"Life can be a good experience for you if you allow it to." (Fay, Episode 29)
What a joy to be able to interview yet another family member of mine for this podcast! First it was my cousin Kayla (episode 1), then it was my cousin Patrick (episode 6), and now it's my Aunt Fay's turn. I'd known for years that Fay Miller spent some time in Europe in the '90s, but I didn't thoroughly ask her about it until recently. We'd planned to talk during our family gathering on Thanksgiving, but everyone was having such a good time that we postponed it until Christmastime. Which meant that Fay's interview was the last one that I conducted in 2018. Another family member, another house call. What a special way to end the year!
While Fay's professional background is in social work and human services, her educational background is in business administration. After studying business and economics at her beloved HBCU, Kentucky State University, she started working and then went back to school for her Master's in Business Administration at Bellarmine University, which her job at the time paid for. Her MBA program included a required "international study of business" course, and when she took it the course was to be held in Paris, so the entire class went to France for 10 days in the summer of 1998. While she doesn't know the specifics of how this came about, she did mention that this was probably an experimental venture; she and her classmates were the first cohort from Bellarmine to participate in a program like this. Fay hadn't given any thought to studying abroad as an undergraduate student in the '80s because "we weren't doing all that back then," so going to France as a graduate student was both her first time on an airplane and her first time outside of the U.S.
Though the course didn't require many assignments (they mostly attended lectures and did some field visits as well), Fay and her classmates basically only had weekday evenings and the weekend at their disposal to explore. Because of this, while some of her classmates made trips to other cities within and outside of France, Fay focused on seeing as much of Paris as she could. Besides marveling at the palatial gardens in Versailles and a group excursion visiting the European Parliament in Brussels, she stayed in the City of Lights for the entire time. Which was just fine for her! Paris was one of two places outside of the mainland U.S. that she'd really wanted to go to (the other one being Hawaii), and besides enjoying staples like local pastries and historical landmarks, she temporarily overcame her fear of heights for the special occasion of going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Plus, she was in the midst of the 1998 World Cup fervor and even got to attend the championship game. Don't ask her today which teams were playing and who won, though! (It was France. France won.)
"It helped me to become even more of a people person and learn to be more accepting of people where they're at."
Admittedly, Fay's time in Paris was not the most academically enlightening experience. She was surprised to find that French companies were decidedly more protective of their information than U.S. ones, so she and her classmates weren't able to learn as many details about those companies' operations as they'd anticipated. In other words, what they learned about business in Paris, they could have learned in class back home. However, Fay did greatly appreciate learning about French culture. Being confronted with cultural and social differences was an opportunity for her to be more open-minded, "It helped me to become even more of a people person and learn to be more accepting of people where they're at." And two decades later, she still has stories to tell!
Fay is retired now but still spends much of her time working with young people as an educator and mentor in Louisville, Kentucky. Her goal is for each of them to have experiences outside of their norm; whether venturing outside of the country or simply outside of their neighborhood, she believes that those are adventures worth going on. She still plans on going to Hawaii one day, and in the meantime she enjoys traveling to other U.S. states with her husband. Fay can be found on Facebook (Fay Mb).
Be sure to listen to this episode, "Won't Worry Me (PARIS)" for more! And don't forget to check out the resource list below!
List of study abroad options in France (Bellarmine)