I majored in French at Albion College, with the dual goals of becoming fluent in French and studying abroad in France. During my first semester I participated in a First-Year Seminar called "To France and Back." The class focused on cross-cultural communication, using the U.S. and France as examples. It also included a 10-day visit to Albion College's study abroad programs in Paris and Grenoble and a homestay in Albion, Michigan's sister-city, Noisy-le-Roi. This was the most influential class I have ever taken, and gave me the tools and anthropological vocabulary to process later international education experiences.
I spent my junior year of college studying in Grenoble, France at the Centre Universitaire d'Études Françaises, an international student center within the Université de Grenoble III. I took classes in French history, cinema, literature and art history in French as well as taking French language classes. I met students from all over the world and lived with a French host family, who included me in their family activities. I am still in close contact with my host family and visit them whenever I return to France. I also had many opportunities to travel during my year in France and visited Switzerland, Belgium, England and Scotland as well as travelling around France.
When I returned to Albion for my senior year, I wanted to put my recent experience to use. As I had recently been an international student in a new country myself, I volunteered as an orientation leader for incoming international students. This consisted of giving them not only the general orientation information that is offered to all incoming students, but also introducing them to a new and unfamiliar cultural environment. Following the end of the orientation period, these students formed the International Student Union, a new organization at Albion College. I participated in the organization as secretary and later as its president. The International Student Union has sponsored information fairs, dances, meals and other events to inform the Albion College community about international diversity.
Soon after I graduated from college, I spent three weeks in Copiapó, Chile, traveling and living with the family of a college friend. All of my previous travel experience had been in North America and Europe, so it was valuable to branch out into a new continent.
Following this, I spent a year as a teaching assistant in a high school near Vichy in the center of France. The teaching assistantship program is sponsored by the French government in order to bring native speakers into French classrooms. In this position, I created activities, games and lessons to encourage students to speak English and helped upper-level students prepare for oral exams. The school I was assigned to was a "technical and professional" school, where students were studying particular trades including optometry, hospitality, sales and healthcare. I worked with many different groups of students from the various subject areas and I probably learned as much new English vocabulary as my students did!
My fellow language assistants were very influential and helped me to learn a lot about France and the French language. Due to our work schedules, our travelling was mainly restricted to the region around Vichy, which gave me a deep understanding of that particular area. In some ways, I found it more valuable than the traveling I had done while studying abroad, because rather than visiting Geneva, London or Brussels on the level of a tourist, I was getting to know one area quite well. What's more, the center of France is rarely visited by foreign tourists, so both in my classrooms and in my travels, I met many people who had never been to America or had never known an American before. It was an important responsibility to be so representative of my country and to be able to share my version of the United States with them.
While I was teaching, I applied to graduate school at the University of Michigan School of Information. I was accepted into the Master's program in Human-Computer Interaction and planned to go on for a career in web design, something that had always been an interest of mine, but in which I had no formal training.
At Michigan I studied usability, user interface design, information architecture, PHP/MySQL and Java as well as general information management: the creation, transmission, organization, display, storage and retrieval of information in all of its forms. I took classes in library reference services, marketing, human behavior and organization, contextual design and consulting to enrich my human-computer interaction coursework. I continue to find many connections between information management and international education and to apply what I learned to my career.
While studying for my degree, I took a part-time job as Webmaster and Peer Advisor in the University of Michigan Overseas Opportunities Office. After two years in that position and a summer web development internship with an international education organization in France, I realized that I was more interested in helping students to have valuable study abroad experiences than I was in working in the web design field.
After completing my master's degree, I began my professional career at Miami University.
Past destinations: England, Canada, France, Switzerland, Scotland, Belgium, Chile, Israel, Ireland, Mexico, China
Top future destinations: Peru, Botswana, Morocco, Lebanon, Egypt
- trivia (watch me on Jeopardy! January 14, 2014!)
- musical theatre