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Alumni Stories

Alumni Stories

Sarah Kanafani's picture

Sarah Kanafani

Graduating Class: 1992
Current Position: Lecturer in International Relations at University of Reading
Current Location: Oxford, UK
Education / School 1: UC Berkeley, Georgetown University, University of Oxford
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I have always valued the education I got at EB for a variety of reasons—its well-roundedness, the small classes, the excellent and dedicated faculty, the multiculturalism, and the friendships I made there (which are still among my best). But that appreciation jumped to a new level recently, as I can honestly say that I would not have my current job if it were not for those nine years on Heinz Street. Nearly four months ago, I moved to Conakry, the capital of the tiny francophone West African country of Guinea, to work with the American Refugee Committee. Despite being part of a region that has become synonymous in the press with brutal civil wars, few have heard of it. I had to specify countless times, “Not Equatorial, not Bissau, not even close to Papua New—just Guinea.”

Being bilingual is useful in almost any context. Throughout my academic and professional career since EB, my ability to speak a second language fluently has been an asset—whether because it is an explicit requirement or because it is often regarded as a mark of being well-educated and capable. I completed a French minor (along with an English major) at UC Berkeley before moving to New York where I worked for the Whitney Museum of American Art. A second language was not mandatory for that job, but it was a distinct advantage in the application process. And later, when I applied to graduate school at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, foreign language proficiency was a minimum requirement.

But in my current job with ARC, it was French specifically that was the deal-breaker. Having just graduated from Georgetown with my masters in International Relations and a focus on Conflict Management, I was not the only one of my classmates looking for field jobs overseas. Many are just as qualified as I am to fulfill the duties of this position and manage the demands of living in one of the poorest countries in the world and one that is not only surrounded by war-torn countries, but characterized by a slew of its own structural instabilities. But my classmates don’t speak French. Even though the refugees I work with and for here are mostly English-speaking (from Liberia and Sierra Leone), regular office business, liaising with other organizations, and daily life are all conducted in French. Indeed, if it weren’t for French, half the African continent would be closed to me, at least in terms of living and working. For someone who wants to spend their career preventing and resolving conflicts, providing humanitarian assistance in war-torn countries, and linking relief to longer-term development, to be monolingual would be a major disadvantage. In a way, it is the education I received at EB that has allowed me make my dreams come true.

Additionally, the early start and the combination of linguistic and cultural education I got at EB have proven to be big advantages in a francophone country. Compared to people here who only began studying French in high school or college, I find it easier to understand technical language, slang, jokes, and different accents. While these may seem like minor issues, they can mean the difference between actively contributing and just keeping up in a meeting, and between having a social life and just sticking to the anglophone expatriate community. While French is what got me here in the first place, it is partly EB that has made my experiences here as rich and dynamic as they are. And that is true not only for Guinea (not Equatorial, not Bissau…), but for places I’ve been to, people I’ve met, and things I’ve done throughout my life.

Olivia Kragen's picture

Olivia Kragen

Graduating Class: 2003
Current Position: Digital Marketing Manager at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
Current Location: Greater Los Angeles, CA
Education / School 1: Boston University
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What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

As an adult, you’re lucky if you remember anything from Lower and Middle School. I am fortunate to have great memories of EB class trips. From Pioneer Camp, to Yosemite and France, every trip was unique, educational, and most importantly fun. I remember the unique “one of a kind” science classes taught by Michael Rossman that sparked my love for nature and environmental science. And there were so many other teachers who were impactful, especially Sue Campbell, who challenged my skills and gave me the confidence that I could be a good writer.

Please describe your current work.

After working in marketing for the Four Seasons Hotel New York, I now work for a consulting division of the Preferred Hotel Group. In my current role, I develop and manage English-language social media channels for travel destinations worldwide. I produce digital content that tells a story about a destination in order to attract the North American travel market. I lead media familiarization trips and manage online and offline events. This gives me the opportunity to travel and work with counterparts in countries like Mexico and China.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

My EB education allowed me to form a global perspective at a young age and gain a deep curiosity for the world. My years at EB were the foundation that inspired me to pursue a professional career in the international hospitality and travel industry.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

When childhood comes up in discussion amongst your peers you quickly realize that attending EB was incredibly unique. Mastering subjects in two different languages is no easy feat, but it prompts you into thinking critically, staying open to the nuances of different cultures, and into feeling at ease as a citizen of the world. I deeply appreciate the cultural diversity of the school.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Of course I would send my kids to EB! I want them to have a rigorous, challenging, and fun educational experience at a young age. I also want them to grow up speaking French properly. I believe this can only happen in a school with native speakers as teachers.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t attended EB from kindergarten to 8th grade. I really benefited from the strong community of students and teachers at EB. I’m incredibly thankful that my parents had the foresight to send me to EB.

Lucie Kroening's picture

Lucie Kroening

Graduating Class: 1999
Current Position: Multimedia journalist, researcher, translator (English-French-Arabic-German)
Current Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Education / School 1: Columbia University, Institut francais du proche Orient, Institut d'études politiques de Paris
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I graduated from EB almost six years ago. It certainly doesn’t seem like that long ago. I keep in touch with a half dozen or so of my closest friends from my class. As an only child, they are the closest I will ever get to siblings.

After EB, I attended Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco. I didn’t know anyone else in my freshman class. I am not particularly outgoing, or at least I wasn’t when I was 14. To be honest, I never really made much social headway in high school. I didn’t feel like I could relate to the San Francisco kids, all of whom knew one another the way I would have known everyone if I had gone to Head Royce, CPS, or Berkeley High. Through the four years at Lick, I only made one great friend. Nine years spent developing relationships at EB made four years sound like a joke. To a certain extent, I do think that I am more strict than most when it comes to calling someone a friend.

Going to the school in San Francisco, most of the social life was there as well. Thus, few of my classmates spent much time in the East Bay; even fewer saw my house or met my parents. How much can you understand someone if you never see where they come from? It was no coincidence that the people I was closest to were all from the East Bay. I rode BART to and from school with them every day. We knew the same people from Middle School dances. Although I had some terribly lonely times at Lick, going to school in San Francisco enabled me to become familiar and to navigate what really is a beautiful and amazing city. To a certain extent, it also prepared me for the next adventure of attending college in the East, where I currently attend Columbia University in New York City.

Lick may not have been the perfect social environment for someone like me, but there is no place I would have rather have gone to school. From my perspective, it offered the perfect follow-up to EB. Growing up at EB instilled in me a multi-cultural worldview that I now consider the most integral part of my personal philosophy. EB’s bilingual structure, complete with two parallel educational tracks, not only taught me to speak French fluently but also to approach the world from different angles. I was constantly in contact with people of different cultural backgrounds, from the parents of my French, Indian, and Brazilian friends to my teachers who came from places as far away as the Ivory Coast. Lick has a similar respect for cultures and perspectives. Lick is also well-known for its technical arts program, which attracts artistic, creative faculty to teach not only the shop classes but also the English, History, and Math classes. At EB, the emphasis was on language for self-expression. At Lick, while I spent ample time writing essays and editing the Paper Tiger, the school newspaper, I also discovered the satisfaction of welding and working in the darkroom. I discovered a new, more visual and tactile perspective of the world.

