~ By Nancy Barragan, student writer for the College of Arts and Humanities

Though he will return to the United States to participate in Fresno State’s 107th Commencement ceremony on May 19, Leslie Hille has been studying abroad for the past year and a half through the CSU International Program at the Université Paris Nanterre in France.

Hille, a double major in French and political science with a GPA of 3.61, was the undergraduate student of distinction for the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures. The 16 graduate and undergraduate students of distinction from the College of Arts and Humanities were honored at Arts in Motion on April 7.

Université Paris Nanterre is considered to be one of the most prestigious French universities, specifically in the areas of law, humanities, political science, social and natural sciences and economics, according to Dr. Rose Marie Kuhn, a French professor at Fresno State:

“Leslie’s GPA includes his courses at the Université Paris Nanterre, in Paris, France, where grading standards are more conservative than in U.S. universities.”

At Nanterre, Hille took eight political science courses in French and four French courses.

“This is truly remarkable for these three reasons,” Kuhn said. “Leslie is not a native French speaker. It was the first time he took any political sciences course in French, and French professors have a different and stricter way of grading their students. I speak from personal experience of this. Also, while studying at Fresno State, from fall 2013 through December 2017, he was on the President’s List three times and twice on the Dean’s List.”

While studying in France, Hille interned with the U.S. Consulate in Rennes from October 2017 through January 2018, under the supervision of two attachés — Eric Beaty and Eva Prevost — along with former Consul Sara Harriger.

“Leslie is unique in this way,” Kuhn said. “He single-handedly found the internship with the U.S. Consulate.  He was chosen out of 70 candidates. All I did is write him a letter of recommendation for that application.”

Hille is currently applying to the following master’s programs in Paris: European studies and international affairs at Université Paris Nanterre; international relations at Sorbonne University in Paris; and International MBA at the Eiffel School of Management (IAE Gustave Eiffel).

An ultimate career goal of Hille’s is to become an ambassador or secretary of state. He is taking the first step, studying to take a test in the fall to become a Foreign Service Officer.

Dr. Natalie Muñoz, also a Fresno State French professor, wrote of Hille’s accomplishments, “Leslie has become a true citizen of the world. He did not start there but gradually increased his sphere of influence over time.”

Kuhn added: “Leslie is an exceptional person who has dreams and works hard to make them a reality. He is an inspiration to others, an advocate who speaks on behalf of those whose voices are not otherwise heard, and a young man who never gives up.”

We asked Hille some questions about how his experience at Fresno State has contributed to new opportunities in France and what his plans are after for after graduation.

Q: What motivated you to learn how to speak French?

A: As a high school student, we needed to take two years of a foreign language to fulfill our requirements. I decided to take French because I have always loved the film “Beauty and The Beast” [Disney, 1991] as a kid.  My high school teacher Madame Ly noticed I enjoyed French, and she told me to continue taking French classes in college. Professors Madame Kuhn and Madame Muñoz inspired me and motivated me to continue taking French courses, eventually majoring in French.

Q: Why was it important to you to double major?

A: I decided to double major in political science and French because they are two subjects that both interest me. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to study abroad in France and for me, it made sense to major in French in order to become bilingual. In the world of international relations, French is very important and influential in diplomatic relations. Understanding not just the language, but culture, society and history has helped me understand political science better.

Q: How did you end up studying abroad in France?

A: I knew I wanted to study abroad because, after two years of French classes, I fell in love with the country and its beauty through photos and videos. In 2016, I applied to the CSU International Program in Paris, France, because it allowed me to take political science classes with fellow French students. Having enjoyed my first semester, I looked for internships that would allow me to stay another year. I applied to several different programs (along with renewing my study abroad program again) but ultimately, I accepted the internship with the U.S. Department of State.

Q: What has been your favorite thing about studying abroad?

A: I’ve noticed the progress in French that I have made. Every day is a learning experience and how much information I take in daily is thrilling! Other than school, I have enjoyed traveling. I have visited several countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, England, Luxembourg, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal and Morocco, along with cities in France!

Q: How did your education here at Fresno State prepare you for France?

A: My education at Fresno State has prepared me to accept diversity in our world. One thing I love about our university and city is the diversity of people who come from all around the world. Meeting new people and studying in another language/culture was an easy transition due to the openness of our campus. Specifically, I also would state the critical thinking our campus promotes as an undergrad has helped me in my courses and my internship in France.

Q: How has your experience been like working as an intern for the U.S. Consulate?

A: During my time as an intern, I was able to meet a minister to the ambassador of France, who came from Fresno. She inspired me that people from Fresno are everywhere and that I will be a good representative of our country but most importantly our city one day.

Q: How long do you plan to stay in France?

A: I plan to stay in France for another three or four years. My master’s program will be two years and following the master’s program, I would like to work for an international organization or an American company in Europe.

Q: What are your career goals?

A: I am currently studying for the Foreign Service Officer test [through the U.S. State Department], which will be held this fall. If I pass, it will be a one- to two-year process: passing the oral exam, security and health clearances and then receiving an assignment abroad.

I would love to become a professor while working as a Foreign Service Officer teaching American foreign policy wherever I may be living. I would also love to start an international relations degree program with the Social Science and Arts and Humanities Department at Fresno State. (Most IR degrees consist of specializing in a Foreign Language along with studying abroad.) Lastly, becoming an ambassador or secretary of State is very challenging as the President is the one who selects major appointments to countries such as GB, France, Germany, China, Spain, Canada and Mexico.

Q: Any financial advice you may have for other students who are thinking of studying abroad?

A: One big part of studying abroad is managing your finances, looking at your bank account regularly, looking for bargains and not buying foolish tourist trap stuff. … Due to my financial limitations and the high cost of Paris along with IP fees, I applied to and was awarded five scholarships. I would advise students to look for and apply early for scholarships, plan your budget, do a few summer jobs before leaving and find out if you can work in another country while you are there.