Skip to main content Skip to local navigation

Education alumnus enhances French language skills through international exchange to France

Education alumnus enhances French language skills through international exchange to France

Liam Bekirsky in Arras (France)
Liam Bekirsky

In navigating the transformative path of international education, Liam Bekirsky's (BEd ’18) story is a testament to the enriching power of studying and working abroad. His educational journey first started at York University’s Glendon College, fueled by a deep-seated passion for the French language and an understanding that true comprehension extends beyond grammar and writing to embrace the rich tapestry of cultural narratives that shape its use.

“Teaching a language not only requires the ability to speak, read, and write the language, but also to understand the contexts and cultures in which it is used,” he says. “And what better way to get this experience than going abroad to France!” Driven by this conviction, Liam embarked on a remarkable journey that would take him from the historic battlegrounds of Vimy in France to the lecture halls of Sciences Po Paris, and eventually, to the University of Oxford.

The leap into international waters was motivated by Liam's desire to fully immerse himself in the French language and culture, grounding his theoretical knowledge in lived experiences. Securing a position as a tour guide at Canada's National War Memorial at Vimy, Liam found himself at the intersection of education, history, and personal growth. This government-supported role not only provided a platform for professional development but also served as a gateway to the authentic exploration of French cultural life. “It was my first time living abroad, and gave me the chance to immerse myself in French culture through work, life and travel,” he says.

During his time at York, Liam’s professors played a pivotal role in his journey, encouraging him to explore international avenues while nurturing his love for French language and culture. Their support was crucial as Liam pursued a dual Master's Degree at Sciences Po Paris and the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto. Spending a year in Paris, Liam's academic and professional horizons expanded, culminating in an internship at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) where he did work focusing on education policy. "Transitioning from teaching French as a Second Language to engaging with international education policy, broadened my professional scope,” he notes.

Liam (pictured third from the left) and his colleagues at the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) headquarters in the UK
Education alumnus Liam Bekirsky (pictured third from the left) with his colleagues at the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) headquarters in the UK

Liam's international experiences were marked by significant achievements, notably the extensive network of friends and professionals he developed. This network, spanning several countries, started to emerge from his time in Arras in 2017, providing a valuable professional and personal support system. “I got to experience the joys of living in a small French town, having drinks on the town square, visiting the shops, and enjoying the scenic side of the country,” he says. “It was also centrally located which made it easier to travel to neighbouring cities like Lille and Brussels.” His academic success, highlighted by completing his dual master's degree and securing multiple scholarships, formalized his expertise in international education.

Now at the University of Oxford for his doctorate, Liam investigates how educators form professional networks, inspired by his OECD work and the diverse education systems he encountered. Teaching in UK schools has further enriched his research, underscoring the value of his global experiences. “All this to say, without my international experience, I never would have had the inspiration to apply, and the qualifications to get into Oxford,” he affirms.

Liam stresses the importance of international experiences for early-career educators. “These experiences are vital for understanding and engaging with the varied student populations educators encounter,” he says. “Education - what it means and how it is structured and practiced - is different all over the world. It takes on its own national and local character, and is shaped by trends from all over the world. To only know what education looks like in one place is not sufficient for educators, who must take a step back and critically reflect on their own practice and experiences,” he adds.

To York students interested in international education and exchange opportunities abroad, Liam's message is clear: "Just go for it despite any potential hesitations that you may have—be it funding, family commitments, or fear of the unknown—the personal and professional growth that such experiences bring is invaluable to both your personal and professional growth”. “You will miss your family and friends, but they will be fine, and even more appreciative of the time you will give them and the experiences you will share when you are back,” he continues. “And the whole point of going abroad is to meet new people and make friends for life. Be optimistic. You will have a successful career as an educator, and this opportunity will make it all the more enriching.”

Liam's path clearly showcases the fulfilling nature of international experiences. "You never know who you will meet abroad, and how they may change or help you redirect your life," he muses, reflecting on the many connections and opportunities that have shaped his path—from chance encounters that led to professional ventures, to the cultural and social explorations that broadened his worldview. Chief among these serendipities, perhaps, was meeting his partner in the UK, a personal milestone that underscores the boundless possibilities that await when one embraces the adventure of studying abroad.

Article by Dennis Bayazitov special contributing writer