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Undergraduate Alumni

These are just a few of the stellar alumni of our program!

Are you an alum who would like to share your story with us? Email us or find us on Facebook.

Elma Abdulbaki Heading link

Elma Abdulbaki

BA in French, 2021

I completed my BA in French and Francophone Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. My experience in the French and Francophone Studies department was one that has not only broadened my knowledge of the French culture and language, but also encouraged me to further pursue it in different aspects of my life.

My time at UIC has been full of opportunities offered to me by the French Department. I volunteered as a French Interpreter with PRIDE, a UIC initiative that connects refugees with disabilities to resources on navigating the local job market. I served as the French Club 2020-2021 President where we hosted multiple meetings that helped connect students with a passion for the French culture and language. And my senior year, I received the Thelander Research Scholarship that enabled me to further enrich my knowledge of the French culture. My research project about the myths of female bodies during the September Massacres went on to win first place in the 2021 InBetween Conference poster competition. Studying at UIC gave me a strong foundation, and pushed me to develop many skills in research, communication and leadership.

I am currently pursuing a PharmD degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy with the hopes of becoming a Clinical Pharmacist. My dreams and aspirations may one day take me to either work abroad or with a French Pharmaceutical Company. Either way, I must confess that I would not be here without the unique opportunities offered to me by UIC and the constant support of the wonderful French department there.

Hannah Ellis Heading link

BA in French, 2021

I graduated from UIC in May 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in French and Francophone Studies, as well as minors in International Studies and Political Science. My experiences at UIC allowed me to access several opportunities in which I can use French. During my undergraduate career, I volunteered as a French translator at NPH USA, a local nonprofit organization which sponsors orphans in Haiti and numerous nations in Latin America. I also relied on my French when working as a Legal Assistant at a Personal Injury Law Firm in Chicago. Here, I translated court documents from English to French, as well as communicated with attorneys in France.

Not only did I rely on French in professional matters, but I also was able to partake in other enriching educational experiences. I participated in a study abroad experience located in Geneva, Switzerland. Here, I was able to practice my French-speaking skills in my everyday life. I also attended lectures focused on international relations and diplomacy, which were hosted by governmental agencies, NGOs, and other various academic institutions. During my last two semesters at UIC, I completed an Honors Capstone in which I researched the effects American media and television have on how average French people understand the French legal system.

I am currently enrolled at the George Washington University School of Law, where I intend on studying International Human Rights Law. I am excited to use French in a way that is not only rewarding for me but will advocate for the protection of human rights on a global scale.

Gemma Gonzalez Heading link

BA in French, 2017

I have been working at Heartland Alliance as a youth care worker. I work with unaccompanied minors in a residential facility, the same one I interned at in the spring. It can be fun and interesting working with children and teens from different parts of the world. I am learning quite a lot about other cultures through them, but also about human behavior and social interactions. I also have the chance to use my French there. In a way at Heartland I have the chance to combine both my French and Psychology degrees. My job can be stressful. But at the end of the day, I truly enjoy it.

Lorena Gonzalez Heading link

BA in Biological Sciences with a minor in French, 2008

Since June 2009, I have been serving as a Secondary Education Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso.  This means that I have had the privilege of teaching middle schools in a variety of materials from SVT (Science de la Vie et de la Terre) to EPS (Education Physique et Sportive).  All these classes are taught in French, since Burkina Faso was originally colonized by the French and gained their independence just 50 years ago.  Luckily, due to my French minor,  I have adapted easily to teaching science in French.

My experience is one that is rather difficult to summarize in a paragraph. I live as we say “in the bush” and have had to learn to integrate, speak the local language (Jula), adapt to the weather and deal with heat rash, cook local meals with limited produce, pump my water, avoid getting sick (which is utterly inevitable) and bike 30km at a time in a windy, hot, harsh and dusty environment.  I live in a tiny village called Oury, but despite its size, it is one of the few villages that has a middle school, so students from up to 50km away come to my middle school.

All in all, my personal Peace Corps experience is one that keeps me very busy and constantly learning, growing and falling in love with the Burkinabe people and culture. I also would recommend joining to Peace Corps to everyone and anyone. It’s definitely a life changing experience that opens your eyes to different people, culture and ways of life often not understood by an outsider.

Tyler Grand Pre Heading link

Tyler Grand Pre

BA in French, 2018

I am currently a doctoral student in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, pursuing research focused on the intersections of language, translation, and space in African Francophone and Caribbean literature. These interests are definitely rooted in discoveries I made while double-majoring in French and English at UIC. My recent master’s thesis: “Inflecting the French: The Poetics of Intersubjectivity in Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal” (an update version of which will be published in the December 2022 edition of Comparative Literature), builds on a Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar I took with Ellen McClure along with Laura Hostetler from UIC’s History Department. Looking at strange eurocentric maps and frontice pieces in 17th century Atlases in the Newberry helped me understand Césaire and his reaction to a cartographic representation of Martinique in the first part of his famous anti-colonial poem. In turn, that project led me to Columbia’s “Center for Spatial Methods of Research.” I’m currently working on a “carto-biography” of Frantz Fanon which will appear on its website in the fall. By comparing in various ways streets named after him in Algeria, France and Martinique, I hope to remap his legacy in the urban imaginary of French territories and former colonies.