As I progress in my education, I find myself at yet another school that values the wellrounded, world-exposed student: Columbia. Our core curriculum, one of the most traditional, inclusive, and oldest in the nation, requires that students study everything from non-western cultures to the visual arts and music to philosophy. EB, in addition to my family, have raised me to appreciate all these things and, in fact, to appreciate everything. I think that my pre-collegiate education has made me the ever-interested, open-minded, critical thinking person that I hope I am today. But I still have a lot more to learn.

Hannah Le's picture

Hannah Le

Graduating Class: 1994
Current Position: Faculty Representative at EB
Current Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Education / School 1: UC Davis
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My name is Hannah Lê. I am a first-generation Vietnamese American. My mother was raised in a French school in Saigon, and wanted to pass on her French education to me. My parents enrolled me at Ecole Bilingue as a kindergartener in 1985. The four years I spent at EB were wonderful and had an everlasting impression on me. I attended Berkeley High and then UC Davis, where I studied French and Human Development, with a minor in Education. I have always wanted to become a teacher.I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children, seeing them learn and grow. The following year I entered UC Davis, School of Education, where I received my California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential with CLAD and then my M.A in Education. I have never regretted my decision to become a teacher.

I currently live in Oakland with 2 roommates and my dog Guinness. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, playing the piano, practicing Aikido, and hanging out with Guinness.

This is my third year at EB, and my fifth year teaching elementary school.

I taught two years for the Pittsburg Unified School District and decided that I had to either change schools or find a new career. Teaching is my passion, so I pressed on. When I decided to leave my former school, I was elated to find out that there was an opening at EB. Teaching at my alma mater has been and continues to be an enriching experience for me. Working at EB fits perfectly with my interests in teaching and in the French culture and language. As a former student and a current teacher at EB, I can relate to my students. I understand those who are struggling with learning two languages and who may need encouragement. I find it ironic to be teaching in classrooms that I use to be in. Rather than sitting at the desk, I am now in the front of the room. It still seems strange to me. I am proud to serve two years as a Faculty Trustee. As a trustee, I plan to bring in my dual perspectives, my insights, diversity, and perhaps a sense of humor. I try to bring in all of these qualities into the classroom.

None of the teachers I had are currently at EB anymore. However, one teacher that stands out in my mind is Michael Rossman. He was the science teacher that everyone loved. His quirky sense of humor made learning fun. He was a very “hands-on” teacher. He dissected every road kill, taught us how to ferment grapes to make wine, and brought in various rocks to show. Michael was one of a kind. Michael was inspirational to me; I hope to someday make a difference in the lives of my students.
 

Johnelle Mancha's picture

Johnelle Mancha

Graduating Class: 1994
Current Position: Owner at Mignonne Decor, and Co-Founder of LUSH Getaways
Current Location: Berkeley, CA
Education / School 1: San Francisco State University, L'Accademia di Belle Arti Florence Italy
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Johnelle is the owner of Mignonne, a home furnishings and décor store in West Berkeley. Ever since Mignonne opened in 2005 it has carried vintage and repurposed items: vintage textiles transformed into pillow covers, antique glassware, and furniture given a new lease on life by Johnelle’s creative eye and refinishing skills. Many of the pieces of furniture came from yard sales, thrift shops and places like Urban Ore.

Recently, she expanded her services to allow customers to bring in their own pieces for redesign. Says Johnelle, “Our customers know that repurposed furniture reduces the amount of trees harvested for new furniture; reuses existing furniture, which means one less item in a dump or landfill somewhere; and supports recycling because by refinishing a piece, it is transformed into something new and functional again.”

Eli Marienthal's picture

Eli Marienthal

Graduating Class: 2000
Current Position: Tutor at Compass Education
Current Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Education / School 1: Brown University
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I am a junior at Berkeley High School and graduated from EB three years ago after an undeniably formative ten years in attendance. I hold as my memories from the school some of the sweetest and some of the most trying of my life. Yet the lasting impression which the school has left on me is firmest, not in the form of anecdote but as a set of lessons learned that I will forever apply to life. For me, EB presented a playing field upon which I comfortably molded a position for myself. Nestled warmly among familiar faces, while driven by the rigor of a formal French education, I was continually compelled to reevaluate and reassess who and where I was, as well as the more dynamic and daunting questions of who and where I wanted to be.

As life moves on, these questions evolve, metamorphose , answer themselves and then demand yet another level of recognition. I will spend the rest of my life in pursuit, through action and nonaction, of those answers and I firmly believe EB to have been the breeding ground of many of my most fulfilling endeavors.

When I was eight years old I began acting. I started with local theater and though I still work with reputable theatre houses throughout the Bay Area, including the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Aurora Theatre, ACT and the Magic Theatre, I have also worked extensively in film and television. For the first four years of my career, I was both working and attending EB. Not only was the school helpful and supportive of all my activities, it simultaneously forged a foundation in which academic rigor and accomplishment were expected. The priorities that it set, academics first yet not at the expense of becoming a rounded and prepared global citizen remain the bulwarks of my life. I feel that much of the evolving and learning I do today is through my own writing. I’ve been writing poetry and performing it competitively since I was twelve years old. I work extensively with a San Francisco based organization called Youth Speaks. I have performed all over the country and plan to publish my first volume of poetry sometime next year.

While I still have another year to decide on colleges, I am aiming at some of the most competitive and rigorous institutions in the world. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that those opportunities are directly related to the preparation and standards set by EB. For that, I am always grateful. I wake up every morning and consider the blessings of my life, of which my time at Ecole Bilingue remains one of the greatest.

Daniel Marschak's picture

Daniel Marschak

Graduating Class: 2000
Current Position: Composer and Pianist at Well Versed Productions
Current Location: Greater Los Angeles, CA
Education / School 1: UCLA
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What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

I really enjoyed participating in activities that would never have happened in a “normal” school. For example, I remember when Jean-Pierre Moullé, a great chef from Chez Panisse visited our class and taught us how to make Madeleine cookies. I remember how Mardi Gras was celebrated by our school in the traditional French manner, and how we would read French classics in addition to the standard school reading assignments. It was like we were being taught two radically different perspectives (one American and one French) at the same time, and that made us twice as aware of how big the world was.

Please describe your current work/studies.

I am a jazz pianist, composer, and as of the 2015-2016 academic year, I am a full time professor of music at Las Positas College in Livermore. I split my time up between teaching, gigging around the Bay Area, and composing for contemporary classical music and film projects. Recent highlights include composing a film score for a documentary about Huntington’s disease, a performance with vocalist Kalil Wilson at the El Cerrito World One Festival, a premiere with my composer collective LA Signal Lab, and an upcoming premiere with Hocket Duo, a piano duo based in LA at the Steinway Gallery in Pasadena.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

EB was an extremely nurturing environment. The teachers would always encourage whatever artistic endeavors I wanted to pursue— and they weren’t always musical— and my fellow students tended to be open-minded as well. I made some of my best friends while I was a student at EB, and some of them I work with professionally to this day. I can also say that the ability to speak French has come in handy several times in performance situations, and having that in my back pocket will always be helpful as a musician.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

Give it time! Your child will not immediately be bilingual, and they might even be confused at first by having to study different subjects in different languages. But by the end of their EB experience they will be so happy they went to this school. No other school can offer the expansive worldview that EB can.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

When our class went to Washington DC, I had a blast. We really bonded over all the incredible history, architecture, monuments, and museums, and I learned that traveling is the best way to cultivate friendships.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

EB gave me an expansive view of the world, and made it clear that one’s identity can be constructed from multiple cultures. It was also very challenging to learn subjects in different languages – especially when I got to high school. But I managed to overcome these challenges and succeed academically.

