Vent Frais 

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Where Are They Now?

Published: January 17, 2016

We got in touch with some French alumni and asked them what they were up to. All these years later, how has their time in the Villages impacted their lives?

Sarah Slinker

I now live and work as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa (specifically in Togo) teaching English and working to promote girls' education at a secondary school (college) in a rural village in the northern-most region of the small, coastal country. Thanks to my experience working with several West Africans (mostly from Cameroon and Senegal) as a staff member over three summers at Lac du Bois, Bemidji, I already had a bit of understanding of the West African francophone culture (including, but not limited to, some of the lexicon and other language-based differences between the French I learned in the States and in France during high school and college and the French spoken in West Africa) coming into this experience.

2010 (first half): Counselor & Village Blogger, LdB Bemidji

2010 (second half): Kitchen Helper, LdB Bemidji

2011, 2013 (both halves): Assistant Cook, LdB Bemidji

Note: You can check out Sarah’s blog at


Brandon “Hubert” Kendhammer

Although I’ll always remember my time at CLV for the friends I made, the French I learned (and taught), and the amazing outdoor adventures I shared, by far the Villages’ biggest impact on my life was exposing me to the importance of global citizenship. Today, I’m an assistant professor of political science and the director of the African Studies program at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where I work everyday in and out of the classroom with graduate and undergraduate students from across Africa (including many Francophones!), helping them to achieve their goals of a world-class education filled with both academic theory and real-life practice. I’m also one of the U.S.’s leading specialists in the politics of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. After a year as a Fulbright Fellow in Sokoto, near the country’s northern border, I’ve had the opportunity to write numerous scholarly articles and a book focused mostly on how the country’s enormous Muslim population—some 85 million—think about democratic politics.

My research has in turn led to another set of amazing experiences, using my expertise in the media and with the U.S. Government to help shape the public perception of the country I’ve come to love. In the last few years, I briefed ambassadors and high-ranking officials about elections, helped to design policies to combat extremist violence across West Africa, and been interviewed on international radio and TV programs. Probably my favorite moment, though, was an interview with the BBC World Service, which broadcast to many NPR affiliates across the country. Before I had even gone off the air, I got a text from my oldest and best CLV friend—my former tent-mate as a villager at Les Voyageurs nearly 20 years before, now a lawyer working with immigrant communities in Boston—saying “Dude, I’m hearing you on the radio right now!”

1992-1994: Villager, LdB Bemidji

1995-1997: Villager, Les Voyageurs

1998: Junior Counselor, LdB Patmos

1999: Business Manager, LdB Waubun, Counselor, LdB Patmos

2000: Business Manager and Counselor, Les Voyageurs and LdB Patmos

2001: Head Cook and Counselor, Les Voyageurs

2002: Head Cook and Counselor, Les Voyageurs and Counselor, LdB Hackensack

2003: Head Cook and Counselor, Les Voyageurs

2004: Head Cook and Counselor, Les Voyageurs, Assistant Cook, Lesnoe Ozero

2006, 2007: Assistant Dean and Head Cook, Les Voyageurs

2009, 2010: Assistant Dean and Head Cook, Les Voyageurs


Eric Christensen

French was my first foreign language! Being at Hackensack turned it from a school subject to a real-life, living thing that I could use to connect with people. I still remember 14-year-old me successfully buying a chocolate bar at the cafe using French for the first time and thinking 'holy cow, I can't believe that worked.' I went on to study linguistics and Russian, and have done a lot of traveling for study and work in Russia and Central Asia. My knowledge of French was invaluable to my linguistics study and throughout the process of learning Russian. For the past five years I worked at American Councils in Washington, DC, supporting the Russian and Persian institutes of the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program. I recently started a new job at another NGO in Washington, DC called World Learning, where I'm focusing at the moment on managing the EducationUSA Academy--an inbound pre-college program for international students from around the world.

Life has offered unexpected opportunities to draw on my French skills. Last year, during a hiking trip in Tajikistan, I ran into a group of 15 hikers from France. Boy, were they surprised to meet an American in Central Asia who spoke French! Being a villager and staff member at Hackensack enriched my life and spurred a lifelong love of languages and travel and connecting with people from other cultures.

