Arielle DeSouza ’16

When Arielle DeSouza was a little girl she loved all things French: the Chanel suits; the creamy Brie cheese; the famous Impressionists like Monet. Curiously, her language in high school was Spanish. She could have continued down that path at URI, but decided to take a risk and start learning French at the age of 18.

Her hard work—and dedication to the French language and culture—has paid off. In a ceremony last May, Arielle received the prestigious French Consulate in Boston Excellence Award, which is given every year to a New England college student who has promoted French language and culture. She was chosen from seven nominees, and she is the only woman selected in the award’s three-year history.

“It’s exciting to be recognized on such a large scale,” she said. “The sky’s the limit.”

While enrolled in URI’s International Engineering Program, Arielle spent six months at the Université de Technologie de Compiègne in France and then interned for six months at a French engineering company analyzing storm surge on the French Atlantic coast. Weekends were spent hanging out with friends in Paris or traveling to Brittany and elsewhere. She even learned how to make macarons and “drink real coffee, not the American watery version.”

“Living in France was the best year of my life,” she said. “It’s so important as a millennial to become a global citizen. You can’t fully understand yourself as a person until you’ve experienced another culture. We live in a global world.”

In August, Arielle returned to her adopted country to earn a master’s degree in offshore energy.  “My year abroad at URI took all the goals and dreams I had and made them 20 times bigger,” she said.