Alumni Spotlight: Jose Ramon Campos

Jose is from San Antonio, Texas and recently graduated from Southern Methodist University (SMU) with degrees in Political Science and Economics with Finance. He enjoys Mexican food, traveling, Couch Surfing, skydiving, and spending time with friends and family.

IES France students orientation

Why did you decide to study abroad with IES?

Jose: My decision to study abroad did not come easy. I analyzed various programs all over the world as well as in France. Multiple majors along with a strict graduation deadline of 4 years meant I needed a program that focused on what I wanted, learning French, but at the same time gave me the flexibility to continue coursework on my majors away from SMU. I was seeking an all-out immersion experience into French culture, way of life, people, language, and food. I chose IES Nantes because it was the ideal fit; it provided me with the necessary opportunities to allow my language skills to develop. This was made possible by living with a host family, the French-language only rule at the IES center, along with all classes taught by French professors in French, and the fact that Nantes is a small city that doesn’t attract the attention of swarms of English-speaking tourists like Paris.

What made this study abroad experience unique and special?

Jose: My Nantes study abroad experience was so unique and special in large part thanks to my host family, the IES administration, professors, and faculty, the city and atmosphere of Nantes, and the life-long friends I made there. The fact that I really gave it my all and worked on my French through out my 4-month stay made all the difference. I decided to speak only in French and I even gave up English for Lent. As President of my class, I had the opportunity to work alongside the administration, implementing plans, holding weekly meetings, and managing a budget for special events. I also met my girlfriend of 2 years on the second day of orientation in Tours. It was an overall surreal and wonderful experience.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Jose: My experience has without a doubt changed my life and significantly impacted my future. After IES Nantes, I could speak French fluidly and with ease; I also then embarked on a month long backpacking trip (as this was my first time in Europe) with a close friend, visiting 9 countries and staying with locals through out our travels. My study abroad experience produced an earnest desire to travel and explore other countries and cultures. I subsequently lived in Amman, Jordan for a month, working through the U.S. Embassy as a trainer to Iraqi refugee girls, and I began picking up and studying Arabic. After returning to the U.S. to finish up my senior year, I applied to the Teaching Assistantship Program in France (TAPIF) in order to work abroad. Thus, I am currently living in Grenoble, France teaching English to elementary kids while finding the time to travel; I am also now fluent in French. For me, this long journey started back in the spring of 2011 in Nantes.

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Highlights: The highlight of my trip is not one but many moments or experiences that I lived while in Nantes. Getting to know a whole new set of people I had never met, while in a country and continent I had never visited, speaking a foreign language I had only studied for 5 semesters in college was surreal. I loved the environment IES created and the feel Nantes had as a nice and open city. The IES-planned excursions were great: to Normandy and the D-day beaches, Saint Michel and Mont Saint Malo, and a vineyard as well. The two weeks off we got for vacation, getting to travel and spend an extended period of time outside of France exploring Spain and Italy with my new-found friends.

I really just made the most out of my short time in Nantes, whether exploring the city, working with the administration and faculty, taking the classes, my awesome host family, and meeting new people while speaking French in France. If I had to name one highlight specifically, it would be the dinner on a boat that IES planned for us at the end of the semester as a farewell event. Not only was everyone dressed up and dinner delicious, but we got to spend several hours together as a class and group while on a boat on the Erdre; just an excellent and memorable soiree.

Morning: I would typically wake up early in the morning with a dose of alarms, as the French use window shutters (which are awesome but deadly). They block out all light and thus you wake up but still think it's 6am; I didn't get out of bed until 1pm one day only to open the shutters to a blinding sunlight. On a typical day, I would have breakfast: the very French coffee in a bowl with a few slices of baguette with butter and jam and if I was feeling very American, some eggs and orange juice as well. Depending on whether I had morning classes, I would get ready and take the tram to get to class or relax a little, surf the web, and read a book outside in the garden. Usually a pretty relaxing and enjoyable morning.

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Afternoon: My afternoons were mostly spent either in classes or having lunch with friends at the IES center or at a boulangerie/patisserie in the centre-ville. As the French usually allot about an hour or more for a relaxing and stress free lunch or cafe, I would follow suit. It took a while for me to get used to compared to the fast 10 minute lunch a la American, in which I either have class or work and thus just force something down in order to keep me going for the day. Sometimes I did feel unproductive, as I was used to running around and getting things done, but it was nice once I got into the French mode of life.

Evening: In the evening, I would wrap up my academic day and finish up either my classes or any homework I had. I would usually try to make it out to the gym and work out, followed by club soccer practices or pick-up games. I would sometimes just hang out with my host brother before dinner at home. I would shower at night before dinner around 8 usually and spend time with my host family working on my French and just recapping on the day's activities. We would sit around the fire and talk, read books, and magazines, or play chess and watch a rugby match.