Why I went: I was a French major and wanted to develop my proficiency.
Living in the French-speaking world: My study abroad experience was great because I got to learn about several cultures. They speak French in Quebec, and they’re really in tune with the Francophone world. Many of my friends were from French-speaking countries in West Africa.
Seeing the world from new perspectives: I was in Quebec on Sept. 11, 2001, and took part in a peace march to the U.S. Consulate. During the march, I started to understand certain things that people were saying. That’s when I understood that it wasn’t only a march for peace, but also a march against American aggression.
I was stunned by this unexpected revelation. It didn’t necessarily change my own views of the attacks, but it did make me at least consider how others with different experiences may have seen them.
Living abroad teaches you to look at situations in different ways, to stand back and think about how others see things. That helps me relate to people personally and at work.
Landing a Fulbright Scholarship: I was a Fulbrighter who was largely influenced by study abroad. I had great professors at UB who could tell I had an interest in learning about other cultures, and they encouraged me to apply. I returned to Quebec for my Fulbright.
The art of translation: After the Fulbright, I worked as a program manager for a translation company. Part of the job involved advising clients on how to be sensitive to marketing in other cultures. One thing that comes to mind immediately: A deck company wanted to use the phrase, “Are you all decked out?” This is a great play on words in English, but it loses its meaning once translated.
What I’m doing today: Studying abroad gives you self-confidence — the ability to trust in yourself to figure things out. These are useful skills in any field. At Unilever, I work on business cases for innovations. When the company develops a new product, I analyze its viability and justify why we would want to launch it.