Jacob Krol Heading link

Jacob Krol

BA in French, 2019

Since graduating in December 2019, I signed an offer letter to start as a Software Engineer with Tata Consultancy Services in March 2020, but couldn’t start until August 2020 due to an onboarding freeze with COVID-19. I worked there doing back-end web development on a client project. However, I was contacted in April 2021 by a recruiter at EY (Ernst & Young). I followed through the interviewing process, and today was my first day as a Senior in Technology Consulting at EY! I’ll be in their Microsoft practice focused on Cloud Apps, which means I’ll be assisting clients to make their websites do cool things. Although my career is very technical, I actually have found my studies in French to be very helpful during the interview process. I have had some recruiters and interviewers explicitly recognize that my second major and language skills gave me a wider, more global perspective. It also opens up other opportunities like, for example, relocating to one of the firm’s French (or even just international) offices. But I am also very cognizant of all the valuable lessons taught to me while earning my UIC French degree, everything I learned about rhetoric, cultural awareness, and how to participate in productive discussions.

Emily Kubaitis Heading link

Emily Kubaitis

BA in French, 2020

I completed dual degrees at UIC in the Spring of 2020. One of my degrees is a B.A. in French and Francophone Studies and the other is a B.A. in Criminology, Law, and Justice.

During my time with the Department of French and Francophone Studies, I conducted two independent research projects, interned in Paris as a study abroad, and led the French Club as its President for 2 years. My UIC French experience taught me how to appreciate French culture while also learning how to overcome obstacles, how to develop critical thinking skills, and how to communicate effectively. Since UIC, I started law school, worked one summer at a pro bono legal aid organization, and externed for a judge in the Law Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

I am currently in my second year of law school at Chicago-Kent College of Law where I am pursuing a J.D. and a Certificate in Environmental and Energy Law. I also work part-time as a law clerk at a personal injury law firm.

Although I did not continue my French studies post-grad, I continue to keep in touch with my peers from the undergraduate program at UIC, professors, and friends I made abroad. Many professors in the French department helped me get to where I am today. They empowered me to dream big and then supported me every step of the way in pursuing that dream.

I cherish the times I spent in the French department at UIC and strongly encourage anyone considering taking a French class or pursuing a degree to do it. It will change your life for the better!

Alefiyah Shikari Heading link

BA in the Teaching of French, 2009

Bonjour! My name is Alefiyah Shikari and I graduated from UIC with a B.A. in Teaching of French in December 2009. I became interested in the French language and culture in high school, and decided that I wanted to continue learning French in college because I loved the language. I also knew that I wanted to share my passion of French with others and enjoyed working with students, so I figured that Teaching of French would be the best major for me. Currently, I am working as a Recruitment and Admissions Counselor at the UIC Office of Admissions and Records, and I still have the opportunity to work with students. To my surprise, I have been able to use French in my job when explaining the  admissions process to international students. Whenever I meet a Francophone, they are impressed that I can speak French as an American, and I am glad to have any chance to practice!

Jessica Taskila Heading link

BA in the Teaching of French, 2009

MA in French, 2011

I had the wonderful experience of completing both my B.A. in the Teaching of French and my M.A. in
French with UIC’s Department of French and Francophone Studies. Both programs had an immensely positive impact not only on my career path, but also on my growth as an individual. The faculty is outstanding; their courses and guidance helped me develop my writing, speaking, research, and analytical skills in ways that have proven critical in today’s job market. Moreover, teaching French and working with the department’s other instructors while pursuing graduate studies was an amazing professional development opportunity. Now, I am thrilled to be a French teacher at the Chicago High School for the Arts. What I learned and accomplished during my time at UIC allows me to foster students’ intellectual growth as well as their interest in world cultures and languages. Fascinating volunteer interpreting opportunities have also presented themselves right here in Chicago. I feel that my decision to study French at UIC is one of the best I ever made. I had the wonderful experience of completing both my B.A. in the Teaching of French and my M.A. in French with UIC’s Department of French and Francophone Studies. Both programs had an immensely positive impact not only on my career path, but also on my growth as an individual. The faculty is outstanding; their courses and guidance helped me develop my writing, speaking, research, and analytical skills in ways that have proven critical in today’s job market. Moreover, teaching French and working with the department’s other instructors while pursuing graduate studies was an amazing professional development opportunity. Now, I am thrilled to be a French teacher at the Chicago High School for the Arts. What I learned and accomplished during my time at UIC allows me to foster students’ intellectual growth as well as their interest in world cultures and languages. Fascinating volunteer interpreting opportunities have also presented themselves right here in Chicago. I feel that my decision to study French at UIC is one of the best I ever made.

Ready to join them? Heading link