Sara Ruth Harriger


French Language & Literature, 2002

Currently in Rennes, France
From Fairbanks, Alaska

How French Classes Turned me Into a Diplomat

“I didn’t know what I was getting into. It all started with a fun elective in eighth grade. But by the time college graduation drew near, I’d done exchanges to Belgium, France, and French Canada, and a bachelors in French Language and Literature. Two of the most influential teachers in my life had been my French teachers, and I was on a path to an international career. Madame Ashley and Madame Matusevich – two women with a lot of character and fascinating international backgrounds – inspired me to look past grammar to what learning a language really means in terms of one’s life and one’s career. That’s not to say they let me off the hook on grammar. Au contraire. I’ve got Harper’s indelibly etched on my grey matter. Learning a language means a lot of studying.

It also means taking risks and broadening your horizons when you study abroad, and that leads to gaining intercultural communication experience that employers are looking for. Learning a language means meeting people from around the world, gaining a network that can become your greatest asset. It means learning a skill that, in combination with the right knowledge and connections, can unlock for you job opportunities you might not even have known exist. It means enriching your personal life experience in ways you can’t even imagine until you’ve actually accomplished it.

I took the Foreign Service Exam seven years ago. The only reason I even considered taking the exam was because I’d studied French and been abroad in francophone countries. Now I’m a U.S. diplomat. I still love French and I’ve studied Arabic, Hindi, and Japanese for my job. I’ve worked in Saudi Arabia, India, China, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Washington D.C., and Japan. I’ve met desert nomads, kings and queens, prime ministers and rural rice farmers. It’s been amazing, and it started with a French class.”

Sara is currently the US Consul for the Grand Ouest Region of France, stationed in Rennes.

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