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Sasha Lansky in Lyon, France (2009).

I set off for Talloires and the Tufts Summit program following my junior year of high school. I was eager to spend time living with a host family and working on my French skills, and I was very excited by the idea of taking a college level international relations course. I knew I wanted to pursue international-focused studies in undergrad, focused somehow on conflict and human rights, but I hadn’t thought too much beyond that.

Little did I know that that summer – the experiences I had, the people I met, the French I strengthened, and the summits I hiked – would have a lasting impact on my life.

I would learn that, while interesting, international relations was not what I wanted to study. In undergrad I ended up pursuing a double major in anthropology and international studies, focused on understanding individuals’ experiences, rather than analyzing global politics. But without Summit and Professor Angela Kachuyevski’s international relations course, I wouldn’t have had the necessary theoretical foundation and it would have taken me much longer to figure out what I was good at and what skills I needed to hone for my career.

I would connect with other high achieving, curious, funny students, some of whom I now count as colleagues. I would go on to graduate from Tufts’ Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy 10 years after completing Summit, alongside one of my Summit classmates. And twelve years after that summer, I would be the only friend present at one Summit friend’s COVID-era wedding. And the connections I made with the Tufts European Center faculty and staff would also have a lasting impact. They have become mentors and friends, people I continue to turn to for advice.

À les montagnes!

I would become even more comfortable with French, staying in touch with my host family and visiting them regularly even years later. I would go on to minor in French in college, to use it as an advantage in securing internships, in conducting fieldwork while studying abroad, and in ultimately getting hired for my first job out of college, working for Human Rights Watch.

I would go on to have the honor to use my French to represent the United States’ humanitarian portfolio in Cameroon at countrywide meetings with the United Nations. Speaking French has – and, I believe, will continue – to open doors professionally and personally.

Au travail avec l’USAID.

And of course Lake Annecy and the surrounding alpine foothills would enchant and ensnare me, inspiring me to take up hiking as an adult – moving beyond the forced hikes of my childhood. And spectating at my first ever stage of the Tour de France would be the motivation I needed to eventually begin my career as a bicycle racer, competing across the US.

This summer will mark 15 years – wow, really?? – since I participated in Tufts Summit. The writing and debate skills, the confidence and independence, and the clarity of purpose I gained from that summer remain with me. Thanks to the generosity of the Tufts European Center and a scholarship to attend the program, I had a life changing experience whose impacts continue to reverberate in every aspect of my life.

Sasha Lansky returns to the Tufts European Center to speak to the International Relations course.