I currently work for Cambridge Associates in Boston. It is a financial consulting firm that advises colleges/universities (Colby being one of them), non-profit organizations, and high net worth families on how to invest their endowments/wealth so as to preserve capital. For the most part, the clients are US-based, but I have been fortunate enough to have a European client that allows me to translate documents from French on occasion. Outside of work, I am a member of the French Library in Boston and try to participate in their various events. My advice to the current seniors looking for jobs and those to follow is, if you are seriously considering looking for a job in France after graduation, do it now. It becomes increasingly more difficult as time passes.
I would be absolutely open to anyone contacting me with questions about my job, French after college, or looking for jobs in general.
My first semester at Colby I fully embraced the Liberal Arts experience; I chose courses that spanned the breadth of Colby’s offerings: Anthropology, Psychology, German, and English. It was in this semester, the first term in my life that I had not taken a course in French, that I realized the depth of my love for Francophone literature and culture. I managed to take a French course every semester from that point forward.
An English and French Literature double major at Colby, I studied abroad in Paris my junior year. In the spirit of cultural research, I took a graduate course in American literature at the Sorbonne with French students and a French professor. The societal and literary implications were palpable; the way Americans teach our literature and the way the French teach the same texts are entirely different. This experiment has inspired my pursuit of cross-cultural literary studies, specifically the unique perspective of one society and its ability to illuminate another society’s worldview. I feel that my experiences at Colby have prepared me well for this endeavor.
During my time at Colby, as I felt my love and interest of the French language grow and deepen, the faculty of the French department provided a corresponding challenge. I have been consistently amazed at the depth of knowledge my professors provided and shared in class. Their ability to nurture my intellectual curiosity has inspired me to pursue a teaching career of my own. I value my experiences in the French department; one cannot overestimate the value of coming to appreciate another language and culture. I have found that this understanding sheds light on many aspects of even everyday life in the most unexpected ways. The faculty in Colby’s French department demonstrates a contagious passion for their area of expertise, and any student who enters the department cannot help but be changed by it for the better.
Charlotte Morse-Fortier ’08
I graduated in May, with a French Studies and Psychology double major, and headed off for France in September. I live in Lyon, at the École Normale Supérieure, where I work as a lectrice. I found out about this position from the Colby student exchange with the ENS (this is where all the French language assistants come from!) and from the university’s website. I teach English classes to university and masters students whose specialty is not English but who are fulfilling their language requirement. I have a lot of freedom to develop my own curriculum and choose all my own course materials.
I have never taught like this before, but it is exciting to get to be on the other side of the classroom. Life in Lyon is great, it is a beautiful city, somewhat more intimate than Paris, with unlimited opportunity to speak French. The students and friends I have made here will last a lifetime, as will my experiences teaching. I feel very lucky to have been given this opportunity. I strongly encourage everyone to apply for teaching jobs abroad, whether at the ENS or through Fulbright programs. Teaching can be hard work, but very fulfilling, and is a great way to make a life in France!
Catherine Sear ’05
Right from the start, while I am not a native speaker, I was happy to major in French at Colby. I came to college with a strong interest in French and was able to follow my passion for the language and the culture. The variety of courses opened my eyes to new areas of French studies. My first two years I took courses with as many French professors as I could and I got know most of the professors in the department well. Also, I had a wonderful academic advisor who was a role model, and a kind supporter.
Junior year exposed me to the joys of living in the language. I spent the year in Paris, which solidified my language skills and gave me to opportunity to see first hand much of the history and culture that I had been studying. Also, I shared this adventure with nearly all the French majors in my Colby class, many of whom became close friends as a result of our adventures together in Europe.
Senior year, coming back to Colby I focused on life beyond school. I was lucky to find a job in Paris at a fashion magazine where I was speaking French every day, all day. Beyond my work life, making my own new life in Paris was its own day-to-day challenge. My prior experience in Paris as a student and a strong academic foundation from Colby helped me to take it on.
All in all, I could not be happier with my academic and personal experience at Colby exploring my passion for French. Now, three years out of college, I am going back to school to pursue a Masters in International Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Looking forward, I do not know where I will end up professionally or personally, but I plan to continue to be speaking and reading French for the rest of my life.
Katie Wight ’09
In 2009 I graduated from Colby with a Major in French Studies. The following Fall I planned to begin an internship at a small publishing company in Paris. When this opportunity fell through, I wasn’t optimistic about what my first post-graduation job would be. The amount of over qualified and unemployed candidates in the prospective employee pool against my seemingly impractical undergraduate concentration wasn’t reassuring.
I was living with my parents in Burlington, VT and found an ad for a French-speaking Rider Service Representative position at Burton Snowboards. It was a seasonal position, but it was at one of my favorite companies, ever. I received a call for an interview 3 weeks after submitting my resume, I went in for a second interview a week after that, and seven days later I was offered the job. Despite the fact that I grew up skiing, Burton was willing to give me a shot because I spoke French, and they needed that. They only needed to find one person for the season, and plenty of French speakers applied, but because I seemed to “fit in” with their company culture, and graduated from Colby College fluent in French, they chose me.