1998, 1999: Villager, LdB Hackensack

2004, 2005: Counselor, LdB Hackensack


Brynden Gibbens

Lac du Bois made French one of the most important parts of my life! I’ve lived in France three times (once as an au pair, once to study abroad, and once with TAPIF, teaching English), I worked as a pre-K teacher at a French immersion school, and I worked as a staff member at Lac du Bois for three years. I love to speak French and learn more about the French culture.

Lac du Bois continues to influence me in my everyday life. I’m currently earning my masters in Elementary Education with an added ESL component, to put all those Global Citizen beliefs into practice! Growing up at Lac du Bois taught me that just because someone speaks a different language or does things a different way doesn’t make it wrong. I learned that it is so important to respect other languages and cultures. I learned that learning another language teaches you a whole other way of thinking, which is one of the most incredible skills to have. I feel very passionate about working with English language learner students and making sure that they succeed but in a way that is respectful of their cultures, languages, and histories. My students love that I speak another language different from their own. My French has helped me bond with a Haitian student who doesn’t speak much English yet. It’s a really amazing experience to work with these really incredible, hard working children.

I’d love to work for a bilingual program one day, and help people understand that there are so many ways to help teach a child, both ELL and otherwise. These lessons about respect, education, and true learning are values that were instilled in me by Concordia, and I’m grateful everyday that I had that chance to experience all the opportunities Concordia gave me. Lac du Bois and Concordia have had the most positive influence on my life and I still think about both every day!

2002 - 2005: Villager, LdB Savannah

2006 - 2008: Villager, LdB Bemidji


Lizzie Plant

Some of the best summers of my life were the five I spent as a camper and the two counselor at Lac du Bois Bemidji. In middle and high school, I was a motivated French student during the school year because I knew how much fun I would have putting my language skills to use each summer. After my fifth summer as a camper, I spent a summer living abroad with a French family in Bretagne through the total-immersion IU Honors Program for High School Students in Foreign Languages. I was practically fluent before going abroad at age 17, and I attribute much of that to my time at LDB. I am still in touch with my French family, and I also had the opportunity to work for the IU Honors Program in France for a summer.

I majored in French and International Studies in undergrad, both of which were directly due to my experience as a camper at Lac du Bois. I also minored in Ethnomusicology, and I know that my interest in music from other cultures was also impacted by my time at Lac du Bois. My Master's degree is in Arts Administration. My internship during grad school was with the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival, whose mission focuses on bringing the world to our neighborhood - a mission which closely corresponds with the values of Concordia Language Villages.

In my first "real" job as the Assistant Unit Director of a Boys and Girls Club in a small town in Indiana, I employed all sorts of techniques that I had learned as a counselor at LDB: team building exercises, crowd management, problem solving between kids, and I even taught some of the kids French songs from LDB. Later I worked for Indiana University helping to maintain the immigration status of International Students and Scholars. Again, I would never have entered such a field were it not for my exposure to the French language and francophone cultures at such a young age. I was able to use my French skills in my job when speaking with some students and scholars, as well as by translating some documents for the office.

In terms of my personal life, I am grateful for the French and French-speaking friends I have made whether directly through Lac du Bois or simply because I learned to speak French at LDB. Now I am a stay-at-home mom, but I still find myself singing camp songs to my daughters as lullabies and teaching them French vocabulary here and there with the techniques I learned as a mono. I do hope they will choose to attend LDB when they are old enough. I can't say enough about the lasting impact my time as a villageoise and mono have had on my life.

1999 - 2003: Villager, LdB Bemidji

2005, 2006: Counselor, LdB Bemidji

Note: This photo of Lizzie also features future Villagers, Henrietta (born Dec 15) and Vivien (age 2)


Sophia Wright

I'm currently studying French and English at Wagner college in New York City. I'll be spending the 2016-2017 school year studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence. When the Paris attacks happened, my grandparents called me and told me not to go to France. They said it was too dangerous and that I'd be much safer staying on my American campus. I explained to them that fear is a terrorist's greatest weapon, and that if we feel it, then they've won. After I hung up the phone, I thought back to my summers at Lac du Bois where I learned about African gastronomy and political structures Western Europe. It is my duty to learn as much as I can about the world around me, regardless of anything or anyone that might make it more difficult or daunting. I can't wait to study in Aix-en-Provence and gain a better understanding of a different culture and of different people, continuing the commitment to curiosity that Lac du Bois instilled in me after the first week.

2007: Villager, LdB Bemidji

2008 - 2013: Villager, LdB Hackensack

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