#ElonGrad 2020 Spotlight: Claire Gerkins, French

In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2020 from a wide array of disciplines.

Claire Gerkins

A French major and Honors Fellow, Gerkins was awarded the Prix d’Excellence dans le Programme de Francais a Elon for 2020.

What led you to major in French?

My first semester freshman year, I was taking French Cuisine and Culture with Associate Professor of French Sarah Glasco, and we went to grab coffee. I had always loved French and knew that I wanted to study abroad in France, and Dr. Glasco told me how easy it would be to major in French. I was undecided in general so I decided to just go ahead and declare my French major since I wanted to take lots of French classes anyway

How did undergraduate research enhance your education at Elon?

My sophomore year, I decided I wanted to pursue veterinary medicine after graduation, so I knew that I wanted to somehow combine French and some kind of study of animals. That led me to read French memoirs concerning animals and human relationships with/perceptions of them. I was supposed to present at SURF and NCUR which were unfortunately canceled due to the pandemic, but I luckily got to present a part of my research at the Undergraduate Conference of Language and Cultures here at Elon.

What is your proudest accomplishment at Elon?

I think my proudest accomplishment was definitely the completion of my Honors Thesis. As a freshman, an extensive research project in another language would have seemed impossible, and I am so proud of how far I have come linguistically.

How did your relationship with your mentor impact your educational goals or growth?

My research mentor was Associate Professor of French Olivia Choplin. She was the best mentor I could have imagined because she pushed me to be my best at the same time as being understanding and empathetic. She introduced me to different ways I could enhance my thesis, for example, including French philosophy, and definitely showed me how to keep working despite sometimes being frustrated, having writer’s block, or just having a difficult time in general.

What are your future plans?

After graduation, I am working as a veterinary assistant at an animal emergency clinic while applying to vet school. I am hoping to then pursue a career in veterinary pathology or veterinary microbiology.

What advice would you give future Elon students?

My advice to a first-year at Elon is that: 1) It is absolutely okay to not know what you want to do! When I was a freshman, I felt a lot of stress to declare a major, but it took me some time to know what I wanted and it was absolutely okay! In the end, I was still able to complete all of the pre-veterinary requirements, study abroad, and graduate in four years. And 2) Make sure you take time to take classes on a subject that interests you

What is your favorite Elon tradition?

My favorite Elon tradition is absolutely the Luminaries! I absolutely love how beautiful the campus looks all lit up (not to mention the festive spirit and the hot chocolate).