Meet Ilse! This Seattle native was inspired to study abroad in college at Jean Moulin Lyon III in Lyon, by an exchange program in France while in high school in the city of Salon-de-Provence. After graduating from the University of Montana with a degree in International Political Science and French, Ilse returned to France again, this time to Toulouse to teach English to French elementary students. Ilse now works for the Boston-based travel company called Student Universe, which is aimed towards working with college aged student groups to find the best airfare rate for their budget. She also sells tours for individuals and groups all over the world. Ilse has spent a lot of time exploring other countries and has a dear admiration for all things travel related! Whether she’s hiking in the mountains near Missoula or gallivanting across the city in Boston, she enjoys soaking up whatever environment she is in. Other interests of Ilse’s include being outdoors, photography, cooking, and speaking with French with others!
What are your responsibilities at Student Universe?
I’m a travel services agent for Student Universe, which is geared for college students to help find cheaper flights through our different contracts with airlines. I work with groups, which is considered more than nine people and my job is to find out what the group is looking for and work with their budget. For example, if a group from U of M contacts us to say that they are interested in traveling from Missoula, Montana to London we work with an airline and the group’s budget to find what they’re looking for. There are a lot of responsibilities because I’m contractually bound to both the airlines and the clients. I have my own territory that I am in charge of (meaning all groups that originate in my area deal directly with me). My area includes most of the states in the middle of the country (including Montana!), and Canada. We have a partnership with G Adventures, a Canadian tour company that specializes in adventure, ecotourism. We literally have trips everywhere – even Antarctica!
Do you feel that Study Abroad sparked your interest in working for Student Universe?
My study abroad experience through U of M reinforced the idea that traveling is something I’m passionate about and that I want to work in the travel industry. I like being around people who are enthusiastic about traveling, and people from other cultures. My experience definitely made me realize that this is what I want to do.
How do you feel learning French was compared actually using in it in France? Did you feel prepared?
The study abroad experience I had in high school prepared me to feel comfortable with speaking French. It wasn’t necessarily my level of French that I was concerned about when I went abroad in college, since I had already learned to be okay with making a fool of myself and asking questions, therefore becoming more confident in my speaking. However, I wish that I had been able to take a translation class before leaving, I was able to take some of these courses in France and found them very helpful. Either way, by the end of my year in Lyon, I felt confident in my level of French, both speaking and comprehension.
There is a stereotype about French hating Americans. . Do you feel that was reflected on you?
There are people that fit that stereotype in France, but I feel that there are people that fit that stereotype everywhere. Americans are definitely friendlier on the outside and tend to approach people in an outgoing manner, but may never speak to you again. Whereas, in France I would say that a lot of French people may not be very friendly at first but once you get to know them, they are very true and genuine friends. Sometimes I would speak in French and people would hear my American accent and start speaking back to me in English, but I would continue speaking in French to prove that I was capable of doing so. It was frustrating, but sometimes I would meet people who were really interested talking to me after hearing my American accent and were very curious to know what I was doing in France.