Pardon her French


Photo Credit: Matt Shiels

Emma Shiels poses in Annecy, France

by Lauren Patasnik, Staff Writer

The young girl with brown hair and green eyes climbed into her sailing boat and started heading towards the horizon. The rain was hitting her face while the wind swayed her back and forth. She suddenly heard a smashing sound and was almost thrown overboard. Her boat filled with water and nightmares began flooding her mind. 

Earlier that summer—in fact, —every summer— Emma Shiels and her family leave everything behind and take a vacation to France, where much of their extended family still live. Each year is full of new memories, but one has stuck with her ever since it happened. 

On a warm day in France, she decided to sign-up for a sailing camp. She had no experience in sailing but thought it would be a fun summer story to share. Once she signed-in at the camp desk, she was prepared for a peaceful day at sea. The only thing that made her agitated was the heavy rain and wind that had just begun. The instructors reassured her that everything was perfectly fine and sailing would be safe. She walked into the French Riviera and stepped onto her sailboat. After a couple minutes passed Shiels unexpectedly heard a loud crashing sound from below and the whole boat shook. Immediately, water started to flood into the boat. An instructor handed her a cup to bail the water out. This was one of many memories she had of traveling to France.

Even though Shiels has lived in the United States her whole life, she said being French is a part of who she is

“I definitely wouldn’t be who I am without it,” she said. 

By traveling to France every summer, speaking French everyday, living a Ffrench lifestyle, and taking French class, she never forgets this part of her.

Ever since she was a little girl, trips to France meant so much to her and her family. When she travels there with her mom, dad, and 2 brothers, she always stays in Nice, Paris in her grandmother’s complex. She also sees her cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends. 

During those two months she travels to Lyon, Italy, Santra Monaco, Santro Cafara, Saint Tropez, Aix en Provence, and Annecy. On the daily, she enjoys shopping, going to bakeries and restaurants, tanning at the beach, and going out with friends.“Everything is better,” she said of France. “The weather’s better, the people are better…” 

Shiels was recently voted President of the French Club, taking over the position from her brother who graduated in 2019. When she has time, she bakes French pastries for the club for everyone to eat while listening to French music and discussing French culture.

Along with staying connected to her French heritage, Shiels has been taking French as a foreign language since the sixth grade.

“My grammar is not the best and it helps me with writing because I was really brought up on speaking,” she said.