As a community college instructor, I feel that EB has prepared me to teach students from a variety of cultural backgrounds. English is a second language for many of my students, and as someone who grew up bilingual, I understand how to manage that unique challenge.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

I would definitely consider sending my children to EB, because in what other school could they internalize two different cultural points of view in two languages? EB continues to earn a sterling reputation, and I know that my kids would be prepared for an increasingly globalized world with a solid educational background from EB.

Kili McGowan's picture

Kili McGowan

Graduating Class: 1993
Current Position: Owner at Next Adventure, Inc. Board Member at Safari Professionals of the Americas
Current Location: Berkeley, CA
Education / School 1: UC Berkeley
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I was born in 1979 to a true “Berkeley” family. My father was a renowned American mountaineer and entrepreneur, while my mother’s family were ranchers and farmers who pioneered northern British Columbia. It’s fair to say that traveling to some of the most remote areas of the world and running my own specialty travelbusiness are part of a family tradition that includes curiosity, adventure and independence.

I was named for Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, and went on my first safari in Kenya and Tanzania when I was just a year old. During my ten years at Ecole Bilingue (I completed Middle School in 1993), I shared with my classmates and teachers many slideshows of my early travels to off-the-beaten path destinations like Nepal, India, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Antarctica, Botswana, Lesotho and the Seychelles.

I credit both my family and Ecole Bilingue with providing a firm foundation in global citizenship that has served me well. In fact, as a five-year-old, my fluency in French defused a tense situation in Cameroon near the border with Equatorial Guinea when I was able to interpret for my dad!

After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2002 with degrees in both Biology and Anthropology, I’ve continued to pursue my interests in travel, wildlife, evolution and archaeology. In the past six years, I’ve traveled widely in Western Europe and Southern, East and North Africa both independently and as safari escort and translator.

Today, I am among the youngest Africa specialists and entrepreneurs in the travel industry, handling customized safari arrangements which often include unique experiences such as gorilla tracking, camel-supported walking and birding safaris. Everyday I see how my educational background, my work experience and my travels prepared me to assume day-to-day management of my family’s business, Next Adventure and Safari, in 2005.

My father, who served two terms on the EB Board, made his love of mountaineering a permanent part of EB when he helped build the “alpiniste” statue that still marks Annual Fund progress at the Lower School. I was honored to continue another family tradition when I was invited to join the EB Board of Trustees last spring.

As a trustee, I will endeavor to follow in his footsteps and leave a lasting impact on our school community. As the first alumna to serve on the Board, I’ll bring a perspective that is both longterm and student-centered. While I am still learning the duties and responsibilities of being on my first Board, it is clear to me that the vibrant sense of community that I remember from my time at EB is still very much part of the school.

Recently, I attended a friend’s wedding, and many of the guests were EB alumni and their families. Fifteen years after graduation, I was excited to see these families were still very interested in the school, and hungry for news. As a trustee, I hope to keep the school relevant for alumni families and to engage the many graduates like me whose early years were shaped by EB.

Nathalie Miller's picture

Nathalie Miller

Graduating Class: 1996
Current Position: Consultant
Current Location: Oakland, CA
Education / School 1: Harvard University, University of California, Berkeley
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Learning French at Ecole Bilingue has had a profound effect on me. As I became comfortable in my second language, it was almost as if linguistic barriers were knocked down in my mind. I’ve always found that the greatest obstacle in learning a new language is the fear of testing out conversation and making mistakes. But since EB taught me how to think in French at such a young age, I have never felt afraid to try my luck at learning different languages. This, in turn, has enabled me to experience some of the greatest adventures in my life: travel.

While I was in seventh grade at EB, I helped organize Global Exchange’s (a local human rights organization) first educational youth tour to Cuba. As most who travel to Cuba quickly learn, making friends with the warm people there comes easily and naturally. After my initial visit, I returned often throughout high school to see my adopted family in Havana. The long summer nights spent chatting along the Malecón quickly bolstered the Spanish framework set in EB middle school classes. Before I knew it, my Cuban friends had made me fluent.

The summer after my freshman year at Harvard, I decided to go somewhere completely new and unknown to me. In Ghana, I lived and taught in a missionary school run by yogic monks from India and other parts of West Africa. Once a British colony, English is spoken widely throughout Ghana. But in the small village where I was, in the mountains of central Ghana (north of Kumasi), proficiency in English was more scarce. I learned that to befriend my neighbors I would also have to learn some Twi, the local dialect. At first it was hard, but when I learned that most of my coworkers easily spoke sixteen or seventeen languages everything was put into perspective. Besides the language challenge, being in Ghana was very life-changing. Though Ghana is stable and much more “developed” than neighboring African nations, I never have experienced the level of poverty in which my community lived. Working in Ghana raised issues not only of survival and suffering, but also the role of the West’s social responsibility for poverty alleviation.

I returned to school compelled to delve deeper into issues of culture and development and chose to concentrate in Social Anthropology and African and Afro-American Studies. Through incredible courses both inside and outside my majors, I became close with some truly amazing professors. I can’t adequately explain how grateful I am for this experience. Many all-nighters later I wrote a senior thesis on the phenomena of gay dads adopting Black children. As I am neither an adopted Black child nor a gay man, the study was definitely an ethnographic experiment of participant/observer. The project was extremely rewarding, mostly due to the lovely families who befriended me.

Last year I spent as a Harvard CPIC (Center for Public Interest Careers) fellow, working as a trial preparation assistant for the New York City D.A.’s Office investigation sector. As expected, I found aspects of the criminal justice system completely flawed and racist, but I rationalized my work because I investigated white-collar crime—which translates to rich people who usually get away with scams and end up on yachts off the coast of Thailand.

This past April, one Sunday night before work, a pretty crucial turning point in my life occurred: I found out that my childhood friend’s car was bombed in Iraq, where she was on a humanitarian mission to count Iraqi civilian casualties. She was one of the three other teenagers who I organized the Cuba youth trip with years ago. It’s hard to describe what it feels like to find out a long-time friend has died by seeing her smiling face flash across CNN. What’s most important to me is that she died doing something that she believed in. Life is transient, and her death made me realize that I better live as she died: courageously and passionately.

That said, my next humble attempt at bravery will be moving to Vietnam this October. I’ve been taking Vietnamese classes for nearly a year now to prepare for a Fulbright there. I’ll be researching microfinance and the role of women in the developing economy. As I do my best to become fluent in Vietnamese and to prepare for a year far away from home, I feel that I’m on the cusp of a lot of adventure. There’s no doubt in my mind that my desire to learn and comfort in other languages, which was first instilled in maternelle at EB, has helped bring me here.

Philomene Morrison's picture

Philomene Morrison

Graduating Class: 2003
Current Position: 5th-year Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate at Emory University and McLean Hospital at Harvard University
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I’m currently a 5th-year Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate at Emory University and McLean Hospital at Harvard University. My current research is focused on the mechanisms of how stress and emotional trauma affect learning and memory, with the goal of understanding psychiatric disorders like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I’m really interested in understanding how social and environmental inequalities impact health, how stress can be transmitted from one generation to the next, and how we can best identify and develop strategies for intervention.

