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Brittney Lenard ('04)

Originally published in 2013 FAIS Magazine

 

Years attended FAIS: 1993 to 2004
High School: Oregon Episcopal School 
College: Pomona College
College Major/Minor: Russian and Eastern European Studies/Politics 
Current Occupation: International Political Consultant
Employer: McLarty Associates
Job Title: Research Assistant

 

Did your FAIS education have an influence on your career choice or your field of study? If so, how?

Definitely. Being exposed to a foreign language and culture at such a young age was probably the single most important factor in determining my path. Not only did it give me a seemingly insatiable desire to learn new languages and discover new places, but it also taught me how to adapt and interact with multiple cultures. 

From a very young age, I found myself translating for my parents while traveling, or explaining American culture to my French host family. I think the gratification I felt when trying to bridge cultures is what drew me to a career in international affairs.

 

How did your FAIS education prepare you for higher education and beyond?

The most obvious answer is that it provided me with a foreign language background that allowed me to pursue opportunities that might not have otherwise been available. But I think the preparation goes deeper than that. I think when you’re exposed to a new language at such a young age, your brain gets wired just a little differently. The bilingual (and eventually trilingual) education I got at FAIS gave me new language abilities, but it also contributed to my critical thinking abilities and attention to detail. Furthermore, I had the advantage of getting thrown into traveling and spending time abroad at a young age. At the time, it didn’t seem at all strange that a fifth grader would spend two weeks away from her parents, living with a French family, but looking back, that’s a pretty big deal! Those kinds of experiences made it a lot easier for me to transition and adapt when I studied abroad in Russia. And of course, the French education model is serious business! I definitely learned at an early age the importance of being disciplined and getting work done on time and well.

 

Are there skills you learned while at FAIS that you have applied to your career?

In addition to Russian, I use both French and Spanish at work on a regular basis, so having the background in those languages has been invaluable. Perhaps more importantly, FAIS taught me to feel comfortable with new cultures, which is a pretty essential attribute when working in international affairs.

 

How many languages do you speak?

Russian, French, Spanish, and a bit of German. And, of course, English.

 

What do you envision for your future?

I definitely want to continue working in international affairs, hopefully in a diplomacy or policy job with a focus on Russia and Europe. I would love to travel more and to spend some more time living abroad, because some of my most treasured experiences have come from time I’ve spent in other countries.

Please share any other information you would like. I don’t think I can stress enough how valuable the FAIS experience was. For me, it wasn’t just a school­-it was a community. I can’t really imagine a better way I could have spent my time as a kid, and I am so grateful to my family and to the school for making it happen. Merci!