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Scholars ready for adventure abroad

TO FRANCE: A St. Petersburg High School French teacher will have a year to absorb the language and culture there. She hopes to bring it back to her International Baccalaureate students.

It became a summertime routine, chaperoning high school students to study the culture and language of France.

But this summer's end brought an exciting change for Evelyn Nan Griffin, a French teacher with St. Petersburg High School's International Baccalaureate Program.

Last week she boarded a plane for France, where she will teach and study for a year as part of the distinguished Fulbright educational exchange program.

Griffin, 54, was eager to begin her adventure.

"I will be able to learn about the French culture," Griffin said in a telephone interview from New York, where she was saying goodbye to her parents.

"I just think it will be such a wonderful thing for my students here in the States ... I will be able to bring them up-to-date information on the French culture and French language," said Griffin, who has a master's degree in French from Vassar.

"I'm comfortable in France, but I am really looking forward to being there for a longer time," she said.

Back home in St. Petersburg, her Fulbright counterpart, Ghyslaine Boivigny, was settling in to Griffin's northeast neighborhood condominium. The two have exchanged homes, so Griffin will live in Boivigny's Paris apartment on Rue Mouffetard in the city's Latin Quarter.

"I believe that I would enjoy living in St. Petersburg," Boivigny said Friday. "I was really impressed with the beauty of nature, the trees, the birds ... I went to the Pier."

While Boivigny will teach French to students in the IB program, Griffin's assignment will be to teach English at the prestigious lycee Louis-le-Grand, the school attended by writer and philosopher Voltaire and French President Jacques Chirac. The school, across the street from the Sorbonne, is where Boivigny has taught for 12 years.

"The classes have about 30 students and I will have about 15 to 18 hours of classes a week, which is a lot less than I have here," Griffin said two days before she left for France.

Griffin, whose daughter, Nicole, will live in Paris with her and attend the Sorbonne, said the year-long program will be good for her French.

"It will help me because I will be surrounded by French. . . . The television will be in French, the theater will be in French. I will be working with colleagues who speak French. I will be able to continue my education."

Boivigny, 45, will be joined this week in St. Petersburg by her daughter, Annaelle, 18, who is likely to attend classes at St. Petersburg Junior College while continuing her French university studies. Boivigny's 22-year-old son will remain in France.

Although Boivigny is looking forward to the beginning of the school year, she is a bit nervous, she said.

But she need not worry.

"We will work very closely with her to make her feel very comfortable, because I anticipate that she is nervous and I anticipate that the American high school experience is different from the secondary school experience in Paris," said Linda McPheron, coordinator of the IB program.

McPheron said at least two social events are planned.

"I do know that the foreign language department chair is thinking of having some type of a reception for her," McPheron said.

The IB program also is planning a reception to welcome Boivigny and a new chemistry teacher, she added.

The French exchange teacher, who has visited the United States many times in the past, had a chance to meet Griffin during a Fulbright Program orientation in Washington, D.C.

Griffin and Boivigny are joining an elite alumni. Writers John Updike and Eudora Welty, musicians Aaron Copland and Anna Moffo and U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan are among the program's graduates.

Said Griffin of her selection, "I am very fortunate."

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