Jill Grundstrom - Alumni Speak

Jill E. Grundstrom

The French language has indirectly been in my life since I turned two through the study of ballet.  This was the reason I chose to study French over Spanish or German when it came time to pick a language in high school.  I studied French for four years at NMU and traveled with Dr. Kupper on the FR 438 summer course entitled Cultural and Artistic Heritage of Europe.  I could not have asked for a better experience! As a student who could not take an entire semester for a study abroad, this was a perfect alternative. 

In the summer course I developed a deep appreciation for the artists of France, specifically Degas, Rodin, and Toulouse-Lautrec (being a dancer, this connection is quite obvious).  I was given the opportunity to complete an independent study on the works of these artists, focusing on how their lives in France, particularly Paris, influenced their art.  I still have drawings, paintings, and photos in my apartment and dance studio by these artists that are a reminder of my travels through their inspirational landscapes.

While traveling through France, Belgium, and the Netherlands with Dr. Kupper and our small group of students I learned more than just the French language.  I learned about the day to day culture, arts and artists, and architecture of France.  I also learned how to navigate in a foreign country (which proved helpful when I moved New York City after graduating from NMU- very similar to a foreign country).  I felt comfortable enough with mass transit and the language to venture out on my own in Paris and attend a performance of the Paris Opera Ballet at the Opera Bastille. I was even able to maneuver Printemps (a department store in Paris) well enough to purchase a pair of beautiful Parisian ballet flats (which I still wear and love to this day)! We were fortunate enough to have a great group of travelers and the size of the group (about 15 students) was ideal!  It allowed us to bond with each other and Dr. Kupper to really enjoy the experience.  

Since graduating with my French degree from NMU, I have continued my study of ballet at New York University where I completed my Master’s Degree in Dance Education.  Currently, I am in the process of becoming certified to teach the American Ballet Theatre’s National Training Curriculum, which is based in French ballet terminology.  While at the certification workshop this past summer in New York, I met two representatives from Paris Opera Ballet and was able to communicate with them in their native language, as well as connect with them, as I had been fortunate enough to see their company perform while I was in Paris with Dr. Kupper.

I have now visited France 3 times!  I have traveled to Paris, through Eastern and Southern France on a river cruise, and around the Mediterranean with stops in Cannes, Nice, and the principality of Monaco.  Traveling through Europe and being immersed in the French language and culture while in the NMU French Program gave me the confidence to continue my travels abroad with friends and family, as well as on my own.  Somehow, I even mustered up the courage to fly to Italy on my own for a study abroad with New York University in Genoa.  My grasp of the French language and culture also helped me during my study abroad in Italy.  Knowing French made picking up the Italian language much easier!  This was extremely helpful since the many of the students and a few professors only spoke Italian.  There were also French students mixed in with the American and Italian students, I was one of few who could communicate with them in French whenever there was a language barrier. 

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