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

I especially enjoyed the math and science classes at EB. The opportunity to attend “French Math” and “English Math”, where “French Math” focused on principles of geometry and “English Math” focused on algebra and pre-calculus, was so unique and really encouraged EB students to think critically in different languages. I can also still remember the projects, experiments, and teachers from my 5th grade and Middle School science classes that instilled in me a sense of wonder and curiosity about how things work in the world around me that I’ve carried with me through my undergraduate and now graduate career.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

Absolutely. Thanks to EB, I not only learned a second language from a very early age, but was also immersed in an international and diverse community at the school and through experiences like the 5th grade exchange trip to France. That early exposure to different cultures and ways of thinking was crucial to my development and really prepared me to think critically about, and also to appreciate, the world around me.

John Palmer's picture

John Palmer

Graduating Class: 1988
Current Position: Finance Lawyer
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I attended EB from 1983 until 1988, from first to fifth grade. During that time, I learned that there is always more than one way to do something–think long division. Since then, I’ve tried to ask questions when presented with differences of method, opinion, culture: I’ve tried to ask about the strengths and weaknesses of each method, the origins of the opinion, the evolution of the cultural norm. This has made me a bricoleur—willing to source my methods, opinions, maybe even my culture pretty widely. It has made me curious about trying new things and it has made me believe in the abiding value of not being scared of the unknown, not finding difference to be something that needs resolution, but rather finding delight and richness in difference.

This clearly has implications at work—I’m a finance lawyer in San Francisco—my work involves finding solutions that meet the needs of different perspectives, it demands innovation, it bridges economic strata and culture and sometimes even language. But the point is: no matter what I had ended up doing, the education I got at EB would have informed the way I approached my work, and, I think, made it better.

I think that learning to live in a world increasingly divided by difference is going to mean that we will need citizens who think of themselves as people who can bridge those differences, who are at home in multiple cultures, who aren’t ineluctably rooted in their own perspective. If this was valuable thirty years ago when I started my education at EB, it’s only become more valuable since, and I can’t think of a better way than joining the Board both to give back, and also to do my small part to help produce the kinds of citizens we’re going to need in the coming decades.

David Pruess's picture

David Pruess

Graduating Class: 1995
Current Position: EB teacher/substitute
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What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

Playing with my friends, because it was fun! This must be the answer of pretty much any child about any school they attend. I enjoyed running around the “big yard” (now bigger, but we thought it was big back then). Later on in Middle School I remember being really excited about developing my writing skills with the aid of Mr. Nikoloff and Mme. Marie.

Please describe your current work.

I am teaching 6th and 7th grade English at EB while another teacher is on sabbatical in France. I’m trying to get my students reading and writing on a daily basis for practice. I’m also trying to teach them to reflect and to understand some powerful communication tools.

Last year I also worked at EB as a substitute, which was super fun for someone who is interested in everything: I got to try every subject and every grade level, and along the way meet pretty much every student and every teacher at the school. Even though it had been many years since I was a student, it felt like coming home from a short trip.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

Very directly, I think the influence of Mr. Nikoloff and Mme. Marie that I mentioned above gave me a great appreciation of the value of a teacher. I also know that a couple of my classmates are teachers now, so it could be that having exceptional teachers influenced several of us in this direction.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

I have a lot of conversations with new parents, and we usually talk about the value of being exposed to many languages and cultures, and how this opens up the possibilities to connect with all the other people in the world—how I have always felt myself an international citizen and never only an American. Additionally, they are always heartened to see that my French is fluent after all these years, and to hear that my parents became very proficient in French simply by being around EB for 16 years!

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

I loved getting comments back on the short stories I wrote, and discussing Joseph Conrad’s books.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

My daughter just started in Petite Section this fall. She loves it! I want her to have the same advantage I did of being around children from many different backgrounds. I hope she develops the same appreciation of other people’s experiences and appreciates the value of foreign languages as a tool for forming connections.

Alexandra Sánchez's picture

Alexandra Sánchez

Graduating Class: 2005
Current Position: Consultant Service Manager & Human Resources Associate at The Sage Group
Current Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Education / School 1: The United World College of the Atlantic, Amherst College and Cal.
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What did you enjoy most about your time at EB?

I most enjoyed learning another language and developing a strong appreciation for French culture, history, literature and more. Many of my friends were French and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to France several times— it’s been so special to feel at home and to be able to interact and engage with others while I travel. I also loved learning multiple subjects in both English and French.

A friend of mine once told me that you are worth as many people as the languages you speak. I feel lucky to be multilingual, multicultural and in his words, more than one person.

Please describe your current work.

I currently work as the Assistant Director of Compliance for UC Berkeley’s Intercollegiate Athletics Department. In this job I’ll be assisting with the development and implementation of our NCAA Rules Education program as well as in providing interpretations of these rules to athletics coaches and staff. I’ll also be helping with the department’s monitoring efforts and outbound communications. I am especially excited to be working more closely with our international students in this rule (ensuring they are cleared to compete)!

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

EB has influenced my education and my career orientation and future plans. EB taught me that a diverse, multilingual and rich education opens doors that may never be open otherwise. I do not think I would have learned Latin, French, History and Geography, U.S. History, Geometry and Algebra and more all at once at any other middle school. The variety of classes we were exposed to at EB taught me that it is important to curate my own education.

I carried this mindset with me into high school, college and beyond. EB exposed me to a culture different to my own at a young age. This experience added to my interest in international relations and economic development while also inspiring me to live and study abroad. I am in the process of applying to law school and hope to study international law; I am sure I will use my French during my career!

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

I would tell parents that they are investing in their child’s future and personal development. One day, their child will thank them for choosing to invest in their education in this way—no matter their financial resources.

It’s also important that we commit as a society to international understanding and tolerance. The more children are exposed to cultures and languages different from their own, the more they will celebrate the diversity that makes our world so special. We need more schools like EB that will help our children become informed, caring and compassionate global citizens and stewards of this planet.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

I loved my time at EB. I have many funny memories. Some of my best memories came from the different trips we took beginning in third grade. These trips helped teach me about independence and resilience. They also helped develop my wanderlust and love for nature. My favorite trips were the trips we took to Yosemite and France in seventh and eighth grade.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB and in the world?

I have been blessed with an extraordinary education. I went to EB, Berkeley High School, the United World College of the Atlantic, Amherst College and Cal. And my education isn’t done!

EB taught me another language. It taught me discipline, attention to detail, organizational skills, leadership and so much more. Most importantly, EB was the catalyst to me becoming a citizen of the world. Following my eight years at EB I have taken every opportunity possible to learn more about my country, the world and how I can be of service to my immediate community and beyond.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I am so proud to be a jaguar and to be an alumna of EB. I am deeply grateful for the lessons I learned, the friends I made, and the teachers I learned from during those formative years of my life.

