Meet Gianna Reyes Montinola (IES Abroad Paris, Summer 1978 & 1978-79 | Mount Holyoke College), Vice President for Corporate Affairs at the Far Eastern University (FEU) Manila. Gianna grew up in the Philippines, and studied abroad with encouragement from her parents and her two brothers, who preceded her on IES Abroad programs.
After studying at Mount Hoyoke College, she went on to earn a Bachelor of Laws degree from the Ateneo Law School in Manila in 1985, and worked in private practice for seven years with the Quisumbing Torres & Evangelista Law office. From March 1994-96, she was appointed Philippine Honorary Consul to the Republic of Peru. Since then, she earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration as an Edward Mason Fellow at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government, and has co-founded two NGOs: Hands on Manila Foundation, Inc., and PeaceTech Inc. Gianna recently published two books entitled Laws for Life and Laws for Life 2 that answer often asked, everyday life questions from a legal perspective, designed for the Filipino audience.
IES Abroad: As a young Filipina in the late 1970s, what do you most significantly remember about Paris when you first arrived?
Gianna Reyes Montinola (GRM): I thought Paris was the most beautiful city in the world, and I still do. I loved its history, its culture, its lifestyle, and its food. The French were a bit difficult to get to know, but once I learned to speak their language, making friends with them became much easier.
IES Abroad: You were part of a large class of Americans studying abroad in Paris that year. How did you fit into to the class group, and what was new and different to you?
GRM: Stepping into IES Abroad Paris was like stepping into a school for the first time where none of us knew each other. Everyone came from a different college or university in the United States and not everybody had the same interests. Having to do all our courses in French was also a challenge. But it was a great adventure. And our professors at that time were excellent. I was extremely grateful that IES Abroad helped make the move from the United States to Paris a seamless one.
IES Abroad: Did your studies in Paris influence what you wanted to do after college? If so, how?
GRM: In a way, I chose to study abroad because the degree I pursued in my U.S. school, Mount Holyoke College, was International Relations. Learning about other countries and other languages were part and parcel of that. My studies in Paris convinced me that travelling to other parts of the world and absorbing the history and culture of different countries was crucial, especially in this field. Both my U.S. and Paris experiences taught me that understanding one another is the key to getting along in this global world.
IES Abroad: You have chosen to focus much of your time working in education and in nonprofit fields. How did that come about, and what you do find most rewarding about your work?
GRM: At the age of 40, I decided the time was ripe to give back. I had lived a relatively privileged life, and, as they say (and as Spiderman once said), “With great privilege comes great responsibility.”
Education is a service and providing affordable quality education to the working class is what we do at Far Eastern University. At PeaceTech Inc., we bring Muslim and Christian high school students to work together on history and values education via Skype, a technological tool we use for peace building and conflict resolution.
At Hands on Manila, we develop volunteer service programs in the areas of education, the environment, healthcare, and livelihood, and we recruit, train, and mobilize volunteers for such projects. In all of the things I do, I feel most fulfilled when I am able to help make others’ lives better.
IES Abroad: What experiences while studying abroad in Paris have had the greatest impact on your life?
GRM: These experiences were:
1. Learning to adapt to a new country, to absorb all the good things it has to offer and reject the negative;
2. Learning to observe my country from a distance, and to acknowledge its good and bad traits; and
3. Understanding different perspectives and learning to be compassionate to all who surround me.
IES Abroad: What advice do you have for students today who would like to study abroad?
GRM: The world is your oyster. If you can afford to travel and study abroad, do so and make the most of it. Travel is education outside the confines of a classroom. Study abroad is education that will broaden your horizons.
Learn more about interning or studying abroad in Paris.
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