ORONO — Recent University of Maine graduate Erica Desjardins of Bangor received an award from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to pursue a master’s degree in European and International Affairs at Cergy Paris University in France.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program, a signature program from the U.S. Department of State, funds opportunities for U.S students to conduct research, earn a degree or teach English as a second language in one of more than 140 countries. Recipients like Desjardins, who majored in international relations at UMaine with a concentration in international security and a minor in French, are selected based on their academic achievements and potential to be cultural ambassadors.

Desjardins joins the ranks of the 32 other UMaine students who have participated in the Fulbright U.S. student program since its start in 1946. She also is the first in recent years to be awarded a Fulbright Study Research award to complete a degree.

Desjardins needed to have advanced knowledge of French and German to earn her award and study at Cergy Paris University. She is a native German speaker and as part of her application to the university — which is a separate process from the Fulbright application — she was asked to interview in French and German.

While at UMaine, Desjardins has studied a wide range of topics in international affairs, including American foreign policy, international relations, Central Asia and the South Caucasus, terrorism, European politics and the global political economy. She says she feels that her “previous studies and professional experiences would help [her] to smoothly transition into this area of studies.”

According to Fulbright, Cergy Paris University is a multidisciplinary teaching and research university located outside of Paris with five graduate schools that focus on law and political science; business and management; education; arts and humanities; and sciences, engineering and economics. Desjardins plans to begin her 10-month long graduate program there in August. She says she looks forward to studying abroad to help achieve her goal of working for a U.S. embassy anywhere in the world, as well as enhancing her ability to speak French.  

“I am extremely honored to have received this prestigious award. I feel very fortunate to have been given this amazing opportunity,” Desjardins says. “While I am in France, I want to make the most of my experience by getting involved as much as possible with my university and community. As one of the most diverse cities in the world, I am looking forward to meeting new people!”

Desjardins’ application was supported by the UMaine Office of Major Scholarships and by Fulbright Program adviser and anthropology professor Christine Beitl. Several UMaine faculty members contributed to the success of her application by writing recommendation letters and by participating in the internal campus review process.

“Erica is a brilliant and insightful student who has worked so hard during her time at UMaine to earn this opportunity,” says Kristin Vekasi, director of international affairs. “We are thrilled that she will be representing the U.S. abroad during the Fulbright program.”

A full Q&A with Desjardins can be found online.  

Students interested in applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program can contact the Office of Major Scholarships at nives.dalbowheeler@maine.edu for application support.