student uses sewing machine with others in background.

Service-Learning in Paris

LSU French Studies students master the language while volunteering in Paris.


PARIS, FRANCE – Dr. Kevin Bongiorni, Associate Professor of French and Italian at Louisiana State University, has been innovating in the world of service-learning while leading a study abroad for nearly half a decade. What started in 2018 as an experimental course, Bongiorni now regularly teaches a French language class (FREN 4100) aimed at developing conversational competence and cultural understanding. The course uses immersion in service work in Paris and France as its primary teaching tools.

Student testimonials illustrate the transformative potential of the LSU in Paris program. LSU alumnus Imerson Joao went through the program’s first iteration in 2018, calling it “life-changing.” 

As Joao explains, “Four years later, I still learn from the service-learning course.”

After graduation, Joao chose to donate funds to help make LSU in Paris accessible to future students who would otherwise not have the means to afford studying abroad. 

“To me, [service] is one of the best ways to shape yourself,” he said, reflecting on his experience in Bongiorni’s service-learning course. “I have really come to understand the meaning of serving a cause greater than myself through serving.” 

Twenty students have gone through this four and one-half week study abroad program and taken the class, each completing 30 total service hours in the process. This summer, LSU student Zoe Joubert chose to work with the House of Zero Waste as one of her service activities. Their mission is dual: to cultivate greater respect for and treatment of our global environment while also honoring persons with few resources. One of Joubert’s activities happened in conjunction with Soie Rouge (Red Silk), and was to sew reusable feminine napkins for people who cannot afford disposable ones.

“Working with Maison de Zéro Déchet was one of my favorite service activities I did this summer with LSU,” Joubert remarked. “Working with this organization I was able to help with a cause I care so much about, helping the environment and supporting other women, but I was also able to significantly improve my French. 

“Doing the service-learning with LSU has been so impactful on my French because it forces you out of your comfort zone. For me, I hadn’t sewn in over five years, so I was constantly asking questions and communicating with the lead associate for the activity. It was truly an amazing experience, and I am so grateful to have gotten this opportunity.”

LSU students have also worked at local markets that reduce food waste by redistributing it, made compost, served meals at the Salvation Army, and more through this class.

Bongiorni and his students do this work by partnering with Benenova, an umbrella organization that collaborates with over 140 service organizations in and around Paris that allows students the opportunity to find and choose from a wide variety of service activities that appeal to their unique needs. Bongiorni’s students have excelled at deeply engaging with French culture, people, and the language while doing unique work outside the classroom. 

Bongiorni is recognized in the field for his innovations. His work has been published in journals such as Currents, Semiotica, and Pacific Coast Philology. 

“In over thirty years of teaching and over twenty-five years of experience in study abroad this service experience is the pinnacle of my career,” Bongiorni said. “There is no greater satisfaction as a teacher than seeing these students grow, gain confidence, improve their French and their knowledge of French culture through the relationships they establish performing their daily activities working with community organizations serving that community.”