Student Voices — Q&A with IES Abroad Paris French Studies Student Angelia Wengert

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Kiah Zellner-Smith
January 13, 2016


At IES Abroad, our students are as diverse as the countries they study in. There’s no better example of this than Angelia Wengert, both a grandmother and IES Abroad student, who chose to spend last summer improving her French on our Paris Summer Advanced Language Program.

We spoke to Angelia when she first landed in Paris, and then after she returned home. Check out her interview to find out what led her to study abroad, what she achieved while in Paris, and her advice for other non-traditional students.

During Study Abroad

IES Abroad: What inspired you to study abroad? 
Angelia Wengert: Around 23 years ago, I had the opportunity to live in Quebec, Canada, with my family and learned French by immersion. Upon my return to finish my degree in Fall 2012, I immediately directed my courses to study abroad. I had many conversations with IES Abroad, and, in my mind, I planned to study in Paris my senior year.

IES Abroad: What do you hope to learn during your summer in Paris?
AW: Collect memories and finish my minor degree in French. I can say that I studied Art and Literature from passionate professors who can tell me about their Paris and their pride in its history, authors, and artists. 

Because I learned French by immersion, I had the confidence to speak, read, and understand before coming here. However, I wanted to challenge myself to write more and to actually live in France. To really experience the grandeur, learning from the Parisians who speak of their passions and culture. 

IES Abroad: What challenges do you think you face as a non-traditional student abroad?
AW: I cannot pretend that there is not 30+ years between myself and the typical student. I am a businesswoman who is very independent, so I find that I take my time, and choose what's best for me to do alone, and then with a group.

IES Abroad: What’s one thing you want to be sure to do during your time abroad?
AW: Visit as many churches, museums, monuments and go on as many excursions that I can afford. I am content with my decision to concentrate on the regions that are easiest for me to get to on the RER, using the Navigo pass. The weekend excursions are free with the RER, so I was able to visit Chateau de Versailles. I hope to see as many chateaus as possible—see as much as I can see (this is my motto), in a very limited time.

As a student studying Art, History, and Literature, [I got] an IES Abroad student pass that gives me free admission to most museums. I encourage taking these types of courses to enjoy as much as you can for free. 

IES Abroad: What advice would you give to other non-traditional students?
AW: Just go! Be brave and don't hesitate. Remember this is one opportunity that you'll never regret! Follow your dreams and live them! Make it worth your while, even if it's a dream that's over 40 years old! Walk a lot before coming to Paris, you'll be eating and losing weight at the same time when you’re here, and you'll be glad that you prepared ahead! Take it all blessed that you’re there! Day after day, you'll be saying to yourself that these are some of the best days of your life! I'm so glad to have studied abroad—an opportunity of a lifetime!

Post-Study Abroad

IES Abroad: Angelia, we spoke to you during your first days in Paris. Now that you can reflect back on it, what surprised you about Paris or studying abroad in general?
AW: It was more than I even dreamed of. I loved the passion of my IES Abroad teachers, all of the staff were incredible to create a great experience from the start, including our welcome and farewell dinners, and all of our out-of-town and local excursions. I loved them all!

I'll never forget the Cathedrals everywhere, like Riems (where Joan of Arc was), plus all the coronation of the kings of France. My most memorable [experience] was worshiping in the world renown Notre Dame in Paris, celebrating Mass with the French mothers and parishioners on their Mother's Day, completely in French! 

I spoke to the Parisians, taking many photos along the way (between 7,000-10,000 photos), beholding all the art, architecture, stained glass, and murals. It doesn't get any better than these rich experiences in life. 

I was the happiest daily, going to churches and museums in between and after my classes and all my study requirements because most all the museums where included with my studies. Such amazing history all around me, like that of St. Denis and its Cathedral. My favorite is Sainte-Chapelle in Paris with all of the stunning stained glass that I shall never forget! Even visiting the cemetery was like a walk in the park with history and beauty.

IES Abroad: When we last spoke, you mentioned some of the challenges that being a non-traditional student might pose for you. Looking back, is there anything you would change about your responses to the challenges and/or advice questions?
AW: Gaining more scholarships for the travel would have played an important part on how I chose to participate. And, I did participate in all of the included excursions; however, as a mother and a grandmother, I never wanted to make the other students feel uncomfortable with me. Many students came up to me at the end and told me how proud they were of me, and vice versa.

IES Abroad: Lastly, what was your favorite memory from your time abroad?
AW: The day that I spent at the Château de Sceaux, a grand country house in Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine, not far from Paris.   

It was the day that my son and his wife went to the hospital to have their baby girl. She was my first granddaughter, my third grandchild, and my one and only that would be born while I was in Europe.

I wanted to feel special with beauty all around me. The nature and the parks of Château de Sceaux made that possible, in addition to gorgeous French gardens in front with fountains, swans, and wildlife. Spending a special relaxing day at this 247-acre estate in the country was like paradise as I waited for my little princess to be born. I found out in less than 24 hours later that my little "Princess Grace" arrived in this world! 

Learn more about our programs in France, then begin planning your study abroad adventure. 

To find out more about our Initiative to Diversify Education Abroad, click here.

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Kiah Zellner-Smith

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