mastery of the French language has improved. “But I’d have to say that the best part of working in France is all the vacation time! I get eight weeks of paid vacation over seven months and I plan on doing a lot more traveling!” she says.

Today she is enjoying her life in France, the camaraderie with other teachers, the short travel excursions and, of course, the food.

“French cuisine is amazing. It’s so hard to find a meal that I don’t love, especially in Paris,” Hinkel says. “But I’d have to say that banana and Nutella crepes are absolutely my favorite thing to munch on! I’ve also come to appreciate escargots. I’ve only ever eaten them in France and I’m actually quite scared to try them in the states because I’m afraid they wouldn’t be the same!”

Hinkel says the overall experience has been rewarding, and will prove invaluable when applying for other jobs or grad school. She recommends that students consider this type of employment.“There’s no harm in applying! Even if you aren’t sure you’ll actually be able to go through with it, applying gives you time to think about it without regrets!” she says.

“Of course, I miss my family and friends. I’m an avid sports fan so missing football and basketball season is pretty tough, too. But I refuse to miss a single UK basketball game, so I am anticipating many late nights and early mornings!”

- Linda Perry