Infusing the French Connection - Alum of the Month Jose Campos

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Meet Jose Campos (IES Abroad Nantes, 2011) a business owner inspired through his study abroad in Nantes to travel the world and infuse his French connection with everyday. Read on to learn more about Jose and how studying abroad inspired his life.

IES Abroad: What inspired you to study abroad?

Jose Campos (JC): Apart from really wanting to learn French, I knew I wanted a challenge, to get out of my comfort zone and immerse myself in another culture, language, and way of life. I knew I had to set myself up in an environment where there was no choice; I had to adapt to succeed.

IES Abroad: When you studied abroad in Nantes, how did you experience diversity in the city? Did it have an impact on your study abroad?

JC: For me diversity was moving and living in a new environment. I am from Mexico City and grew up in San Antonio and was studying at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas; thus, my normal environment was interacting with fellow Hispanics along with Anglo Americans. France and more so Nantes allowed for a variety and break from the norm. This was exactly what I was looking for. It was great that I was the first and only student from SMU and all other IES students with me were from all over the US and the world.

IES Abroad: What are some of the most influential memories from your time in Nantes?

JC: Apart from the planned trips and “sejours” into surrounding cities and areas, my host family was one of the most influential and impact aspects of my time in Nantes. They refused to speak English to me even at the beginning when I could barely communicate and pushed me to adapt and learn. My host brother and his siblings took me out and I got a different insight in the city via them and their friends. My host family involved me in their day to day, going above the standards or what was asked of them. They would have family and friends over, and I would be a part and interact. They even took me on one of their family trips into the countryside and interior of France; it was to a family reunion at a family chateau.

IES Abroad: How did studying abroad help you prepare for your career?

JC: In a general sense, I think the challenge and risk of going into the unknown and placing yourself in a different culture, with different social and economic policies, language, history, food etc is great. It makes you adapt and think on your feet as well as challenge our most basic fears of acceptance and fitting in.

In regard to my career specifically, I have gone to work for the French government partly because I enjoyed my study abroad experience so much. I then came back and ended up opening a coffeehouse and bakery that brought back bakers from France. We now have eight locations (about to open the ninth) and are considered a top 20 French bakery in the US.

IES Abroad: What is one thing you learned abroad that remains a constant in your life today?

JC: French has been key, with the bakeries and shops and from my time back in France working after studying abroad. But again that feeling of succeeding in a different environment, when you really have no choice. I think that has been key not just with confidence but the idea that we can benefit from different insights, cultures, peoples etc.

IES Abroad: What was your ‘aha moment’ when you realized you would never be the same again because of this study abroad experience?

JC: There have been many “aha” moments but I think Nantes and my study abroad experience really opened the door to my love of travel and different cultures. This was the first time I had crossed the Atlantic and been to Europe and traveled for an extended period of time.

After Nantes I went and worked in Amman, Jordan coaching soccer to Iraqi refugee girls and women via Reclaim Childhood and the US Embassy. I’ve worked with refugees in the States but also went to Lebanon and got to see some of the camps on the border with Syria during the height of the crisis in 2015. Now I have been traveling for coffee as we kick off the roasting aspect behind the shops. I just got back from Colombia, Panama, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador, all countries where we are sourcing coffee directly to roast here and supply our shops directly. I believe I have visited forty countries now.

IES Abroad: What is your advice for the next generation of IES Abroad students?

JC: Just do it! Literally get up and get out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself because that is how one grows. Returning to SMU for my senior year after my study abroad, I worked in the Study Abroad office and advocated aggressively for students to take a semester, a year, more than a summer (which I believe is too short) and expand their horizons. I had been the first and only student so far to do IES Nantes from SMU and thus served as the de facto liaison and guinea pig.

Having worked, lived, and studied abroad and traveled for pleasure, nothing compares. You will never have another shot at immersing yourself in a different culture, with a host family, without any professional requirements or weight. It will literally change your life and maybe help define it.

Learn more about studying abroad in Nantes, and 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. To help more students like Jose receive the option to study abroad, you can support our scholarships.

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