| by Clara Clymer

News Stories

Carol Lin
Carol Lin MAIEM ’18

For Carol Lin MAIEM ’18, growing up between Taiwan and the United States meant that her journey to the Middlebury Institute was grounded in her bicultural and binational upbringing.

Lin attended school in different educational systems and therefore, as she explains, “I always had an interest in the experience of the international student and the experience of bridging cultures and trying to make differences meet.” At the Middlebury Institute, the International Educational Management program allowed her to combine her previous intercultural experiences with her interest in serving in an international student or international relations capacity. Lin chose French as her language of study at the Middlebury Institute because she was a French major at Grinnell College, and this introduced the possibility of completing her practicum semester at Sciences Po Bordeaux through the ongoing partnership between this French school and the Middlebury Institute.

I always had an interest in the experience of the international student and the experience of bridging cultures and trying to make differences meet.
— Carol Lin MAIEM ’18

Sciences Po Bordeaux makes two internships available annually to IEM practicum students. These students can choose to work either in the student services department, as was the case for Lin, or in the research center focused on Africa (Les Afriques dans le monde). So far, four students in the International Education Management program have taken advantage of this offering. According to Lin, she felt that this was “what everything I had learned in the IEM program was leading up toward. I wanted to pioneer a new pathway and see how what I had learned in the IEM program could be brought to the French higher education system. Since I was also interested in seeing how the French higher education system worked, it seemed like a good next step.” Lin spent her 2018 spring semester in Bordeaux in a consultant and research assistant role for her practicum, working principally on evaluating how Sciences Po Bordeaux was welcoming and assisting international students, particularly those from sub-Saharan African countries. She conducted interviews and qualitative evaluations to determine if these students’ needs were being met and proposed different measures to the school, such as a peer mentorship program, to help improve the student services offered to international students.

About a year and a half after Lin’s practicum ended, the director of the Sciences Po Bordeaux International Relations Office, whom she knew through her practicum experience, invited her to apply for a full-time position to help the department develop a new model of dual-degree programs with two partner universities: Hong Kong Baptist University and LUISS University (Rome). “I jumped at the opportunity and wanted to take on the adventure and see how I could reintegrate myself, more officially this time, in the office and the administration here at Sciences Po Bordeaux,” Lin explains. She was excited about the cultural aspect of being able to work in French and use what she had learned at the Middlebury Institute and her practicum experience. Lin was interviewed and hired for the position, and in November 2019, she returned as a staff member in the Sciences Po Bordeaux International Relations Office working on dual-degree programs and other departmental projects. For example, she currently helps with international student orientation programming and services, in addition to assisting with financial aid applications for French students studying abroad.

According to Lin, one of the most relevant courses to her current role that she took at the Middlebury Institute was Dr. David Wick’s Services for Student Development class. “I wasn’t sure, compared to classes like Marketing and Recruiting or Education Abroad Management, whether it would be in the forefront of the skills and the knowledge I would be pulling from. But because I am a non-French person working here and going through the same transitional experiences as many of our international students, I’ve found myself thinking back on a lot of those student development models to guide my approach to addressing our new student target audiences.” Lin explains that the theories she learned from this class have provided her with a helpful framework as she navigates a different education system, builds programs, and acts as an intermediary between the administration, faculty, and students. She further highlights the classes she took focusing on intercultural development, sharing that they were helpful in her adjustment to a new work environment in France. “It’s still a daily learning process. I’m learning to readjust, go with the flow, and be comfortable with ambiguity; find a balance between what I bring and what I can learn and make the differences work for the common good.”

It’s still a daily learning process. I’m learning to readjust, go with the flow, and be comfortable with ambiguity; find a balance between what I bring and what I can learn and make the differences work for the common good.
— Carol Lin MAIEM ’18

This partnership between the two schools also provides Sciences Po Bordeaux students with the opportunity to take advantage of the Middlebury Institute’s offerings in return. As part of this exchange, every year since 2016, ten master’s students from Sciences Po Bordeaux (known as BIRDs) have spent their fall semester enrolled in the Middlebury Institute. So far, 60 students have benefited from this exchange. These students primarily study International Policy and DevelopmentNonproliferation and Terrorism Studies, and International Environmental Policy, and add to the international diversity in the classroom. They come from not only France but also other countries such as Morocco, Italy, Luxembourg, Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Turkey.

As Jill Stoffers, senior director of institutional partnerships at the Middlebury Institute, elaborates, “One of the first clues about the success of the BIRDs at MIIS was when faculty started asking me eagerly if they were coming back in future years and if I could steer them toward their classes. Faculty have reported that they are well trained as researchers, write well, and contribute to the richness of class discussions.” The BIRDs take advantage of their time inside and outside of the classroom, joining clubs and getting involved in community projects. “My time at MIIS was so memorable and amazing because of both the diversity of people I met and the professional hands-on skills I learned,” says Lisa Motzig, a BIRD student who spent her fall 2021 semester at the Middlebury Institute. “Not to mention the sunny and pleasant town of Monterey in the background!”

Lisa Motzig, Gustav Fiere, and Louise Marmié, three BIRDs who spent their fall 2021 semester at the Middlebury Institute.

Moreover, every year, Sciences Po Bordeaux hosts undergraduate students from Middlebury College and the Middlebury School in France. Since 2009, about 80 students have participated in this exchange on either a semester or annual basis. Students live with host families in the Bordeaux region and commit to the Middlebury Language Pledge®. Beginning in 2016 with the current exchange agreement, all Middlebury School in France students hosted at Sciences Po Bordeaux take French as a Foreign Language (FLE) classes and choose to either enroll in Sciences Po Bordeaux lecture courses and methodology seminars in the political and social sciences or pursue other disciplines at the Bordeaux Montaigne University.

In addition to these institutional connections, personal connections are important. Lin credits her practicum opportunity, which put her on her current path, to Jill Stoffers, who first told her about the partnership. Lin’s advice to current Middlebury Institute students is to “try to harness the network. I think MIIS is very well positioned and has a lot of established connections through partnerships, word-of-mouth, or the alumni network. Foster connections and the curiosity to explore the roads not (yet) taken!”