GoAbroad Interview

Meghan Devine - Student Life Coordinator

Meghan Devine - Student Life Coordinator

Originally from Ohio, Meghan first studied abroad in Avignon, France as an undergrad at Ohio University, where she majored in French and public relations. After graduating, she taught English in France for two years, and then went on to assist with an Ohio University study abroad program in Grenoble, France and become an au pair in Belgium. Meghan began her career with IAU College shortly after her stint in Belgium, and she has worked in the admissions offices in both Chicago and San Diego ever since. However, she will soon be taking on a role in the student life department at IAU College’s campus in Aix-en-Provence, France.

How have your own experiences abroad, especially in France, inspired you in your life both personally and professionally?

My path in life took a drastic turn following my first semester abroad in France. The first few weeks were not easy, but I soon found that I enjoyed being a foreigner and adapting to new customs. For that reason, I returned to France to teach English after graduating college, and since then France has drawn me back again and again. Working with IAU allows me to tour Europe with students on our January-term seminars and to support our busy summer programs in Aix-en-Provence, and none of this would have happened if I hadn’t made the leap to study abroad.

Camel riding in Morocco
On a camel trek in Morocco with students from Northern Arizona University

Why do you think international education is important in the world today?

A lack of cultural understanding leads to prejudice, animosity, and conflict, and the most effective way to combat these phenomena is to immerse yourself in a foreign culture. That, to me, is the biggest asset of international education.

You can read all the books or watch all the movies you want, but the truest way to understand another culture and its ideals is to live it.

You taught English in France and worked as an au pair in Belgium before you began working for IAU College. What attracted you to work for IAU College?

It wasn’t until my second study abroad experience that it dawned on me that I could make a career out of my passion for international travel and education. With its campus in southern France, IAU was the perfect match for me to both continue using my French and to share my knowledge of France with our students.

How do you use your own experience studying abroad in your current role?

Would you trust a vegetarian to make you a hamburger? Perhaps if you were hungry enough, but people are generally more trusting of those with first-hand knowledge of what they are doing. I myself went through the swirl of emotions that students experience before, during, and after studying abroad, which allows me to give them the tools and tricks to help survive and flourish abroad.

I’ll begin working on our campus in southern France this month, so I’ll be tapping into my study abroad experiences on a daily basis, with the hope that students can learn from my mistakes and successes.

IAU College students and staff on an excursion in southern France
Excursion in southern France with our spring cohort and my colleague, Ali Freter

What is the most frequently asked question you receive from student applicants?

“When will I receive my housing assignment?”

Again, I can relate to this, since I was incredibly anxious to learn about the family I would be living with in France. Now that I am in charge of host family placements, I realize how important it is to balance the sometimes difficult reality of living amongst strangers with the idyllic image of French life. As in the entire study abroad experience, living with host families is both challenging and extremely rewarding, so I look forward to helping students navigate this adventure and come away with a deeper understanding of French people and their customs.

How does IAU College support international students before, during, and after their coursework?

We offer pre-departure materials so that students have all necessary information at their fingertips. We have an entire student life department dedicated to making the on-site experience a success, whether that means researching local fencing teams, accompanying students on doctor’s visits, or just offering to listen. Upon completion of our programs, our students are a part of our extensive alumni network, and we stay connected both virtually and in-person during our alumni events.

You will soon be transitioning to work in Student Life at IAU’s campus in Aix-en-Provence. What unique opportunities to students have at their fingertips in Aix?

Aix has the benefit of being a student town, so there are plenty of concerts, sports clubs, and festivals. IAU also offers organized excursions, including ski trips, wine tastings, hikes, cooking classes, and more. Plus, Aix is ideally located in southern France, just 30 minutes from Marseille and three hours from Paris, so students can easily fly to major cities around France and Europe.

IAU College students in La Ciotat, France
Day trip to La Ciotat, a coastal city near Aix, with our spring cohort and my lovely colleague, Ali Freter

What is your best piece of advice for students preparing to study abroad in France?

Embrace life outside of your comfort zone. After all, you’re going to a foreign country, so expect things to be foreign.

The less that you try to apply your expectations and customs to French living, the easier you will integrate into your environment and gain perspective on their culture as well as your own.

Why do you enjoy working for IAU College most?

My phenomenal colleagues; I’m lucky to work with people who go out of their way to make our programs successful and unforgettable for all students. I will dearly miss my San Diego colleagues, Ali, Rose, and Ari, but I look forward to joining our superstar team in Aix.