Alumna Who Lived Dream of Study in France Encourages ICCS Sisters to Explore the World

Madeleine Marie Holdford ‘11 had wanted to live in France for as long as she could remember.  The wanderlust was stoked in part by her father’s stories of competitive bicycle racing there when he was a teenager and fed by her four years of French study at ICCS under Mrs. Helen Weirich. Seeking a major in the French language in college, she was delighted to learn that travel abroad was actually required.  “But I would have gone anyway,” she laughs.

In July 2014, the last piece of her personal travel dreams slid neatly into place when she qualified for a student visa from the French Embassy in Atlanta. Paperwork-gathering was complex, since non-citizens must prove academic and financial stability, as well as documented acceptance into a French university before being allowed to stay.  Her thoroughness paid off, and last September she began studies in language and psychology at l’Université Catholique, in the northeast industrial center of Lille.  “Lille was one of the less-expensive study options, and also one of the only ones with the specific courses I wanted to take.”   

Her educational plan was somewhat unique.  French was one aspect of a double major; the other field was Experimental Psychology with a concentration in Behavioral Neuroscience.  The university in Lille affords an opportunity for both fields of study.  Study in Lille also offers proximity to France’s many neuroscience institutes.  Not wishing to live in a university dorm with other American exchange students in France, Madeleine shared a small apartment in Lille near l’Université.  She was a full-time student and took advantage of the excellent rail system in the country to visit as much of Europe as she could.  There were no other U of M students with Madeleine, and being alone in Europe was sometimes daunting.  Cellphone and skype brought home a bit closer. “I did feel brave, in a sense," Madeleine says.  “This experience was huge for me.”   

The idea of study abroad first piqued Madeleine’s interest when she was a 9th-grader at ICCS, and then-upperclassman Lauren Gaia ’09 spent part of her junior year in Paris.  “I feel this is an important step for student to take in finding themselves and also stepping outside their boundaries … learning about one world from a different perspective helps us to become aware of everything around us, rather than staying in our small judgmental American bubble,” Madeleine says. 

She was anxious to return to ICCS in 2015 to convince her younger sisters in plaid that study abroad is within every student’s reach.  “Anything is possible.  I want them to be aware of all the help that is being offered, and the money that’s available from donors who want to sponsor a student to Europe.”

Posted by June LaPorta at 11:16 AM
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