When I decided to study abroad in Paris, I hoped I would learn some French, experience a new culture, and get to eat some fantastic bread. I had never studied the language before I went abroad, but I thought classes of French cinema and intensive French in beautiful and romantic Paris would be a fun change of pace from my studies in the States. I also saw it as a welcomed respite from William & Mary’s intense academic atmosphere and the even more arduous graduate studies that I presumed would follow my senior year.
I studied abroad in 2010, in the spring semester of my junior year, through the International Studies Abroad program. I immediately fell in love with Paris: the architecture, the language, the gardens, the pastries on constant display, the culture within a culture (my homestay was in the Chinatown district)… My coup de foudre was very comforting as graduation loomed in my mind – I was no longer so afraid of leaving William & Mary knowing that there were other wonderful places in the world.
As my study abroad semester ended and I returned to Virginia, I pined for the friends, atmosphere, and glorious public transportation I left behind in France. Senior year began, and while I was happy to be back in Williamsburg, I deeply missed the challenges and rewards of living in a foreign country. I struggled deciding what to do post-college; ever since high school I had assumed I would continue straight from undergrad to a PhD program, but I had never chosen exactly what that degree would be in.
Realizing a year off to consider my options seemed like the only logical plan, my thoughts quickly returned to France. With the help of the Cohen Career Center and the Charles Center, I considered a few different avenues, including applying for a Fulbright assistantship and becoming an au pair, but I eventually applied to TAPIF, a program through the French government that employs native English speakers as teaching assistants.
Armed with a letter of recommendation from my French professor (thank you, Madame Leruth!), a meticulously self-edited French essay, and the support of my friends who got me through the excruciating post-application wait, I received an email in early April that I was accepted as one of the French Ministry of Education’s newest employees.
Sometimes I wonder what my first year after graduation would have been like had I not studied abroad. I likely would have still taken a year off, though I highly doubt I would have chosen to spend my time outside of Virginia. Studying abroad did so much more than expose me to new cultures and possibilities; at the risk of sounding trite, it completely changed my life.
Amanda Guiliano, originally from Winchester, Virginia, graduated in May with a degree in English and minor in psychology. While a student at William and Mary, Amanda was a copy editor for the DoG Street Journal, team captain of Relay for Life, tutor with Literacy for Life, and member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority. In late September, she traveled to France to teach English at an elementary school in Clermont-Ferrand for seven months.