It wasn’t very glamorous to start, but from day one I was aware that I would still be unemployed if it wasn’t for my French degree. By now I would probably be employed elsewhere, but it definitely would not be Burton Snowboards, and there is no doubt in my mind that it would be way less cool. I spoke French for an hour or two every single day, and my fluency increased dramatically. I also learned how to snowboard, got to bring my dog to work every day, and most importantly got my foot in the door at a company where it is extremely hard to do so. It was an awesome winter.
The following season I was quickly promoted to be a full-time year-round Account Manager (for Quebec and Eastern Canada), and within a week of that promotion, was hand selected to work in the office of our CEO/Founder, Jake Burton. Hundreds of applicants, tons of interviews, and despite the fact that I didn’t apply, my boss came looking for me. Now, I don’t get to speak French on a daily basis (which I miss, and is definitely a drawback) but the experience I am gaining is invaluable. My boss has told me more than once that one of the reasons she looked into me was because of my French speaking ability (to quote her- “I knew you must have been smart”.)
It’s been almost a year in this new office, and now HR has approved me for their tuition reimbursement program. I’m headed back to school for my MBA, and with the insight I’m gaining in this office coupled with furthering my education there is no doubt in my mind that there are more incredible things on the horizon. I fully intend to later pursue a career where I can use my French again, but feel so incredibly lucky that my French degree has already provided me with all of the opportunity that it has.
I started at Colby knowing that I wanted to go to medical school. As one of seemingly dozens of other pre-meds in my class, this was a certainty I did not question. I knew that was the primary focus of my years at Colby. At the same time, however, I was aware of my other interests, those not limited to the strict regime of chemistry and biology that comprised the bulk of my pre-medical school requirements. I am incredibly grateful for my foresight – more just dumb luck, actually – at having taken advantage of the liberal arts education that Colby offered. As a fourth-year medical student about to begin a career in surgery, I now realize how important my “extra-medical” education has helped me develop personally and professionally.
At Colby, I double-majored in biology and French literature, two areas of study that others would jokingly remark “didn’t have much overlap.” For the most part, this was true. As my study continued, however, I discovered ways in which French literature and medicine shared an intellectual track – the “medicalization” of 19th-century literature and the theatricalization of madness – and this became the focus of my senior thesis for my French major. A student of both science and French literature and history, I was able to contribute knowledge and interests from these two seemingly separate fields of study, and use them to delve further into a topic of historical and cultural importance. Such integration of knowledge – the ability to personify your work by bringing your own strengths, values, and interests – is what holds the greatest joy for me in my areas of study.
I have found this to be particularly true of medicine, and on several levels. First, medical schools have recognized the importance of cultivating professionalism and humanity in their students, and many have begun to change their curricula to accommodate classes in the humanities. It is no longer acceptable for physicians to simply memorize diseases and treatments – this is where the adage “Treat the patient, not the disease” comes into play. It also looks great on applications to medical school and residency! In fact, admissions committees now almost certainly require that a candidate show interests and dedicated pursuits outside medicine, whether it’s playing on a sports team, carrying an extra major, being part of a club or musical group, having a career before medical school, or volunteering.
From my perspective, my education in French has helped me to develop professionally in many ways, and will likely provide many opportunities in the future. Language proficiency or fluency is a terrific asset for a doctor, since the physician-patient relationship hinges entirely on effective communication. (I hope one day to participate abroad with organizations such as Operation Smile and Médecins sans frontières.) More importantly, however, is the way in which my liberal arts education and my studies in French have helped me develop personally. Medicine is an extremely demanding field, at times requiring one to neglect all else (family, friends, hobbies) in order to succeed. When I begin residency next year, for example, I know that I will need to actively incorporate those other aspects of my life that continue to define me as a person, and this will certainly affect how well (emotionally and physically) I am able to train as a surgeon. However cliché, I have found in medical school that the only way to truly succeed is to be yourself. You can learn the lines, memorize the facts, and play the role of a doctor, but recognizing your own strengths and values, and having the courage to apply them and cultivate your own style of practice is the most rewarding aspect of becoming a physician.
Just over a month after graduating, I packed up my car and moved from Connecticut to Billings, Montana where I am currently serving as an AmeriCorps*VISTA. As a VISTA, I am serving a year in Billings to make long-lasting impacts on poverty by establishing sustainable, community-driven initiatives. The Community Garden and Food Security Initiative that I am leading alongside another VISTA is a part of a larger citywide initiative to impact homelessness. Through an incredible collaboration with the Salvation Army and an extensive network of partnerships with the Billings school district as well as a wide range of local organizations and programs, Billings will be piloting a garden-based learning program this summer. Beginning with a summer program and transitioning into an after-school enrichment program, student participants will learn about nutrition, food systems, sustainable agriculture, and learn to grow food with their own hands on an organic urban farm and in two raised-bed school gardens. Other food security initiatives currently underway include an assortment of community garden projects throughout the city, as well as the establishment of a local Food Policy Council that will address a wide scope of issues relating to food security.
