Sharelle Govignon-Sweet

Sharelle Govignon-Sweet

English Teacher, Albi, France
Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Social Sciences

Ngāruahine, Tūhoe, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Te Pakakohi

Studying intercultural communication immediately resonated with her, says Sharelle Govignon-Sweet who completed a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Social Sciences.

“As a bicultural Kiwi who grew up in the multicultural community of Porirua, the intercultural communications papers I studied at AUT had a huge impact on me. Learning theories about intercultural communication helped me make sense of my world and explain my experiences to others. I loved learning from academic staff who are experts in their field, and appreciated being taught to question, challenge and critically analyse the world around us.”

What Sharelle didn’t know at the time was that her understanding of intercultural communication would also come in handy a few years later when she decided to move from New Zealand to France.

“Thanks to the papers I had studied at AUT, I could better understand the process of integration and adaptation people go through when they migrate. I was therefore able to monitor and explain the various phases of integration I was experiencing here in France. It gave me such strength that in the more than five years I’ve been in France I’ve never really experienced home sickness to the extent other new migrants do.”

Hard work pays off
She had many highlights throughout her studies, says Sharelle who received a number of awards for her academic achievements, including the Faculty of Culture and Society Dean’s Award, the Māori High Achiever Award for International Studies and the Award for Academic Achievement as a Māori Scholar in Social Sciences.

Other highpoints for her included being selected to represent AUT at Technos International Week in Japan and completing her final-year workplace experience at Auckland Council. However, one of the most rewarding experiences for Sharelle was being able to share her knowledge with other students.

“Due to my academic achievements I was offered a role as a Tuakana peer tutor.  It was incredibly humbling to be offered this role, and I loved helping transmit the information I was learning in class in a way that was relevant to other students.”

The opportunities for hard-working students are limitless, the AUT alumna says.

“Thanks to my academic achievements at AUT I was offered a place to study a master’s degree at the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Studies. While I wasn’t able to accept the offer, I’m incredibly proud to have been given this opportunity, and I think it’s a good example of the possibilities available to hard-working students of AUT.”

A new life in France
Now working as a self-employed English teacher in the south of France, Sharelle always encourages her students to consider different cultural perspectives.

“I currently work at the tertiary engineering school IMT Mines Albi, which is a Grand Ecole, France’s version of an Ivy League school. I teach third-year grad students and master’s students, as well as the personnel of the school. I also offer private lessons for adults wanting to upskill.

“With my tertiary students, one of the first modules I teach each year is cross-cultural communication. This is one of my favourite modules to teach, especially as France doesn’t have official policies around multiculturalism, so this is often the first time my students have engaged with these discourses. I love challenging my students to consider different cultural perspectives, and it’s hugely gratifying when I read students’ essays drawing on the very theories I learned from my teachers at AUT.”

She loves watching her students succeed, Sharelle says.

“In all of my classes I try to create a safe, comfortable environment for language learning. When I see people coming out of their shell and using English in spontaneous ways, it’s the best feeling. It’s a mixture of pride in my students, and a sense of accomplishment in myself that I succeeded in transmitting the necessary knowledge, and in creating the right environment for my students to thrive.”