Maura Stadem Suilebhan
studied at l'Université de Caen, France
Major and when you graduated from UND?
I had a double major in French and International Studies. Also a student in the Honor's program, I prepared a thesis project to graduate with an honors major, as well. My studies at UND began in the winter semester of 1998 and I graduated, summa cum laude, in the winter semester of 2002.
Where and when you studied abroad?
My first experience studying abroad took place during my junior year at UND -- this was actually only my fourth and fifth semester, as I started school a semester later than most students -- and spent a year at l'Université de Caen, which is in the Region of Normandy in the North of France. While there, I lived in student dorms and met people from all over the world who were also studying abroad. I also made friends with a number of French students -- something that is actually a rather difficult task surrounded by as many Anglophones as I was! -- and so was able to improve my language skills and get to understand the French culture “from the inside-out” much more.
I also went back to France -- Paris, this time -- to work as an intern at the US Embassy during my last semester at UND. I sought this opportunity due to the fact that I had completed the coursework necessary for me to graduate, but still needed to remain a student one last semester if I wanted to finish my honors thesis and graduate with honors. Upon the valuable council of a greatly respected professor, Paul Sum, I researched, applied for, and was awarded an internship position at the US Embassy in Paris. During my three months there, I also worked on and completed my thesis project.
Other study/work abroad experiences include a summer semester spent working for the independent film collective "KINO" in Montréal, Québec as a part of my masters program, The Professional French Masters Program (PFMP) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Having the opportunity to live and work in a place so close to home where the culture and the langue were so completely new -- both very different from what I had experienced in France! -- was the chance of a lifetime for me.
What you are doing now?
I currently live and work in Washington, D.C. Originally, I moved here to work in the Cultural Section at the French Embassy, which I did for approximately one year before I made the move to the corporate sector where I now work as the Executive Assistant to the President of the North American branch of the French energy company, Electricité de France (EDF). I am also active in the theatre in D.C.
How has your study abroad experience influenced your career decisions/life decisions?
Without a doubt, my initial experience studying abroad while I was a junior at UND is among the most formative of those I have had leading up to my present professional situation. It not only confirmed my suspicion that in the French language I had found something I was both passionate about and skilled at doing, but it provided infinitely more reasons why I wanted to dedicate myself to a life that sought to focus on learning more about the important role of cultural perspective. I hope very much that, whatever changes my career may take in the coming years, I may always find a way to bring my knowledge and understanding of the French language, and my sensitivity to the French culture to bear.