Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends

From Junior Year in Paris to the Peace Corps: A Study Abroad Travelogue

Mara Posner Metzger ’88 describes how her time in Paris in 1986-87 inspired her career in international development, as part of a series marking the 60th anniversary of Study Abroad at Brandeis.

  • Mara Posner Metzger stands next to a gargoyle atop Notre Dame cathedral.
    Mara Posner Metzger ’88 atop Notre Dame cathedral during her junior year abroad in Paris.
  • Mara Posner Metzger sitting on top of a wall in Strasbourg, France.
    Metzger visited Strasbourg, France as part of a school trip.
  • Mara Posner Metzger with a friend in Bruges, Belgium
    Metzger (left) on a visit to Bruges, Belgium with friend Ileen (Epstein) Hattem ’88.
  • Mara Posner Metzger in snow gear standing in front of the Alps.
    Metzger managed to go skiing in the Alps thanks to snow gear she borrowed from French friends.

Studying abroad my junior year changed my life and put me on a career path in international development. I also made new friends, both French and American, one of whom was also a Brandeis student, Ileen (Epstein) Hattem ’88, and she became - and still is - one of my best friends.

I loved Paris and France and had an excellent experience with the Study Abroad program. I met people from all over the world, including a few from the African continent. Speaking with them about their countries and the issues they were facing sparked my interest visiting or working in Africa someday. During my senior year, I applied and was accepted to the Peace Corps, to teach English in Mauritania, West Africa.

That experience was the beginning of my 12-year career in international development. On returning after two years in Mauritania, I worked for the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C., for five years, and then for a nonprofit organization called IFES, also in D.C., for three years. Since I got married in 2002, I have been working with my husband at a small business we own here in Rochester, New York.

The most memorable connection was a friendship with another Brandesian I met in Paris, also on a study-abroad program that year. She and I traveled to Israel on our spring break and met up with two other Brandeis students, Belinda (Krifcher) Lehman ’88 and Eva (Pollin) Cowen ’88, and we all decided to live together senior year. I am still close friends with all three of them, and we get together often even though we live in different cities. 

I have returned to Paris a few times and love the city. I still speak French fairly fluently and being able to speak French helped further my career in international development. Yes, it definitely changed my life and influenced my career path in a big way!

Read more stories from 60 years of Brandeis Study Abroad and browse the album