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From Study Abroad Participant to Department of State Employee

by AIFS Study Abroad
From Study Abroad Participant to Department of State Employee | AIFS Study Abroad | AIFS in Grenoble, France

We caught up with AIFS alum, Ryan Dooley, who studied abroad on our Grenoble, France program back in Spring 1995. Check out what he’s up to now and how spending a semester overseas impacted his personal and professional life.

How did your study abroad experience impact your career choice and/or lead you to your current job?

After completing my semester with AIFS in Grenoble, I returned to Washington, D.C. (GWU) convinced that a career with the U.S. Department of State was for me! Living abroad, continuing my love and learning of foreign languages, and having friends and “family” in France underscored for me the importance of cultural exchanges like these for our future generations of business leaders, teachers/professors, and politicians and diplomats.

Ryan with former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when he visited my office in Miami, Florida, April 2016

How did your study abroad experience impacted other areas of your life?

My AIFS experience in Grenoble helped take my French to more advanced, professional levels. Now, 23 years later, I still speak French and have many French speaking friends. AIFS’ program in Grenoble matched me with a near-perfect host family situation where learning French was an around-the-clock mission of mine.

Ryan and his AIFS Grenoble “Host Mom” at the White House before going into the Oval Office. She visited him in 2000, 5 years after he completed his program.

Ryan and AIFS in Grenoble Resident Director, Miranda, in Grenoble in May 1995

Have you been back to your study abroad location since your time abroad as a student?

Yes, in the past 23 years I have been back to Grenoble 10 times. And, my host “mom” has been to visit me and my family in the US. My “sisters” are all grown and have families of their own and my “host mom” is now a grandmother. I still feel a part of the family. I also still keep in touch with Miranda Rea, who is still the Resident Director for AIFS in Grenoble. She played an important role in my study abroad experience.

Ryan and AIFS in Grenoble Resident Director, Miranda, in Grenoble in May 1995

Are you still in contact with other students or anyone you met during your time abroad?

Yes, there are two students who were part of the 1995 AIFS Grenoble program who remain in touch; one of whom also works for the U.S. Department of State!

Are there any activities or traditions from your time abroad that you continued back in the US?

Yes, speaking French is still part of my personal and professional life after all these years. I also gained my appreciation for French cuisine and wine in Grenoble, and I am still always looking for the best Bordeaux or French Bistro where I can get the best “onglet à l’échalote”!

What are your top destinations for future travel?

Hmm – my career and my personal travel have taken me to more than 60 countries — I’d like to go to Kenya, Antartica, Cambodia, and the Seychelles! Oh, and I still want to visit the French island of “La Reunion”!

Any advice for students who are considering studying abroad?

DO NOT THINK TWICE ABOUT IT! The ability to learn and advance another language while living and studying in a foreign country with a local family is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience… and that can really only be done during your college years. DO IT! GO! VAS-Y!

Any advice for recently returned study abroad students?

YES, stay in touch with your classmates — which of course is much easier with Facebook! Stay in touch with your families and your Resident Director, as well as AIFS’ alumni network.

Are you an AIFS Study Abroad alum looking to reconnect with classmates? Join our alumni Facebook and LinkedIn groups!

From Study Abroad Participant to Department of State Employee | AIFS Study Abroad | AIFS in Grenoble, France

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