Q&A with Briant Sarris, the new Center Director at St Giles San Francisco
After bidding a fond farewell to St Giles San Francisco Center Director Virginia Delgado, we are delighted to welcome Briant Sarris to the St Giles team! Briant will bring her knowledge and expertise of the industry, and we are sure she will have a fantastic time working at St Giles San Francisco!
We sat down with Briant to get to know her a bit better.
Hi Briant, welcome to St Giles! How are you settling in so far?
I absolutely love it here! Words can hardly express how generous and accommodating the staff has been in helping me get acclimated. Virginia definitely built a solid, competent team, but most importantly, one that is friendly and eager to help both internal and external customers! The students coming here are very fortunate.
Can you tell us a bit more about your background? What were you doing before St Giles?
I grew up in Louisiana and started learning French in second grade. My lifelong passion for language and culture took root early! I was fortunate enough to study abroad in both France and Italy. Before coming to St Giles, I spent about 15 years at Berlitz, where I started as a teacher of four languages. I then took over the instructional management of the centre, and moved up to national and eventually international management roles. Most recently, I was in charge of training and instruction for students ages 3 – 18. It was a lot of work but very fun and rewarding!
Sounds fun! What are you most looking forward to about being at St Giles?
I’m very excited to give students the opportunity not just to study a language, but to live a language. In order to achieve true fluency and cultural competency, it is so important to interact with native speakers in real-life contexts. St Giles has excellent teachers who provide them with the highest-quality instruction, and it is hard for students to default to their native language because of our strong nationality mix. We try to keep students who speak the same language in different classes and do not house them together if we book their accommodations. We also understand the cultural and logistical challenges they may face and are eager to provide them the support they need! I had amazing study abroad experiences myself, and I want to pass that on to the next generation.
What are your favourite things about living in San Francisco?
I actually live to the south of the city. What I love about the Bay Area is that there is a little bit of everything: mountains, redwood forests, beaches, and major cosmopolitan areas all within easy driving distance. Of course, San Francisco has some of the most famous landmarks in the world, and being here can feel a bit surreal at times. The best part for me is the diversity of the area; if you walk the streets you will meet people from all over the world, different cultures, different backgrounds. I love that if you want to something from anywhere in the world, like a French newspaper or Chinese tea or Japanese mochi, you can just walk and buy it locally.
What advice do you have for students who are going to study in San Francisco?
Be open to new experiences! We have an amazing student activities program, and you should try as many of the adventures as possible. San Francisco is extremely diverse, and we embrace that diversity. You will be accepted for who you are, and others will expect you to do so in return. Don’t be afraid to try new things! Have fun! Always feel free to ask your teacher or any of the staff if you have any questions or concerns. And, of course, make sure you speak English at every opportunity!
Briant (far back) with the St Giles San Francisco team and students