Christina Sanford's picture

Christina Sanford

Graduating Class: 1994
Current Position: Lawyer - Associate at Dorsey & Whitney LLP
Current Location: Oakland, CA
Education / School 1: Claremont McKenna College, UCLA
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While I appreciate the gift of a bilingual education and have used my French countless times, I want to touch on the less concrete things I learned at EB. EB not only instilled in me a global perspective, a love for French culture and an awareness of happenings outside my daily sphere, but encouraged me to be introspective and to know myself. My teachers taught with an overwhelming and contagious enthusiasm that could only have come from a passion for their profession. Libby, the head of the middle school when I attended it, once told me: “Love your job, Christina. Pick one that you’re excited to go to everyday, and that you’d go to even if you weren’t getting paid.” I have spent most of my time since EB trying to figure out what that job could be.

After graduating from EB, I went on to Head Royce for high school and then Claremont McKenna College for my undergraduate education. Like most everyone, I studied abroad my junior year. With my accent, or rather lack of accent, all I had to do was slap on some dark socks and a detached look and I was treated like every other French student in my classes at the Sorbonne.

After college graduation, contemplating an MD/Ph.D, I spent a year as a research fellow at the National Institutes of Health studying HIV immune reactions. I was asked to stay on for another year but research was not for me. I was content to drop the Ph.D part. I came back to the Bay Area to work while I applied to medical school. It was an arduous process, but in the end I was accepted to many places any parent would love to brag to their friends about.

Still, this was not the direction my life was to take. Just as I was about to sign my financial aid papers, I realized that while I would have liked being a doctor, I would not have loved it. I was face to face with that question, what do I want to do with my life? It was then that I thought back to the happiest times of my life and I remembered our eighth grade trip to Washington D.C. When I came home from that trip I told everyone I knew that I wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice. And while I don’t think this aspiration will be as prophetic as Samuel Alito’s yearbook prediction, I have decided that I would love to be a lawyer. So after another round of tests, essays and personal statements, I will be attending UCLA law school this coming fall, where I plan to study International Law.

When I was asked to write this profile, I took a look at what some of my fellow classmates had to say, mostly for inspiration, but also to see what everyone was up to. Libby must have given her advice to all of us because we are all doing things that excite us. While I was not aware of it at the time, EB gave me the tools to figure out who I am and what I want from my life. It taught me not only how to succeed in the eyes of others, but in my own as well.

Lisa Schipper's picture

Lisa Schipper

Graduating Class: 1986
Current Position: Environmental Social Science Research Fellow at Environmental Change Institute (ECI), University of Oxford
Current Location: Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
Education / School 1: University of East Anglia, Brown University
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From Berkeley to Bangkok: How my EB Background Paved my Way to Sticky Rice with Mango

My mother is Swedish and my father American, I am married to a German and live in Thailand. When people ask me where I am from, although I have two passports, I usually try to avoid answering the question. This is because I am not just Swedish, American or an “expat” but part of me also identifies myself as “from Berkeley” and even a little part of me would say “sort of French”. Then they say: “French?! How can that be?” “Well, I went to a French school from the age of 5.” The next question is usually “Why?!”. I usually try to avoid answering that as well, because my French “identity” is actually more of a consequence of how strongly my formation was influenced by going to Ecole Bilingue, which was a choice my parents made for me not because they wanted me to “become French”, but because they recognized what a unique education I would get. An education that would carry me far, it was hoped—and indeed for now it certainly feels that this hope is being fulfilled.

I went to EB from first through fifth grade, graduating in 1986. I recently found my graduation speech, which thanked EB, all the teachers and students for being so wonderful. I had moved to London before Christmas of my final year at EB, and had spent a few months in a school that I didn’t enjoy very much, to put it nicely. I came back for graduation because my parents understood how much I had benefited from being at EB, and how important it was for me to be part of my class once again, if only for a few days.

After returning from England in 1987, I went on to the French-American International School in San Francisco, because I still felt that I needed to build on the education that I had gained. By this point I had no doubts that the level of discipline and dedication necessary for a French education were necessary for me to function well—I had experienced undisciplined students and a poor curriculum in London, and knew that I didn’t want to go through that again. I will never forget my shock at how the teachers in London didn’t care what color pen you wrote in, nor whether you underlined correctly or even did your homework at all!

After finishing my International Baccalaureate at FAIS, I ended up at Brown University in Rhode Island, for the first time experiencing an “American” school, but obviously not a typical one. Because of my international upbringing and education at EB and FAIS, I had always been interested in international issues, and global environmental change was one that I felt was extremely important for international cooperation. My passion for environmental issues bloomed at Brown, and I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, just as the Kyoto Protocol was being agreed at the end of 1997. Because of my interest in climate change, I went to work at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat in Bonn, Germany, in March 1998. It was there that I found out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life—professionally and personally. On my first day entering the UN building, I didn’t have the right ID with me, so the German security guard behind the counter asked me for my driver’s license. Never having seen a California license before (in colour), he managed to memorise my birthday, which came in handy on our first date two months later. We have been together since that time, and have been married since August 2006. Markus is a web developer and a photographer, passionate about marathons and dreaming of doing the Iron Man in Hawaii one day. Coming from a background that contrasts almost 180 degrees from mine, we never seem to run out of things to discuss and even argue about!

At the UN in Bonn, I realized that what I was really interested in was working with environment and development, so after a year in Norway working for the UN Environment Programm, Markus and I moved to England in October 1999, where I began studying a Master’s of Science in Environment and Development. My focus was on adaptation to climate change, and after finishing the degree, I decided to stay in England and continue to work on the topic as a doctoral student. Little did I know that this would become the next big topic in climate change!

In 2001, the internet boom went bust, and Markus found himself wanting to move back to Germany. So a few days after September 11, we packed our belongings in our east London house, and drove to Germany. I continued to work on my Ph.D., and Markus worked for a small company outside Frankfurt that quickly also went bankrupt. During that time, I was in El Salvador doing my fieldwork, and Markus found a new job in Düsseldorf. We moved there for two years while I was writing up my Ph.D., which was finally finished in July 2004. In February 2005 we moved to Sri Lanka for two years of extreme expatriate living, complete with cockroaches and cocktails, and periods of significant insecurity. I had a post-doctoral fellowship working on agriculture, water management and livelihoods, and Markus worked for a research project. We finally made it to Thailand in February 2007, and I believe we will call Bangkok home for at least another few years to come.

In October 2007, the weather in Bangkok was improving—it got cooler and drier. One day, while working from home, I suddenly felt a familiar feeling. I lay down on the floor of the workroom, and realized that I was having a serious Berkeley flashback. It occurred to me how much I missed Berkeley, how much I missed the smell of coffee roasting as we played in the EB playground, the sound of the private aircraft that fly over north Berkeley on weekends, the smell of eucalyptus trees, the hot asphalt under my feet as I run down the stairs of our house to see if the mail has come, and all the Berkeley institutions that I had just taken for granted when I was younger—Peet’s coffee, Zachary’s pizza, all the fantastic bakeries, the Cheeseboard, to mention only a few!

I decided to spend March 2008 in Berkeley. As it happened, I had to come to Central America for some fieldwork anyway, but towards February it became clear that I had to be in Tanzania the second week of March, which I had planned as part of my 3-week Berkeley bonanza. So the bonanza became two weeks, but I still enjoyed it more than ever, soaking in as much of Berkeley as I possibly could! Driving around the EB neighborhood was one of the most important parts of “fueling my Berkeley tanks”. Remembering all the friends, catching up with some of them, walking around and looking at the houses—remember who lived here, there, across the street?

