Can studying abroad change your life?
A group of UConn alumni who spent their junior year in France 50 years ago discovered that it had a profound impact on each of them in ways big and small.
Seven devoted their careers to teaching French. Three married French spouses. All agreed that it had changed their lives in ways big and small.
“One woman said ‘I came from a small town and led a very quiet, introverted life. I was able to branch out and become a complete person,” says Larry Livernois, who organized a 50th reunion, along with several other group members, in Southbridge, Massachusetts. Livernois, himself, parlayed his French skills into getting a consulting job in Quebec.
“We decided we’re in the position of being able to pay it forward. It was such a tremendous experience for everybody. We thought ‘What could we do to enhance the experience of somebody else?’” Livernois said.
As a result, the group started a scholarship fund to help students studying in France pay for indirect travel expenses, such as costs associated with educational and cultural experiences.
Gabriella Pires Santoro, associate director of experiential global learning at UConn, says the new scholarship will make a big difference to students studying abroad.
“Students can use it to buy tickets, or to be able to travel around France, or take a day trip to visit one of the castles,” Santoro says. “I think it will really help students with out-of-pocket expenses.”
As for the reunion itself, it was a big success. Fifteen of the original 33 undergraduates in the program came to the gathering while four tuned in on Zoom, says Livernois, who managed to track down most everyone, including one student who had changed both his first and last names. They all had fun trying to recognize each other from their nine months spent together in Paris and Rouen, France back in 1971.
“Most all the guys had beards and long hair back then. We looked like hippies,” Livernois says. “Now we look very different.”
After sharing photos and memories, they sat down to a five-course French dinner topped off with an apple Calvados compote and vanilla UConn Dairy Bar ice cream.
“Everybody really enjoyed it. We had a lot of laughs and resurrected lots of memories,” Livernois says.
If you’d like assistance in organizing your own UConn reunion, contact Director of Alumni Events Deb Crary at firstname.lastname@example.org.