Alexandra studied abroad in Florence, Italy; Caen, France and completed a graduate program in Paris, France. Since 2004, she has been the Paris Campus Director at CEA Global Education.
Where did you go to school?
Undergraduate: Washington University in St. Louis
Graduate school: Université de Paris IV Sorbonne
When and where did you study abroad?
Summer 1992 in Florence, Italy
1993-1994 Year in Caen, France
1995-2001 Graduate School in Paris, France
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
Studying Abroad resets the default settings on life!
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
I learned that there are probably only a handful of universal truths in the world and the rest is a question of perspective.
What was your BIGGEST challenge when studying abroad?
My biggest challenge was functioning in the local languages. I went into both my study abroad programs at the beginning/low intermediate language level which limited what I could say, whom I could speak with, and the quality of the interaction, often leaving me feeling frustrated that I couldn’t express myself clearly. As someone who likes to talk, this was certainly problematic! How did I work through it? Well, that is easy – in time, it all worked itself out, right? (of course, hard work, listening, speaking, repeating, practicing, reading, watching, imitating, and more hard work helped too.)
How did studying abroad change your life? How did it help you personally and professionally?
Studying abroad has, of course, had a permanent impact on my life. After completing my junior year abroad in France, I returned to college for my senior year, during which I spend a lot of time working on returning to Europe to prolong my time abroad. With an acceptance letter to graduate school in Paris in hand, I left St. Louis without even attending my own graduation and headed to Ios, Greece for the summer to find work and to read Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio on the beach (I’ve always been a multi-tasker, but I must say that I did a better job on the suntan than on Dante – I just checked and the 20 year old bookmark is still on page 148 – for real!)
I started graduate school that Fall semester and stayed at the Université de Paris for several years (there doesn’t seem to be a category for telling all the great stories about graduate school abroad!). As a doctoral student, I had a phenomenal opportunity to start working in Study Abroad, and it was such a perfect fit. 12 years later, I am lucky to work in a field that is satisfying, exciting, challenging, and loads of fun!
What have you been doing post studying abroad?
Well, I think I am still officially studying abroad! It has been 20 years since my first Study Abroad experience in college, and I’m still here, and still learning. In an official capacity, I have held the position of Paris Campus Director at CEA Global Education since 2004. As Director, I oversee all aspects of our Paris-based programming and have the pleasure of meeting and working with hundreds of American and Canadian college students every year!
What’s your BEST piece of advice for a student who is thinking about studying abroad?
Studying abroad is not designed to be easy. If it were, it would not be so valuable and rewarding.