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CEA Paris Alumni Spotlight: Amy Johnson

January 25, 2016
by CEA CAPA Content Creator

Amy Johnson is a CEA Paris alumna (Spring ’14), recent grad from The University of Arizona (Spring’15), and is currently a CEA Alumni On-Site Ambassador in Paris, France.


Our CEA Paris On-Site Ambassador, Amy Johnson, had so much fun highlighting her fellow Paris 2012 alumni stories, we had to flip the script on her...that's right, Amy. Now YOU get to be in the spotlight! Check out how Amy found her way back to Paris post-graduation and what she thinks about her new life in the city:

1. What is your current role?

I am the CEA On-Site Alumni Ambassador, here in Paris. Typically, the focus of my day-to-day activities switches between my long-term and short-term projects, so some days I may be working on blog posts or uploading photos from a weekend excursion, or I may be interviewing students for an on-going video project that I’m working on. Being in this role has definitely challenged my flexibility, mainly because at any given time, I am a resource to students, a travel guide, a photographer, a translator, or simply just someone to talk to when a student is experiencing culture shock.

 CEA Paris On-Site Ambassador helps prepare the CEA
Paris Study Center for the Fall'15 University Familiarization trip.

2. What do you enjoy about your role?

Aside from the whole living-in-Paris aspect of my job, I love the personal interactions I have everyday. I love hearing about students’ weekend plans and also the bilingual environment that I work in. I like that my position encompasses a lot of my talents and interests too, such as photography and writing. Last week, I followed the Art History class to the Musée d’Orsay to take some photos of their class (held in the orientalism exhibit that day). How many people can say that’s part of their job requirement?

3. Why did you choose to study abroad?

There were a lot of different factors that played into my decision to study abroad, but mainly I just wanted to experience a new city. Growing up, I moved around quite a bit, and every four years I tend to start feeling this sense of restlessness, so I chose to study abroad in order to break up the monotony of my home university. I also have extended family who have studied abroad, worked in the Peace Corps and generally travel a lot, so I definitely credit that to my interest as well.

 Patrons raise their nation's flag high after a goal is scored by the France National Soccer team during a game against Holland.

4. Did your career goals change after studying abroad?

Yes. 100% yes. Funny enough, even my interests changed, too. I originally chose Paris because I thought I wanted to go the fashion industry, but after taking the French Culture and Civilization course, as well as the Oenology course, I discovered a strong passion for French culture, specifically the anthropology of gastronomy and oenology (I swear it’s actually a thing). I then decided I wanted to venture into that realm of study instead—quite a huge change from my initial career goals.

5. Did your study abroad experience contribute to your current role or professional life?

Seeing as I am back in Paris again, I would say it definitely contributed to my current role. I also believe studying abroad is still contributing to my life because it kind of cemented in my head that I can do anything as long as I put my mind to it. That sounds super cliché, but I discovered a lot about myself when I studied abroad that gave me a sense of confidence when facing “The Real World.”

 A street vendor sells beautiful red tulips ("tulipes," in French) during a Sunday market street fair in Paris.

6. What is one piece of advice you would give to students who are studying abroad now?

Seeing as I am in contact with study abroad students everyday, I have a lot of advice I’d like to give, but the major one is that you should really focus on exploring the city you’re studying in. A lot of times, when people are studying abroad in Europe they feel they need to be traveling every weekend, experiencing a new country whenever possible. Traveling every now and then is definitely something I support, but when are you ever going to get another opportunity to actually live in a foreign country? Explore your neighborhood, go to a different museum every weekend, make international friends, absorb as much of the culture as you possibly can—this experience won’t last forever.

7. What is one piece of advice you would give to study abroad alumni who are searching for opportunities abroad?

Set goals and work hard. That sounds like something your parents might say to you, but it’s true. I knew I wanted to return to Paris at some point after graduation, so I made a game plan early on. I became a CEA Alumni Ambassador at my home university for a little over a year and really tried hard to make a good impression. Another key element: networking. I can remember writing down every job position I wanted after graduation, and then creating a map of people I knew that could help me reach that goal. That’s not to say that going abroad again isn’t easily obtainable, but it will definitely require a bit of work.

8. What has been the biggest challenge about working abroad?

Mainly the biggest issue I faced within my first month here is trying to adapt to the real world while also adapting to life in a foreign country. I had never lived by myself until I moved here, so I was kind of forced into this role of independence almost immediately. I’m learning that being alone isn’t necessarily synonymous with feeling lonely. And while I definitely still have moments of “What did I get myself into?” thankfully they’re only temporary.

Amy Johnson is a recent graduate of the University of Arizona, where has has a dual degree in Journalism and Anthropology. She studied abroad with CEA in Paris in the spring of 2014.

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