50 Years Later: Reflections on a Life-Changing Year Abroad - Alum of the Month Sarah Lewis Moseley

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Meet Sarah Lewis Moseley (IES Abroad Paris, 1968-69 | Hendrix College), who is celebrating her 50th anniversary class reunion with IES Abroad this year. While studying in Paris, Sarah became fluent in French, traveled to Monaco, and made meaningful friendships. Sarah now devotes her time to giving back to her community in Birmingham, Alabama. She is also a valued donor to the IES Abroad Scholarship Fund, inspired by her own scholarship support and her brother’s spirit of philanthropy. Read on to learn about Sarah’s experience abroad, her passion for volunteerism, and why she gives to IES Abroad.

IES Abroad: As a student at Hendrix College, what motivated you to study abroad in Paris?

Sarah Lewis Moseley (SLM): Foreign language, history, art, philosophy, and literature were among the requirements when I entered Hendrix College in Conway on a music scholarship. It was in those freshmen year classes that my dream of one day visiting Paris began. 

To go back 50 years, Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright, head of the Foreign Relations Committee, established an annual scholarship for one Arkansas junior-year-student to study abroad. My French teacher told me about this scholarship opportunity through IES Abroad, and she and other professors wrote letters of recommendation on my behalf. My “impossible dream” was soon to become a reality.

IES Abroad: What are a few of your most meaningful memories from your time abroad?

SLM: The friendships, the country, the city, and the unique experiences that only international studies can provide!

Fifty years ago, the Air France plane landed in Paris; and my incredible IES Abroad year began with a field trip to the countryside to see first-hand the historic chateaux and churches about which I had only read. When we returned to Paris, the school year began with language labs and classes in the IES Abroad Paris Center, and then continued with classes in art museums and the Sorbonne.  Several classmates and I performed a play at the Palace of Versailles–in French, of course! We stood where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette have stood! How memorable is that?!

I had three roommates: Fariba from Tehran, Iran; Billye from Milpitas, California; and Jackie from New York City. We lived in the 16th district with a view of the Eiffel Tower in the home of a lady who was the editor of a French newspaper, and whose brother was a politician who had served as foreign minister, prime minister, and had run against Charles de Gaulle for President.

My IES Abroad classmates and I shared incredible experiences, such as seeing Maurice Chevalier’s farewell performance at L’Olympia, cooking at the Cordon Bleu, skiing in Innsbruck, seeing the Grand Prix races of Monte Carlo, sitting with Princess Grace of Monaco and her children at a concert, and sitting with the College of Cardinals for the Easter Sunday Mass at the Vatican directly in front of the Pope.

While living there, I dreamed in French; I wrote poems in French; I spoke in French as I traveled to other countries; I became French. As many, including Thomas Jefferson, have been quoted: “Every man has two countries, his own and France.” I now had two countries!

IES Abroad: What impact did the study abroad scholarship you received have on you?

SLM: Without Senator Fulbright’s scholarship, it would not have been possible for me to study abroad. That wise and caring government leader understood the power of international studies to impact not only my world but our one great world - one student at a time, one scholarship at a time. His one scholarship changed this one life forever, and to him I will always be grateful.

IES Abroad: You are an active volunteer in your community. What causes do you support?

SLM: The last few years I have been a volunteer fundraiser for several non-profits and charities, including Christian homes for homeless and abused women and children, cancer research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), and Samford University’s Legacy League Scholarship fund for international students.

I am also a volunteer with my church’s international outreach programs and UAB’s Friendship Partners. I remember what it was like my first night in Paris. Katherine with IES Abroad took me out to dinner and welcomed me with open arms. I want to return to others the kindnesses and the welcoming spirit that Katherine and the IES Abroad faculty extended to me when I arrived in a foreign country.

IES Abroad: Why do you give to the IES Abroad Scholarship Fund?

SLM: In memory and in honor of Senator Fulbright, I too want to give back to IES Abroad to impact the world one student at a time. My brother’s giving spirit has also influenced me. He has traveled extensively and given generously to fund international experiences for rural students in West Tennessee that would never have had this life-changing opportunity without his financial support.

IES Abroad: What impact has your study abroad experience had on your life today? 

SLM: The IES Abroad international experience transformed my life. I learned firsthand that people are the same the world over. We all have the same needs and desires, just different backgrounds and perspectives. The relationships that my roommates, classmates and I have today are a result of the meaningful memories we shared in Paris.

As we enter the holiday season of giving and hope, I remember and give thanks for Senator Fulbright and Hendrix College who made my study-abroad possible, IES Abroad for their programs throughout the world, and the friends and faculty of IES Abroad that I met in Paris. It is an honor and a blessing to support the IES Abroad Scholarship Fund with the hope that these study abroad programs will continue to bring people from all nations together in understanding and in peace.

Learn more about interning or studying abroad in Paris.

Check out all of our Alum of the Month profiles to see real examples of how study abroad changed the lives and careers of our former students.

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