Alumni Spotlight: Mary Devlin


Mary Devlin is a 2014 graduate of George Washington University. After graduating, she spent a year teaching English in France before returning to D.C. to pursue a career in international development.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose APA Paris after doing a lot of research. One of my major goals going into my undergrad was to study abroad in France and to learn to speak French fluently. That being said, I was looking for a program that would provide me with the most immersive experience possible. I ultimately decided on APA because of its cultural program, its option to live with a host family, and its location in Paris.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

APA Paris is designed for more independent students. I had to get my own visa, book my own flights, and find my way to my classes at different local universities. APA organized my housing, put together the entire cultural program, and checked in periodically to make sure I was adjusting to life in Paris. I think that they have struck a great balance in that they trust their students to be autonomous adults but they are also always available to provide support and help when needed. And because it's a small program, students really get to know the three women who run the program, who are among the kindest, most attentive people I have ever met.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would say to go into the semester/year with an open mind. Don't let your expectations about what you think your experience should be like get in the way of enjoying the experience you actually have. Everyone will come back with a different story to tell. While you might not be able to travel to every place on your list, and you might not make a bunch of French friends, you will probably have an amazing time anyway.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average week for me consisted of attending classes, going to at least one theater/dance show, visiting museums, and eating dinner and watching soccer with my host family. The beauty of studying in Paris is that you don't have to go very far to have fun: the weekends were great opportunities to explore the museums by day, and restaurants and bars by night.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

I studied abroad for two semesters, so my biggest fear was being off-campus for an entire year (FOMO, if you will). And while I'm sure I missed out on some things in D.C., I'm also sure that I wouldn't have been able to take a weekend trip to Amsterdam or visit the Louvre in between classes. I also wouldn't have met some of the people who I still consider to be among my closest friends. Everything on campus was still waiting for me when I got back. In other words, I would make the decision to go abroad again in a heartbeat.

How has studying abroad affected your career?

I most definitely would not have the job I have right now if I didn't spend time in France. First, because I have to speak French daily in my position. Second, I developed a lot of skills abroad that I wouldn't have otherwise that I think employers see as really valuable. When you learn how to navigate the ins and outs of a different culture, you learn a lot about working with other people, respecting cultural differences, and functioning as an independent person.