So, what do community gardens have to do with French Studies? Well, although I haven’t spoken more than a few words of French since coming to Montana, I could not have chosen a better field to major in. I know that my Colby education and my double majors in French and Anthropology have without a doubt prepared me well for my year as a VISTA and beyond. Though I am still unsure what I hope to be doing in five or ten years, I have a better idea now. I would recommend to anyone who is unsure of what to do post-Colby to look into AmeriCorps VISTA. Not only is the experience I am gaining tremendous, but it is such an incredible experience being able to collaborate with community members and organizations to enhance (or even create) programs that provide a hand up to members of the community living in poverty. I have met so many extraordinary people since joining the Billings community, and am grateful to be surrounded by such an inspiring group of people. The Community Garden/Food Security Initiative is something I am truly passionate about, so much so that I cannot imagine leaving Billings when my VISTA year is up in July!
Jacqueline Mourot ’01
My name is Jacqueline Mourot and I am a member of the Colby Class of 2001. I came to Colby as a freshman with an IB Diploma and having studied abroad one semester as a junior in high school in southern France (Nice). I already had a love for French language and culture and thus a double major in French Studies and Art was a natural choice for me. I am a strong advocate of studying what you love and enjoy. I believe that when you do, the doors of opportunity will open for you. Little did I know as a freshman how wide those doors would open for me, or what amazing opportunities would lie on the other side.
The Colby Years
During my sophomore and senior years at Colby, I worked as a research assistant for the French department. During my third year, I studied abroad in Paris with the Hamilton College Junior Year Abroad program. My year abroad was an amazing experience! I attended classes at: l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques, l’Institut Catholique, la Sorbonne, l’École du Louvre, and Speos Paris Photographic Institute.
The summer following my year in Paris, I interned for two months at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy. After completing the internship, I participated in a weeklong art history program at Tate Modern in London. Upon my return to Colby for my senior year, I undertook a JanPlan independent study project in Paris for three weeks, conducting research in the Parisian archives. I also applied for and was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. My research project was entitled Post Colonial Legacies: The Contemporary Art of Madagascar, Reunion Island, the French Pacific and the French Antilles. After graduation, I spent the next twelve months traveling to Madagascar, Reunion Island, New Caledonia, Tahiti, Guadeloupe and Martinique. It was an amazing and unforgettable experience during which I also met my French husband!
Post- Colby and Graduate Studies
After the Watson, I returned to the U.S. briefly before leaving to complete a 3-month internship at La Fondation du Musée d’Art Moderne in Luxembourg. During that time, I applied for and was awarded a French Language Teaching Assistantship to Cayenne, French Guiana where I spent the next year. I got married shortly after completing my Assistantship and moved to Montpellier, France where I lived until beginning graduate studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I received an Ed.M in International Intercultural Education in the Specialized Program in 2006.
My graduate studies were a great culmination of all of the research I had completed thus far and an excellent conduit for mixing my interests in French, post-colonialism, cultural and identity development, and education. While at Harvard, I completed internships at World Education, Inc., World Teach, the Harvard College Office of International Programs, and was awarded a David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies Research Travel Grant to conduct a month of research in Nassau, Bahamas on how Bahamian civics curriculum influenced cultural identity development in adolescent boys. While at Harvard, I also co-chaired three student organizations, one of which I co-founded: C.R.I.O.L.E (Caribbean Research Interests on Learning and Education).
Post Harvard to Present
Following graduation, I taught middle school French at a private school in New Orleans. I later moved back to southern France with my growing family. Roughly a year later, I returned to the U.S. to work as the Assistant Director of Study Abroad at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. At Holy Cross, I managed their study abroad programs in France (Dijon and Strasbourg) and Yaoundé, Cameroun and also traveled to Nairobi, Yaoundé, and Paris to work toward establishing experiential learning and faculty-led programs in those cities.
In 2008, I relocated to Paris where I continued to oversee Holy Cross programs from France until beginning the application process for the U.S Foreign Service in late 2009. I joined the Foreign Service as a Public Diplomacy Officer in February 2011 and recently moved to Guayaquil, Ecuador with my husband and four children (ages 6, 4, 2, and 1) to begin my first diplomatic tour.
My life since Colby has been an amazing adventure. I will be forever grateful to Professor Paliyenko and her colleagues in the French Department at Colby for encouraging, inspiring, and challenging me to follow my passion. As you can see from my career path, the opportunities for professional growth and personal fulfillment with a French language or French Studies degree from Colby are limitless. I encourage you to take advantage of the large variety of French course offerings at your disposal, learn about the rest of the Francophone world in addition to France, study abroad at every opportunity, and I believe that the doors of opportunity will open wide for you as well!
Please feel free to contact me at any time if you have any questions about my experience with French at Colby or my career path.
Jacqueline D. Mourot