Often, people will tell me that I am a global citizen. Although it sounds like a cliché, it seems accurate—yes, I speak many languages (trying to add Thai as my 6th one but finding it very challenging!) and yes I have traveled all over the world. But I think what really lies at the heart of being a ‘global citizen’ is attitude—about being part of a bigger picture, and respecting that it is possible to venture beyond our own social and cultural backgrounds to accept other ways of being, thinking and doing. I can be reached on elfs75@gmail.com

PS. What’s this about sticky rice with mango then? Well, you take a sweet mango—the yellow-skinned kind with the velvety soft texture that just melts on your tongue—and to that add sticky rice and a sweet, thick coconut sauce. It’s a Thai traditional dessert—and although the health freak in me says no! the Berkeley gourmet says bring it on!

Delphine Schmidt's picture

Delphine Schmidt

Graduating Class: 1983
Current Position: To develop the firm's international M&A and private equity transactions at law firm Duteil Avocat
Education / School 1: La Sorbonne (Paris)
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Here is an article from Delphine who only went to EB for one year. Her younger brother (Adrien, Class of 1987) went to EB for many years. Their mother was on the Board of Ecole Bilingue.

I was eight years old when my family moved from Annecy (South East of France) to San Francisco. I did not speak a word of English and therefore went to the French Lycée in San Francisco.

We rapidly moved to Berkeley and I discovered EB in fifth grade. I remember, on the first day, our French teacher saying “There is a new French girl amongst us now, her name is Delphine” and I was thinking while being stared at: “Oh my! I hope someone speaks French around here!!!!”

Of course the kids spoke French, they were almost all bilingual! I was very much encouraged in improving my English by Jan, our English teacher; she was always very positive “Great progress! Wonderful! You’ve improved so much!” I had a lot of happy faces on my notebook although my essays were full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors…! She really did help a lot!

Everything went very fast: I felt integrated in no time, made great friends and soon preferred speaking English than French. I even volunteered to be “Annie” (the main character) in the play we were to act in front of all the parents. I ended up being the maid, though…my English accent was probably not good enough! Wonderful souvenirs which were due to the teachers, the students, everyone at EB I guess!

Unfortunately, I spent only a year at EB as there was no middle school. I then attended the French American International School in San Francisco, as well as most of my EB friends.

I moved back to France (Paris) when I was 14, in tenth grade. I then studied law at Sorbonne Paris, succeeded in the French bar exam in 1996, and became a lawyer specialized in mergers & acquisitions/private equity. Since the beginning of my career, I have worked, in majority, on international transactions (e.g. foreign clients purchasing French companies). I started out in an English law firm (Freshfields Paris) for 3 years before my husband and I decided to move to Lyon, located in the South East of France, close to the mountains! My husband found a job in an investment bank and I joined the law firm Soulier (well known for its foreign clients, mostly Americans) and worked there for 31⁄2 years. I am now working (still in Lyon) for the law firm Duteil Avocat where my task is to develop the firm’s international M&A and private equity transactions (through, in particular, the search for an active international network of lawyers, whether existing or to be created).

I am particularly attached to the “international” aspect of my job, which no doubt comes from my 6 years experience in San Francisco. I would love it if my daughter Elise (21⁄2 years old), with whom I speak English, had the chance to live the same experience as mine at EB. Receiving a bilingual education clearly opened my mind and helped me understand better other cultures and attitudes. Maybe an opportunity will show up one day…!?

In the meantime, I am coming back to San Francisco next September, one of my best friends from EB is getting married… I just can’t wait to meet with my old friends!

Andrew Schreyer's picture

Andrew Schreyer

Graduating Class: 2006
Current Position: Everytown for Gun Safety Operations; Founder of Pierre's Birthday Fund; Former Hillary For America Operations
Current Location: NYC
Education / School 1: Chapman University
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What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

What I enjoyed most about EB was the faculty—everyone cared so much about the work that I was doing; it really felt like a partnership. I remember a number of my classes very fondly, especially my Histoire-Géo ones, which were always full of excitement. The care that the teachers had for their students is something that influenced my high school decision and then my college decision. I now even think about it when I am choosing a job.

Please describe your current work.

Almost two years ago, I founded a non-profit that brings joy, hope, and pain relief to in-patient children called Pierre’s Birthday Fund. Today, we are operating at UCSFOakland and Mission Bay by celebrating kids’ birthdays, providing massage and art therapy; we just launched a new resilience-based bead-making therapy program, and are participating in a pediatric oncology acupressure study.

I recently finished working for Hillary Clinton on her Presidential campaign. There, I was the Operations and Systems Manager focused on our financial operations, implementation of our financial software and databases, and planned our debt elimination strategy. I recently started a new job as Field Operations Manager for a healthcare marketing company, Mesmerize Marketing. There, I strategically plan media placements in doctors’ offices and pharmacies, advise our CEO on future market opportunities, and design the logistical components of our media plans.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

I think that EB helped ignite the fire within me for making positive change in the world. When I look for new jobs, I always look for something that is mission-focused, something impactful, and something innovative, all of which EB had. I think that EB did a great job of charging its students with the idea of improving their community and making the world a better place. This idea is at the cornerstone of why I founded Pierre’s Birthday Fund when my little brother passed away.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

Welcome to one of the greatest and most tight-knit communities of the East Bay. EB is a place where families come together to create a larger, more cohesive family, representative of so many varying backgrounds. It’s a place where your children will grow immensely, and learn a second language along the way. You’ve made a good choice.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

My favorite memory from EB is the annual Halloween parade. It was so fun to see the entire school, PK through 8th grade, come together for the same occasion. Everyone had huge grins on their faces and the costumes were so fun. While I was school president, I dressed up as Napoleon, but don’t worry, we didn’t have similar leadership styles. Another year, my brother and I dressed up as Astérix and Obélix. I definitely had a great time with Halloween every year at EB.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

I think that EB definitely prepared me for life afterward, in high school and beyond. At EB, I learned some of the studying techniques that were useful to me during the rest of my studies. EB also gave me lifelong friends with whom I got to go through life (and still do). I try to learn as much as I can about other cultures; being exposed to the French culture definitely had something to do with that.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

If I were to relocate to the Bay Area, I would definitely send my hypothetical children to EB—no doubt about it! It’s the best place in the East Bay to get a quality bilingual education and I know that my kids would thank me for it in the end—I know I do.

Anya Schwin Gibson's picture

Anya Schwin Gibson

Graduating Class: 1999
Current Position: Undergraduate Programs Supervisor at UC Davis
Current Location: West Sacramento, California
Education / School 1: California State University-Sacramento
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What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

There are so many things that I loved about EB so it’s hard to pick just one. I loved the environment the school created for learning and friends. I also really loved the opportunity to experience new perspectives and cultures.

Please describe your current work.

