I was studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France for an academic year from Fall 2008 to Summer 2009. Coincidentally, I had met a French girl the year before who was studying abroad at the University of Michigan for a year. Even better, she was from the school I was planning for over a year to attend called the Institut d’Etudes Politiques-Aix (IEP aka Science-Po-Aix). Her name is Julie Mandoyan, French-born daughter of Armenian immigrants, and I have to thank her for changing my career outlook forever.
Not only did we spend some time together in Ann Arbor, but we organized my arrival in the Fall after she would have already returned home. Her and her family welcomed me in their home for a couple of days in Marseille, France because the international airport is located there, and Aix is less than an hour away. She was technically accompanying me to Aix, not to return to the IEP, but to ask for her school transcripts that stated she had completed her Bachelor’s Degree after studying abroad. In France, most Bachelor’s programs take 3 years, the 3rd year is commonly spent abroad in the Erasmus program, but almost all French college students continue their Master’s program right away for 2 years. Furthermore, the average French college student completes a total of 5 years in school to complete their Masters all at the same school without the need of GRE’s or applying again. On the other hand, Julie was accepted into a prestigious Masters program called the Graduate Institute of Geneva in Switzerland. The IEP made it close to impossible to give her paperwork and transcripts because this is not a common occurrence, but yet she was able to get it done, therefore she moved to Geneva!
Fast forward a couple of months living in Aix around winter time in February 2009, I decided to finally visit Julie in Geneva. We planned on touring Geneva, visiting the United Nations headquarters, and then a trip with her graduate school friends to go skiing in the Alps.
A walk around Lake Geneva and the Freddy Mercury Statue
A Tour of the United Nations Headquarters – Palace of Nations:
It was a dream come true to be able to see this building. I always knew since I was little that I wanted to work internationally, but visiting this location inspired me even more. In the following photo I’m acting like I submitted my job application to the UN:
A road-trip to the Swiss Alps, blocked road by an avalanche, skiing, and finally arriving to our wooden cottage (called “chalet” in Swiss French, pronounced sha-ley)
Overall, because of spending time with Julie and her classmates, I decided I wanted to apply to grad school in International Affairs in the future. In fact, I applied to her program in 2011 but unfortunately did not get in. However, I did get accepted to the University of California, San Diego – School of Global Policy & Strategy which was a blessing in disguise because it was significantly less expensive and much warmer than living in Geneva.
Nonetheless, thank you Julie and Switzerland for inspiring me to take my career route of International Development. I will never forget it, and hope to one day have an opportunity to work in Geneva one day.