Senior Lecturer Kelly Sax helps participants with medieval calligraphy at the FRIT table Sept. 5, 2019 while Prof. Barbara Vance (red shirt) and Senior Lecturer Karolina Serafin chat in the background.

At the First Thursday in September, FRIT also offered calligraphy lessons, echoing an activity that Professor Elizabeth Hebbard, a French medievalist, has done in her classes. Students could use special pens and paper to try to recreate the calligraphy found in medieval manuscripts, using models provided. Director of French Language Instruction Kelly Sax was on hand to assist as students wrote their names or simple phrases in French or Italian.

For the more cerebral, there was a worksheet at the FRIT table which taught some basic vocabulary through similarities between French, Italian, and English words and asked participants to immediately implement their new knowledge in simple phrases. The worksheet, which gave a bit of history of the development of the French and Italian languages, was developed, in part, to give a sample of the kinds of things students can learn in F401 “Structure and Development of French,” taught most spring semesters by Professor Kevin Rottet. Jade Liu, a PhD student in French/Francophone Studies and graduate assistant for the French Club this year, developed the worksheet with ideas from Professors Rottet and Vance, and it provided another opportunity for First Thursday attendees to earn prizes.

On October 3, the main hand-on activity at the FRIT booth was origami, in the form of tortelli, croissants, and crowns. Emma Pcolinski, a PhD student in Italian and graduate assistant for the Circolo Italiano, came up with the idea for the tortellini, as making this and other folded pasta is an important part of Italian food culture. Using dry garbanzo beans as the “filler,” participants made larger paper replicas of the popular pasta form. The croissant paper folding was more about achieving the appearance rather than mimicking the making of the food, and the simple four-pointed crown was added as a symbol of French and Italian monarchies and an easier origami project for those unsure of their folding skills.

The October First Thursday booth also featured some linguistic lessons, like in September. Ms. Liu worked with Associate Professor Vance on a handout to show the similarities between French and Italian, both Romance languages, and how these relate to English. The Trivia Wheel was also back for October, and FRIT offered coloring sheets replicating famous French and Italian paintings as well – a hit with children who came to First Thursdays with their parents. Would Leonardo turn in his grave at the sight of a purple-haired Mona Lisa, or would he roll with it? We’ll never know.