What happens when a student is so passionate about French, all he wants to do is live in France? Micah Mills came up with an answer: graduate from SOU with a degree in International Studies and get accepted into a master’s program in business – in Lyon, France.
“It’s a crazy experience to live out a dream,” Mills said. “I definitely have days where I struggle to keep up with my French friends. I have days where I miss my friends and family in the U.S., and miss going on mountain bike rides in the mountains I know so well.”
“But the days where a non-local Frenchie thinks that you are a local and asks for directions, then invites you for a drink after chatting about our stories for five minutes – those days make the dream so dreamy.”
It was actually a touch-and-go journey for Mills. He initially registered at SOU with the sole intention of studying French, as nothing else interested him at the time. His goal was simply to go live in France, but he had no idea how that would play out.
He eventually applied for the Study Away program in Lyon, France, after he had taken as many French classes as were offered at SOU. He was admitted to the program, but his trip to focus on global studies and serve as an English teacher was cut a few months short when he had to return to the U.S. in March of 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Mills came back to SOU and declared as an International Studies major, with a minor in economics. International Studies offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that examines economic and political systems in specific contexts, and his concentration was on French language and culture. SOU’s French program is currently being phased out, but students can still pursue a major in International Studies with a concentration in Spanish language and culture.
“He served as French tutor extraordinaire for our first- and second-year students – everyone raved about him,” said Marianne Golding, an SOU French professor and director of the university’s Summer Language Institute.
“For someone who had just intended to take a few classes of French, he’s done pretty well for himself.”
The admiration between Golding and Mills is mutual.
“There’s no chance that I would be where I am today, in France, without having the privilege of meeting Madame Golding,” Mills said. “Without her help at SOU, I would still be in the U.S. – working as a barista, most likely.”
Mills – who worked previously as an assistant manager at a Dutch Bros Coffee location in Central Point – applied to a couple of business schools in Lyon while completing his bachelor’s degree earlier this year in International Studies. He was admitted into a program designed for French students – all courses are taught in French.
He has been in France since August, living again in what has long felt to him like his true home.
“The master’s degree is not easy, and definitely a different style of teaching than in the U.S.,” Mills said. “But with the help of my French classmates, I get by just fine.
“When you start to tutoyer your baker – which (in French) is a level up from being on first-name basis – you feel like you’re in a Disney cartoon.”