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Friday, March 11, 2005
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Memories of Martinique: Winter intersession programs offer a break from the cold

By Kelly Durso

For some students, the winter blues have set in. Walking to class in the snow and the cold is no picnic, and there are reminders of playing in the sun. Each year, Ohio University students have the opportunity to get away from the cold with the university?s winter intersession programs.

In her office, surrounded by students, on a wintry day, Yolande Helm, professor of modern languages, reminisces about Martinique. For the first time, Helm took 10 students to the French-Caribbean island of Martinique to study Francophone literature. For three weeks, they studied and read books by Francophone authors including Suzanne Dracius and Aime Ceasaire.

?Not only did we read the stories but we were also able to see what we read,? says Giovanna Mignosa, a senior from Sicily, Italy. The group went on trips to Saint-Pierre, the old capital of Martinique that was destroyed by a volcano eruption, and they went kayaking in the Mangroves. All the excursions were not only fun but relevant. The group calls the trip, ?literature in context.?

A winter intersession program not only gives students the chance to see things they would never see but also to meet people they have never met. A highlight for this program was meeting the legendary author Aime Cesaire, who was mayor of Martinique for 50 years and is still a political activist today.

?To hear an actual author read his own work and explain it with his eyes and facial gestures, it gives you goose bumps,? says Mike Gulley about the interview with Cesaire.

Cesaire, who is 93 years old, also shared stories with the students about how he comes up with the titles for his books.

These are the kinds of experiences Helm wanted her students to have. ?My passion, first of all, is for Francophone literature and countries, especially in the Caribbean and Africa,? says Helm of why she wanted to teach this course. ?[I wanted to] give students another opportunity to see another country besides France.?

Helm has achieved her goal. As the students reminisce, their faces light up as they tell stories of their adventures in Martinique. They all remember the bright colors, the music, and the people. Most importantly they took something away from the course through end of the class presentations.

?I was very touched not only as a professor, but because I could see something else besides the academic presentation,? Helm says. ?There was something great to each presentation. You could tell they were passionate about it.?

These students decided to escape the winter blues through a winter intersession program in a foreign county. Their experiences in Martinique will keep them warm throughout the quarter and in the future, something other students should keep in mind for next year.

For more information on the winter intersession program in Martinique, contact Helm at helm@ohio.edu.

Kelly Durso is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.

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