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.”
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.”