Alumni Spotlight: Kelsey Kujoth


Give us an intro!

I am a junior currently majoring in English writing and French studies. I am from Madison, WI but am studying at Illinois Wesleyan University.

Why did you pick this program?

I chose to study with IES Abroad because I knew that their focus was on language immersion, which was my main reason for wanting to study abroad. I looked into several programs for study abroad and consider a few different ones, but ultimately I felt that IES was the best fit for me because the program size was small and the classes were all taught in French (I studied in Paris).

What do you wish someone had told you before you went abroad?

I wish I had known how difficult it is to meet people native to your host country if you don't already have some sort of personal connection to the country. Had I known this, I probably would have opted to take one or more courses at an outside university in addition to my IES courses in order to meet French students.

What is the most important thing you learned abroad?

The most important thing I learned while abroad is that having international experiences can really help you grow as a person. I learned so much about myself and never more comfortable just being myself than I did when I was in Paris. Going abroad was almost like another chance to start over and be as true to myself as possible, and I feel that IES gave me that opportunity.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

Whenever I talk to people who are considering going abroad, I tell them to find some way to make it work, even if it may seem financially impossible, because you will never regret studying abroad, but you might very well regret not going.

What was hardest part about going abroad?

The hardest part for me about study abroad was not actually going or being abroad, but rather coming home to the United States. It was such a shock coming back to the States and realizing how little history we have and culturally immature we seem compared to other countries in the world. I love the United States and I think that we're a great country, but being abroad made realize how young America is and how different we are from the rest of the world.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

I love to tell my friends about my experience visiting a French student that I hosted while in high school. We have remained in contact since then and when I went to France, I actually got a chance to visit this student and got a personal tour of his home city. It was a great and unique experience.

What made this experience unique and special?

I met so many great people, which could happen anywhere with any program, but I think what made my semester abroad so special was that I felt comfortable in my host country (France) from the minute I stepped off the airplane. I was ready to be there and make the most of my experience one Paris with IES.

I also think that the activities, such as wine tastings and excursions to different regions of France, coordinated by IES helped to make this the most wonderful experience I could've asked for because these activities were things I wouldn't necessarily have gotten the chance to do by myself without the help of the program.

Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.

While abroad, I made an effort to speak exclusively in French. Of course, there were days when I spoke less French than I intended, but for the most part I spoke French all day, which is something I definitely would not have gotten the chance to do at home.

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

I would tell anyone interested in going abroad with IES to be the person that makes the effort to speak in your host country's language.

You are going to be in a program with all American students and pretty much everyone is going to feel more comfortable speaking in English because that is what everyone knows, but you are there, with IES, to be immersed your host country's culture and language and to be able to practice that language so that you may improve your skills.

Set a goal to speak your host country's language for a certain amount of time each day, (my goal was to speak only in French from 8am to 10pm) and hold yourself accountable.

When the other students in your program see that you are making an effort to speak in another language and improve your skills, they will be encouraged to do the same, and you will certainly be able to find someone who is willingly to put in the same amount of effort as yourself.

What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions, future path?

This experience gave me a taste of what it is like to live in another country and made me want to come back for a longer period of time. I fell that my semester abroad also helped me analyze what I want out of life and where I want to take my studies after graduation.

I know that I want to spend a year or so teaching English in France, and I know that I want to go to grad school to continue my French studies. I also know that no matter what I end up doing professionally, I want my job to include French so that I may continue using my language skills.

What is it like to live in a home stay?

I absolutely loved my host family. In my opinion, it is essential to live in a home stay when studying with an immersion program because it gives you a much better sense of what everyday life and culture is like in your host country.

With the IES home stay situation, three dinners a week and breakfast everyday are provided, you also get your own bedroom and your towels and linens are washed for you every two weeks.

I felt that being in a home stay really made my experience that much better and more memorable because I was able to form a really nice bond with my host mom and also felt that our conversations helped me improve not only my language skills, but my understanding of French culture.