Now that you’re familiar with our “Meet an AUCP Student” series, check out the “Meet an AUCP Alum” series! AUCP students set themselves apart as undergrads by taking on the AUCP Study Abroad challenge; it’s no surprise that they go on to do great things.
Our first alumni interview is with Sophia Carter, who studied at AUCP Aix-en-Provence in Spring 2010. Originally from New York, Sophia is currently in her final year of law school at Duke University School of Law. She did her undergraduate studies at The George Washington University (DC), where she graduated in 2011 with a major in International Affairs and minors in Theatre and French Language & Literature. Before law school, Sophia worked for an international investment bank and then as a language assistant in Dreux, France.
For starters, why did you choose to study abroad with the AUCP?
I chose to attend the AUCP for several very specific reasons.
First, my primarily goal in studying abroad was to increase my French language skills to the highest point possible. Having lived in France for a period of time during high school and being a heritage speaker of French (my mom is Haitian and I grew up hearing the language), I had a good idea about what type of environment I needed to be in to help me meet my goals.
Top on my list was to be in French language immersion environment. I wanted to be somewhere where I would be required, even obligated, to speak French virtually all the time. In Aix, I knew that I would be in an environment where, outside of the AUCP, few people spoke fluent English, at least compared to major metropolitan areas like Paris and Lyon.
Also, I (rightly) believed that other potential students attracted to AUCP’s program were looking for the same environment and would take the language pledge as seriously as I did. I remember how strange it was to hear everyone’s “American voice” during the few moments when the pledge was relaxed!
Thirdly, living in a homestay environment was vitally important. Many of my best memories of living in France came from treasured moments spent with my homestay families, whether in Aix or elsewhere. Furthermore, I do not think I would have learned as much, had I been required to come home and “shut off my brain” until school the next day.
Finally AUCP’s course selection made sense for my major. I was studying both European Affairs and Theatre at GWU and this was virtually the only program that would have enabled me to satisfy requirements for both majors. My only regret is that I couldn’t attend AUCP for an entire school year!
Can you tell us about your language partners?
While at AUCP, I had two language partners, one of whom was studying at Science Po-Aix (where I was also enrolled) and another who was, at the time, a junior air traffic control specialist at Marseille Provence Airport, from Guadeloupe. I met with each at least once every two weeks, either at a local cafe, restaurant or pub in centre ville and we would spend some time speaking only in English, but more often than not we would speak in French. A couple of times we went out in groups, sometimes with other AUCP classmates bringing their language partners along as well. I am happy to say that I am still in touch with my language partners today!
What did you do for your personal interest activity?
Because I am a bit of a martial arts aficionado and I wanted to stay in shape while still being able to indulge in all of the wonderful Provençal cuisine at my fingertips, I joined a local Aikido school just down the street from my host family’s house. There, I practiced, at a minimum, about twice a week. Everyone there was extremely kind and I was welcomed with open arms. The experience was wonderful because not only was it a great workout but having to learn and practice this sport in a foreign language was quite the learning experience.
How about community service?
I was a community service volunteer at Secours Catholic where I tutored middle and high school students who were having difficulty learning English. I worked with two students for about 1.5 hours each week. We focused primarily on reading and grammar skills but we did spend some time working on oral expression and listening comprehension. The experience was great because I love mentoring and it was fun to try to create my own approaches to English-language acquisition. In fact, it was this program that later encouraged me to apply for the Teaching Assistantship Program in France (TAPIF).
Is there an AUCP course that influenced you in particular?
One of my favorite courses at AUCP was the course on Issues in the European Union. One of my major concentrations at GWU was European affairs but until AUCP, I had yet to take a course on contemporary European issues. This course was very influential in helping me develop a deep interest in and passion for EU issues and EU Law. I wrote my honors thesis based on subjects that I had developed and researched during study abroad.
Because I love to cook, I jumped at a chance to take the extracurricular cooking class that was held in the kitchen at the Center. It was definitely challenging because at that point, my food and cuisine vocabulary was still very limited but it was lots of fun and it was a wonderful opportunity to engage with my fellow AUCP classmates (and sometimes Lilli!) outside of a classroom setting.
What you personally did to make your AUCP experience a success?
Whenever possible, I put myself in situations or surrounded myself with other individuals that were just as dedicated to my journey as I was. This was very important because especially on those days when I was tired, wanted to give up or just didn’t care, there was always someone or something that helped put me back on track.
So, what have you been up to since?
After AUCP, I graduated from GW and worked as a Business Development Associate and Analyst for a boutique investment bank, located in Washington, D.C. I was hired for my strong French language skills where I was required to conduct research, write memos and translate documents. I also was the assistant for the former executive of the company, who was a French banker. My tenure at the bank was cut short when I moved back to France for TAPIF. I was posted in a small town located about 30 minutes outside of Chartres (2 hours from Paris), called Dreux. There I was the sole language assistant for several premieres, terminales and BTS classes. After spending about a year in France, I started law school and I’ve been here ever since. I will start working full-time in New York next year.
Do you feel that studying abroad at the AUCP has influenced your life in any way?
My AUCP experience influenced me in two important ways, I believe. First, it made me realize how important speaking French and my French language abilities are to me. When I came back home from Aix, I made a personal commitment to make French an important part of my life, whether in terms of my hobbies (listening to music, movies) or my work. Second, it helped me develop a strong interest and passion for European Affairs. I studied in Aix at what some may consider the height of the financial crisis in the E.U. and it was a fascinating time to be learning about the Union and its challenges and triumphs. I developed an interest in European Union Law thanks to a couple of courses that I took while at the AUCP!
Tell us your favorite AUCP memory!
Professor Jean-Michel Cosse is my favorite memory! His class is absolutely wonderful. I learned so much from him and from our class discussions and I really enjoyed doing research and writing my final paper. I think I laughed every day. All AUCP students should take a class with him, if possible!
Merci beaucoup Sophia for this insightful interview, and for keeping us updated on what you’ve been up to! A bientôt!
Check back soon for more alumni interviews, or meet past & present AUCP Study Abroad students, here. If you’re interested in studying abroad at the AUCP and want to get in touch with an AUCP alum, let us know. If you’re an AUCP alum and want to share your story, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line!