I am an academic advisor at UC Davis. I supervise the advising center that works with the East Asian Studies, Economics, and History majors. I work with students to help them achieve their goals in college. I have a BA in Sociology – Organizational Studies from UC Davis and an MA in Education from Sacramento State.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

Meeting faculty and students from around the world at EB, as well as learning to appreciate our differences, enabled me to be a more empathetic and understanding academic advisor. I appreciate students’ individual stories and I love helping them find their own unique path through college. EB introduced me to new perspectives and people in a way that more traditional education would not have. I learned early on to acknowledge and appreciate differences.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

EB is a great community—jump in wholeheartedly! The curriculum can be challenging for your student, but it prepares them for looking at the world through a global perspective.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

Gosh there are so many great memories, it’s truly hard to pick just one. I won’t ever forget the field trips around California (Marin Headlands, Pescadero, Pioneer Camp, Yosemite, to name a few), as well as ones further away in Washington DC and France. The opportunity to experience culture and education outside the classroom will always be one of my favorite parts of EB.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

Absolutely! Academically, I was very well prepared for the rigors of high school and college. Personally, my worldview was expanded, which helped me make more informed life choices.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Yes! I think the bilingual education and opportunity to experience different cultures and perspectives is an invaluable experience.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I really loved my time at EB. I love the community, the learning, and the environment in general. It was my favorite time in school.

Jonathan Silk's picture

Jonathan Silk

Graduating Class: 1992
Current Position: Creative executive at Gold Circle Films
Education / School 1: UC Santa Cruz
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When I was at EB, I was more interested in drawing comic books in class than in learning French, which did not endear me to my teachers, who generally viewed me as a trouble-maker and a clown. Nonetheless, I came out of EB speaking some French, and surprisingly, both the comics and the French have intersected in unexpected ways since I left EB.

After I graduated from UC Santa Cruz, I worked as a comic book editor for a year. I then worked at a talent agency, assisting an agent for a year. Then I landed a job assisting the movie producer Scott Rudin. During this time, my knowledge of French kept me gainfully employed. Rudin has six full-time assistants, and the average turnover is less than four weeks—it’s quite a demanding environment, and my prospects (or those of anyone else) were not great.

My first week, I was assigned the task of drafting a list of all of Rudin’s favorite Parisian antique stores, including their cross streets and hours of operation, spelling it all perfectly (one error could have gotten me fired—it sounds exaggerated, but it’s not). Most of these boutiques were not listed on the internet, so I had to call the storekeepers, many of whom didn’t speak English, and scrupulously copy down all the pertinent info. Upon getting Scott his list, he told me I did a “great job,” words exceedingly rare coming from his mouth.

Getting on Rudin’s good side opened numerous doors for me—I was hired at Universal Pictures, which would have been almost impossible, coming from New York, without his endorsement.

Now I’ve graduated from assistant at Universal to creative executive at Gold Circle Films, the company that made My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Currently, my full-time job is helping produce movies, finding good scripts, emerging writers, directors, and actors, and helping put it all together into successful films. It’s a job I feel lucky to have, and one that I enjoy. It was not easy to climb my way through all those jobs; I was hazed, and this is a highly competitive industry, so I had to jump through many hoops.

France is the Mecca of the comic book world, so now that I’m beginning to travel, searching for ideas for films, I’m reading more French comics, and I might attend Angoulême—the largest comic book festival/convention in the world, which is in France. There are French film festivals, French production companies that develop interesting and unique projects, and French filmmakers that we work with. My limited knowledge of French is helpful in my work, allowing me to network with talented artists and storytellers who otherwise might go undiscovered in the U.S.

The French I learned at EB has been useful in my career. Now that I’m searching for French comics to turn into movies, maybe all those comics I was drawing while in school weren’t a waste of time either.

Erika Sinclair's picture

Erika Sinclair

Graduating Class: 1985
Current Position: to improve the health of women and their families in Africa, Asia and Latin America for a non-profit organization
Education / School 1: FAIS San Francisco, La Sorbonne (Paris)
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Writing about yourself sometimes feels a little like writing your own letter of recommendation. It’s not that easy. But doing it in the context of Ecole Bilingue is like writing your own adventure story. My story started in kindergarten at EB, and got more exciting with every corner turned.

Growing up, my parents were of the mind that “exposure” was an essential ingredient to a good education. Enrolling my brother and me in this once small school that had immeasurable vision about the value of scholarship and culture was their first attempt. Very early in life, we were exposed to alternative learning, international consciousness, and a second language to boot (not a word of which either of them spoke, incidentally). Their second attempt was to move our family to Kenya when I was seven (after a couple of years at EB). I knew what and where Africa was, but had no idea why we were going there. I was told, “You’re going to see how people live in another part of the world!” That was good enough for me. Of all the schools we considered, L’Ecole Française de Nairobi felt like the best fit. It was just like EB, minus the English, and with kids from Morocco, Vietnam, Senegal, France… all over. And that setting felt normal to me. Somehow I managed to succeed in an all-French environment, which had a lot to do with the foundation planted at EB. Fourteen months, a new world view, and a third language (Swahili) later, we crossed the Atlantic back to Berkeley, and back to EB. Exposure was a success.

At the time EB did not have middle school, and post-fifth grade evolution took me to FAIS in San Francisco. Traveling across the Bay Bridge every day gave me the travel bug. So in the seventh grade, I managed to get myself selected as one of two U.S. representatives at an international youth film festival in Paris to judge films from around the globe. We were 28 from fourteen countries worldwide. They rolled out the red carpet, chauffeured us around in snazzy Citroëns and aired us on a national French TV talk show—we felt like teen stars. Needless to say, our sponsors repeatedly mistook me for the participant from Côte d’Ivoire. Something about the way I spoke French “sans accent” combined with the right amount of melanin.

Fast forward to college. I spent just over a year studying philosophy and French literature at the Sorbonne. While there, I also made my [very] amateur Paris debut as Cyrano de Bergerac’s Roxanne, for the Institute of European Studies’ annual theater production. Speaking and living in French is one thing, but acting in French is another bag of potatoes.

Post-college left me with many options for next steps. I moved to Benin to work in primary school education and development, and the transition to living life in a small African village was largely softened by my ability to communicate with people in a way that was comfortable to both them and myself. I learned to love cold bucket baths, to do laundry by hand, and to appreciate the wholesome goodness of living simply… but more than anything, being there solidified my understanding that the ability to speak another language is so much more than mere communication; it’s about cultural sensitivity, it’s about global awareness; it’s about being entirely human.

Today I live in Manhattan working for a non-profit organization that helps to improve the health of women and their families in Africa, Asia and Latin America. I have seen so many new places and learned about health crises in the world that most of us cannot even imagine. I have also been dabbling in voice and piano, which helps to keep me grounded in the chaos of the city. It’s certainly been a journey, and there have been lots of twists and turns. But it all started at EB, where I received the tools I needed to move through this life with confidence and a fearless spirit.

Kate Solomon-Tilley's picture

Kate Solomon-Tilley

Graduating Class: 2001
Current Position: Child Wrangler at Disney's Lion King
Current Location: NYC
Education / School 1: Bryn Mawr College
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What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

My favorite aspects of EB are the community and culture, the friendships that EB creates. I feel that Ecole Bilingue was, and is, very much a little slice of France in America, creating a unique Franco-American hybrid. There’s a mix of traditional French academic vigor with elements of the American system of learning through play and creativity and arts... and of course let’s not forget the food.

Please describe your current work/studies.

