Christopher studied abroad in Blois, France and then completed a masters degree at NYU in Paris, France. He now oversees the academic operations for the CEA Global Education program in Paris.
Where did you go to school?
Auburn University & New York University in France
When and where did you study abroad?
Assistants étrangers de langues vivantes en France: Fall 02 – Spring 03 in Blois, France
MA in French Culture & Civilization at NYU – Paris, France
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
Improved language skills, increased cultural flexibility, independence, meeting new people & forging long-lasting friendships
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
Having grown up in a culturally isolated region of the US, I had little idea, before spending a year abroad, what it meant to have a different “worldview”. After living in a small town in France for a year I had a firmer grasp of what it meant to see the world through a different, cultural lens. This skill is one I continued to hone as an expatriate and one that has served me better than any other (except maybe the language itself).
What was your BIGGEST challenge when studying abroad?
When I first arrived in Blois, France (where I was assigned for my year abroad as a teaching assistant) I had no idea how to adapt. Even the very basics that we convey to students during orientation week, such as mimicking what other people do when in doubt, was a skill that I lacked. This naiveté meant that just about any experience, for at least the first few months, was a daunting and frustrating one. Only once I learned how to adapt did the cultural learning begin.
How did studying abroad change your life? How did it help you personally and professionally?
I studied both French and Economics as an undergraduate. I had planned my year abroad as a time to reflect upon my “future” all while giving me the opportunity to improve my language skills and embark on a new adventure. That year abroad was key in my decision to pursue graduate studies in French in France: the cultural learning that started in Blois was not complete when I left at the end of the year. Now that I am a full-time, permanent resident of France, working in study abroad, sharing my experience and learning with our students, the link between study abroad and my personal/professional advancement is evident. What is less evident is how much (I think) I have grown as a person because of those years abroad: greater awareness of my existence as not just an American but a single human amongst billions, my ethical responsibilities vis-a-vis the world, the astounding luck that I’ve had to grow up in a wealthy, industrialized country thereby having access to learning opportunities not available to everyone, while at the same time realizing that the insular culture in which I was raised (no knock on my parents – it’s thanks to their open minds that I am where I am today) was a learning handicap.
What have you been doing post studying abroad?
I currently work at CEA Global Education in Paris in the role of Assistant Dean and Instructor of French and Communication Studies. I joined CEA five years ago after working for 2 1/2 years at Clemson University as an Instructor of French in the Department of Languages and Director of Clemson in Paris, a summer abroad program open to all, Clemson students.
Today I oversee the academic operations for CEA in Paris: faculty recruitment & training, curricular development, student advising. I also teach Beginning French I as well as a course in intercultural communication.
What’s your BEST piece of advice for a student who is thinking about studying abroad?
Read as much as you can about your host country and culture before going abroad. While study abroad today is easily accessible to students lacking foreign language skills it is a great idea to plan ahead and take several semesters of a relevant foreign language before making the proverbial leap abroad.