|Study abroad experience translates into a career|
After studying French for several years while in high school and college, Ganz participated in a WMU study abroad program that landed her at the University of Upper Brittany in Rennes, France. Because she grew up in a small Michigan town, she said the idea of going abroad was a bit daunting, as well as exciting.
"I studied French language, history and culture in a program taught entirely in French by native speakers," Ganz said. "I was selected to be a live-in tutor for a host family with two adolescent daughters and a two-year-old son. The parents didn't speak English, so I was completely immersed in the French language while in their home.
"As I helped my French sisters with their homework for their English classes, I observed that although they were only 12 and 14, each one already had an impressive start in studying English and one other foreign language," she said. "This convinced me that we should work harder in the U.S. to establish more foreign language programs in elementary and junior high schools, especially since second language acquisition is easier for younger students."
Ann with Gianna and Christian Student Services at AIU
Her interest beyond the borders of the United States was further sparked by her French father, who she said enjoyed discussing politics and his perspective on U.S. foreign policy. While living with her French family, she also met many people of her grandparent’s generation and remembers being deeply touched by their heartfelt expressions of great admiration and praise for the "American heroes" who helped liberate France from Nazi rule in WWII.
"These experiences gave me personal insights into French culture, and hearing French in context on a daily basis improved my fluency to a level I could not have achieved through coursework alone," she said. "I also learned fun things that one doesn’t normally get in a classroom, like slang and the "baby talk" they used when speaking with their toddler. My host family included me in all their activities, so I was able to participate in the daily life of a typical French family. I enjoyed their more relaxed pace of life, leisurely family meals together, and many other things, such as accompanying my French mother to buy groceries in all the small neighborhood shops as she visited with the shopkeepers."
She fondly recalls memories from her college study abroad experience of spending weekends with her French host family at their cottage in St. Malo, a seaside town in Brittany founded in the sixth century. Years later, she returned on a two week tour of France with her daughter’s high school class that included a stop in St. Malo.
"I was able to see my daughter and her classmates fall in love with the town’s picturesque charm," she said. "They explored the old walled city and watched the sun set from the top of the citadel. It was wonderful to share their excitement for this place that holds so many special memories for me."
Ganz currently advises WMU students going abroad to France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada. She has a BA from WMU in French and linguistics and a MA from the University of Michigan in Romance Linguistics. She has taught French in programs ranging from grade school through college, including adjunct teaching in WMU’s French program.
Ann with WMU students at Negocia in Paris
Ganz’s personal and professional travels have included visits to Toronto, Montreal and Quebec, Canada, Mexico, France, Spain and the United Kingdom. She recently accompanied two WMU faculty, who led a business abroad short-term program to Paris and London. The group attended lectures at Negocia, a WMU exchange partner university in Paris, and Brunel University in London to learn about ways in which culture affects business practices in other countries. They also had opportunities to visit local business and attend a trade fair in Paris. This was the first trip to Europe for several participants.
"I was very impressed by how quickly they adapted to the new surroundings and their open-mindedness towards the cultural differences they encountered," she said. "I’m confident that they’ll be ready and willing to take advantage of opportunities to travel and/or work abroad in the future."
Ganz said her study abroad trip while in college was "one of the most treasured and beneficial experiences" of her life. "It is very rewarding to assist students in planning an overseas adventure as part of their college years," she said.
CELCIS Admissions Coordinator