A Sooner Abroad
As a kid, Peyton Vann used to collect globes and maps and quiz himself on capitals from around the world. This was just an early indication of his interest in learning about different cultures and international topics, and this has remained steady throughout his entire life.
In high school he participated in different ministries, service projects, and camps that took him to places like Costa Rica, Jamaica, Ecuador, Belgium, Romania, and Wales. Vann, a native of Edmond, Oklahoma, then attended the University of Oklahoma. While a student, he studied abroad in both France and Italy and earned a degree in international studies in May 2018 with minors in nonprofit organizational studies and French. Now, he’s continuing that global interest and desire to serve others as a teacher through the Teaching Assistantship Program in France, or TAPIF.
TAPIF is a program through the French government that hires people to come teach English to French students for a school year. Since October, Vann has been at the Versailles Academy, a school district in the southeast part of the Paris metro area.
“Teaching overseas has definitely been both a challenging and rewarding experience,” Vann shared. “Some of my students are quite advanced and are excited to practice speaking and learn about American culture, while others have a very elementary level of English. I enjoy having the mix of levels because I get to meet students where they are and witness their progress. I certainly have a renewed appreciation for all of my teachers now - it’s tough work!”
Vann had previously visited Paris twice, and he knew he loved the language and the city. During the second semester of his junior year, he again headed to Paris, this time through a university exchange program. Then as a senior, he participated in the Arezzo program at OU’s Study Center location in Arezzo, Italy.
Vann worked with a pair of International Non-Governmental Organizations, or INGOs, during his time abroad. He volunteered with Room to Read while in France and interned with Oxfam International’s tie-in branch, Oxfam Italia, in Italy. Through Room to Read, Vann helped plan a fundraiser at Shakespeare and Company, which is a famous bookstore and his favorite place in Paris.
“It was one of the most treasured and valuable experiences I got,” Vann shared.
OU’s Education Abroad office offers study abroad programs in over 200 cities throughout 80 countries across the globe, with programs varying in length from a couple of weeks to a semester to a full year. Like Vann, many OU students embrace the opportunity to study abroad, and about 40% have some sort of overseas experience before they graduate.
Vann encouraged OU students to study abroad if they have the ability to do so but also suggested connecting with the vibrant community of different ethnicities, cultures, races, religions, and countries represented on campus. Seeing places around the world has made “all the difference really” for Vann, who said his experiences have made him more understanding of others.
“To be able to learn from other people’s experiences and see firsthand how they live really makes a difference, whether or not you’re going to Ecuador and building houses for people or if you’re going to the fashion capital of the world in Paris or learning about World War II history in Berlin, I think all these experiences really helped me understand the human experience.
“There’s more than just my own little bubble of Edmond, Oklahoma, and Norman, Oklahoma, and everything’s a lot more interconnected than it may appear,” Vann continued. “Ultimately that’s what’s driven me to want to focus more toward careers that are making a difference in the global and the local communities.”