I’m a Tulsa Kid: Rachel Stromberg

Photo Credit: Ashley Valdez

Rachel Stromberg
Age: 17
Junior at Booker T. Washington High

Rachel earned a perfect score on the on the American Association of Teachers of French Exam and scored first in the state and first in the nation on the National French Exam.

She was also awarded the 2010 Mayfest Young Artist award for one act play; the 2011 Scholastic Writing Contest Silver Key, for a short humorous play; and the 2010 Beverly Riggs Scholarship, Oklahoma Association of Gifted, Creative, and Talented

Q: Tell me about the American Association of Teachers of French exam.

A: The National French Exam is a multiple-choice test with sections based on reading comprehension, listening, grammar, and vocabulary. The exam’s website states,

“Students of French in grades 1-12, in all 50 states and abroad, take a written test and compete against students with similar educational background for prizes.” This year almost 100,000 students participated, and around 20,000 took the test at the third level (that is, students enrolled in French III), as I did. I was pleased and surprised to find out that I was one of 11 national first place winners out of the almost 20,000 Level 3 students.

Q: What does it mean to you to get this honor?

A: Mostly, I think it means I’ve had some pretty good teachers! After going through Eisenhower’s French immersion program, I attended the University School at TU for middle school. French courses weren’t offered at University School (although I did get to take Spanish and Chinese classes). Coming back to the study of French in high school, I was a little worried that I would have lost a lot of my French during those three years, so winning this award is pretty reassuring. I also have to thank my French teacher at Booker T., Mme. Leonard. She’s a wonderful teacher and a fabulous wordsmith – she has really helped me develop my French language skills. Also, I got a brand-new Larousse dictionary as a prize, which is always a plus.

Q: How many years have you taken French?

A: I was lucky to have the opportunity to participate in the French immersion program at Eisenhower International School from kindergarten through fifth grade, which gave me a really solid foundation in French. It also helped me with Spanish in middle school. At the University School, many of the kids have been taking Spanish since they learned to write their names, so it was incredibly helpful to have a background in a foreign language already—particularly one so closely related to Spanish. French gave me an enormous head start when I started learning Spanish, and, in turn, my experience with Spanish helped me to catch back up when I began taking French again in my freshman year of high school. I’m also considering taking Italian during my senior year—Booker T. is the only high school in the state that offers an Italian class!

Q: Have you studied abroad? If so, tell me about that? If not, do you plan to?

A: I didn’t participate in the fifth grade student exchange trip to Amiens offered at Eisenhower, but I have been to France twice with my family, and we’ve also vacationed in French-speaking parts of the Caribbean several times. These were all incredible experiences. We were so completely immersed in French that at some point I stopped feeling as though I had to translate everything I heard to English in my head. Those trips made me realize that I didn’t need to switch French words out for English ones in order to understand them, which was a significant shift in my understanding of languages. I plan to study abroad somewhere in Europe when I’m in college, preferably in a Francophone country. I’m kind of in love with Switzerland.

Q: What does knowing another language so well mean to you? Do you think it’s important for people to know another language?

A: There are countless benefits to being multilingual. I think everyone should learn to speak more than one language, not necessarily because China is a rising world economic power or because fluency in Spanish is a bullet point that employers love to see on a resume, but because it instills a certain sense of being part of the larger whole that is the world. Also, learning another language gives you a window into another culture that can’t be achieved simply by sightseeing or reading about it in books. I find that the more I learn about different languages, the stronger my command of English seems to be; really, diverse languages are interrelated in more ways than we might think.

Q: You’re about to go to Quartz Mountain. That’s quite an honor, too. Are you an artist as well?

A: I love to write and hope to someday write for television. I actually think my fondness for writing and French are related to a certain extent, in that both are derived from a love of reading. I’ll be attending Quartz Mountain in Film and Video; I auditioned by submitting a screenplay for a short film. The screenplay audition is a relatively new thing for the Film and Video program at Quartz Mountain, and I’m thrilled that I was chosen.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I want to go to the best college I can get into. I spent three weeks last summer attending the EPGY program at Stanford, and I fell completely in love with that school and campus, so Stanford is currently my first choice. Also, apparently in the film industry there’s a so-called “Wesleyan Mafia,” which makes Wesleyan sound appealing to me. It’s pretty early in the whole process, though, so things could change a lot by the time I’m actually ready to go to college. I love languages and do plan to continue to study them through high school and college.