Blog

ISEP Staff Stories: Learning a Language Abroad (Part 3)

May 21, 2014

We’ve been asking folks in the ISEP office about their language learning experience: their challenges and their successes. But what happens after the language study is over? How does learning a language translate back into day to day life? Into a career? Into future travels? Here’s what our resident language-learning experts had to say:

Nancy in Istanbul
Nancy in Istanbul

Nancy, Regional Director

Learned French while studying abroad in Paris and later working in France through the teaching assistant program

I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not started learning French. When I first considered studying abroad, I was thinking of an English speaking country. Studying in another language would be too hard, right? However, I could finish a French major abroad my Junior year if I went to France. So, France it was! I moved on to teach English in France for a year after college through the teaching assistant program. There, I became fluent by living with other assistants from all over the world. Our common language was French, so we had to speak it all of the time. The personal growth experiences I had while living abroad and with the language inspired me to pursue a master’s degree in international education. I now work with our French universities. Developing relationships with our coordinators in French is very important. The French are proud of their language, as they should be, and it helps tremendously to show their language the respect it deserves by being able to exchange e-mails and have conversations in French rather than English. You can’t assume that in this field everyone speaks English. Having other languages up your sleeve is a key to success.

Program Officer Brittny!
Program Officer Brittny!

Brittny, Program Officer

Learned Egyptian Arabic, some Moroccan Arabic, and some choice French words (omelette avec du fromage s’il vous plait) while studying abroad in Egypt and Morocco

I don’t speak Arabic anymore (use it or lose it, guys!), but I have really fond memories of learning the language and all of the experiences — fun and challenging — that went along with that education. Learning a foreign language is an exercise in humility. It’s challenging, frustrating, eye-opening, and, for all of those reasons, extremely beneficial. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t gone through those kinds of experiences.

Checking out a dungeon in the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Don´t worry, they let me out!
Checking out a dungeon in the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Don´t worry, they let me out!

Hilary, Senior Program Officer

Learned Spanish while studying abroad in Uruguay (with ISEP!) and interning in Spain

I wouldn’t be working in International Education without learning Spanish! Speaking Spanish also helped me land an internship at the State Department and helped with grad school. To graduate from my Masters Degree, I have to demonstrate proficiency in a second language.

Karlene in the hills of Valparaiso
Karlene in the hills of Valparaiso

Karlene, Administrative Officer and Development Coordinator

Learned German while studying abroad in (West) Germany

Last summer, my francophone brother and I joined our 75-year old father on a genealogical quest in the Alsace region of France. Our journey took us to various villages, cities, town halls and regional archives in both France and Germany. Although our French and German proficiency got us “in the door,” it was our intercultural skills that enabled us to charm the staff into helping us in ways that bent the rules just a bit. This special assistance resulted in many special moments for Dad, including identifying the site of the ancestor’s birth home as well as finding a street named after the Haldy family. These bonding moments would not have been possible if I had not studied German while in college.

Derek hanging out with a panda
Derek hanging out with a panda

Derek, Regional Director

Learned Mandarin Chinese while living and working in China (but the most substantial improvement came at Middlebury’s intensive summer program in Vermont)

Learning Chinese is incredibly important for building relationships. My proficiency is far from where I would like it to be, and the rule “use it or lose it” definitely holds true, but it clearly makes a difference in the relationship when you can use the language.

Thanks ISEP staff for all of your insights!

Think these language-learning stories are inspiring? Check out all of our student stories about what it REALLY means to study abroad with ISEP — the good, the challenging, and the always rewarding. Ready for a study abroad adventure of your own? Find a program on our website.

Like this Story? Also like us on Facebook.

Blog

Comments

.st0{display:none;} .st1{fill:#BEBEC0;}