I am a Child Wrangler (or Child Guardian) for Disney’s Lion King on Broadway. A child wrangler is a stage manager for the child actors who work in the show playing Young Simba and Young Nala. Wranglers, like stage managers, help make sure the actors get to their cues on time, remember lines, and ensure their costumes and makeup are stage-ready. When not working at the Lion King, I work as a freelance stage manager, often on developing musicals on and off Broadway, and as a personal assistant to the legendary villain Jafar from Aladdin.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

Firstly, the small but mighty theater department in Middle School helped students find their place and passion in the theater world and really helped me grow as I was discovering new aspects of the field (set designer, stagecraft, directing). The teachers created roles that would allow me to experience multiple sides of theater: acting, set designing, directing.

More importantly, having grown up in a bilingual and bicultural community has opened my eyes and ears to appreciating the complexities and beauty of all cultures and languages, and therefore created a global citizen who is comfortable moving between cultures and bridging differences. (use an ellipsis in between).

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

As a former student of EB coming from a family with no background in French, I would emphasize the importance of remembering that EB is not only giving your child a foreign language, but also a culture, and a unique view of the world. They are being given a chance to walk in someone else’s shoes, to see the world from a different perspective. They are planting the seeds of empathy and compassion.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

My favorite memory at EB was crêpe day. I remember the first time, when I was in kindergarten I could barely believe what I saw: one whole side of the Multi-Purpose room had a line of tables with adults cooking endless amounts of crêpes, and on the other side stood two tables of toppings, a savory (ham, cheese spinach) and a sweet side (strawberries, bananas, Nutella, and my soon to be discovered favorite, the traditional lemon & sugar).

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

Overall, I would say EB went above and beyond in preparing me for life after. Academically, I felt on par or more often, beyond my age/grade level in subjects, but what EB prepared me for that I didn’t realize or expect was the ethos, moral compass, and just plain perspective of a global citizens.

Would you consider sending your kid to EB? Why?

Since I was a child, I recognized the beauty and uniqueness of the world that EB created: the community. I’ve never had a doubt that when the time came, if I were able to, I would send my child to EB. In fact, twenty-five years after I started EB, my nephew became a student there!

Chinzalée Sonami's picture

Chinzalée Sonami

Graduating Class: 1999
Current Position: Senior Grocery Buyer at Planet Organic Ltd
Current Location: London, UK
Education / School 1: Saint Louis University (Madrid Campus)
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What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

The friends I made at EB are to this day some of my closest and dearest friends and what I cherish most from my time at EB. That, and nap time when we were in Pre-K and Kindergarten….

Please describe your current work.

I currently work in London as the grocery buyer for a chain of organic grocery stores, much like Whole Foods. I spend most of my day meeting new suppliers, tasting products, negotiating margins and using a lot more math than I ever expected to. Merci M. Coup !

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

I have been a food buyer now for 6 years, first working with fine foods from Italy, Spain and France and now in the UK. Although I’m not sure that EB taught me to love food, it did influence my love for the stories behind so many of the international suppliers and producers I work with. I think it gave me an appreciation for trying everything and understanding the value behind learning a new culture, even if it is only through their foods.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

I would tell parents that sending their kids to EB will give their children a unique perspective on life. Learning a new language and being bilingual is a gift that will stay with them for the rest of their lives and will open countless doors.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

There are so many! I loved the Halloween parades, watching “the big kids” walk by the Lower School playground, the EBISC Middle School dances, the 8th grade Washington DC trip and, of course, the smell of roasted coffee from the neighborhood roaster is forever burned into my memory.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

My time at EB has shaped my life in countless ways but the most significant is perhaps the way it taught us to view ourselves as citizens of the world. There is no doubt that EB is a very “Berkeley” school, but studying in French with French teachers, taking trips to France and hosting exchange students narrowed the gap between the Bay Area and the rest of the world. It meant that in 6th grade I lived in France for a year, then went to university in Madrid, lived in India for 6 months and finally moved to London a couple of years ago. I think these all would have been much more daunting had we not been exposed to so much at such a young age.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Absolutely. I would like my children to be reminded that there is a world that extends far beyond the one they know in the Bay Area. Aside from traveling, I think EB is the best way to remind them. I truly do look forward to the day my kids go to EB, even if it’s just to selfishly walk down memory lane.

Ivan Spazkowski's picture

Ivan Spazkowski

Graduating Class: 2000
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In the 15 years since graduating from EB, I have lived in ten cities in four countries. After running out of French classes in high school, I made a decision that’s shaped my life ever since. I started learning Mandarin. In college, I became ever more immersed in both Chinese and China, and following graduation I moved to China, studying and working there for a year and a half. I returned to the U.S. for graduate school and began working in New York, but soon moved back to Asia – first in Singapore, then Shanghai and now Hong Kong where I head Citigroup’s Asia commodities research team.

The international perspective provided by EB has been invaluable. My Asian and European friends are amazed to hear that most Americans do not even own a passport. In contrast, EB offers the opportunity to experience two distinct cultures, languages, and outlooks on the world. In my opinion, this is one of the most profound learning experiences possible.

I now regularly travel around the world for work and the background offered by EB has helped me to adapt wherever I go. Moreover, an important part of my job is helping Westerners better understand China and Chinese better understand the West. My ability to help bridge the gap between cultures has been aided tremendously by the experience of growing up amidst both French and American systems.

EB also helped instill in me a love of good food, which was one of the attractions for me of China, as only French cuisine can compete with the variety of authentic Chinese food. And while Chinese is the foreign language I use on a daily basis, I find myself happily slipping back into French language and culture whenever I visit France.

Laura Spiekerman's picture

Laura Spiekerman

Graduating Class: 2000
Current Position: dentity API for financial services onboarding at Alloy
Current Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Education / School 1: Barnard College
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What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

First and foremost, the teachers. I will always think fondly of people like Thierry and Odile, among many others, who gave me confidence and encouraged my learning and growth over the years. Second, growing up in a bi-cultural community gave me an early appreciation for travel and learning about other people, places, languages, cultures, and cuisines. That has shaped who I am, what I care about, and how I view the world.

Please describe your current work.

I’m an entrepreneur in the financial services technology space, having started my company three years ago after several years at other startups and investing in private equity & venture capital funds. My company, Alloy, helps enable fintech (financial technology) companies and financial institutions to better manage user onboarding and identity/compliance requirements.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

EB made me interested in other cultures, and that background was part of what drove me to move to Kenya a few years after college, which was when I discovered my love for building next-generation mass-market financial services and products, first in East Africa and now in the United States. I became interested in that by studying microfinance in Senegal (during college), a country I chose to spend time in because I could use my French!

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

Exposing your kids to as many cultural experiences—whether local or global—has long-lasting, positive effects. Let them access education and new experiences through something tangible and exciting (e.g. cooking) because there are many years ahead (high school and college) where your kids will mostly be head-down in books worried about their grades.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

One of my favorite memories was our 7th grade Yosemite trip, visiting pitch-black caves and learning to rely on each other and our senses to get through them. It was such a fun trip!

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

It certainly made me feel like a citizen of the world, and even now I travel to new places and feel more at home than I would without my EB experiences. I’m more comfortable talking to new people from completely different backgrounds, as well as navigating new cities, languages, and cultures.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Yes! I’d love to send my kids to EB. I want them to grow up appreciating other cultures and being exposed to things outside our direct sphere of influence.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Decades later, EB still feels like home to me. I will never forget so many people— administrators, teachers, and students alike—who shaped my worldview and helped raise me.

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