Paris is a city where many dream to be. Madame Éline Stevens, assistant director of the College’s Junior Year in France Program in Paris, breathes a sense of charm and positivity into this already magical experience. Working with the program since 1991 even though the professors change annually, Stevens “assures a sense of continuity.” She oversees the host families, registration in Parisian universities, acquisition of French visas and excursions to neighboring French cities.
Originally born in the Seychelles, a French-influenced island country, life brought Stevens to Paris after she married and had two children. She and her husband, a Belgian general for Eastern Africa during a period of political tumult in the Seychelles, moved to the city to escape the political tensions and reunite with her family.
“In fact, it’s very bizarre how I got this job because I originally applied to Middlebury College,” Stevens says. Seeking a candidate with more experience, Middlebury hired someone else but agreed to pass her résumé to Hamilton College. Twenty years later — and despite her many friendships with students and professors — Stevens has actually visited the campus just once. Coming to the Hill during the summer 12 years ago helped Stevens gain access to the psyches of the students she serves. “It’s easier to understand the American students and the sometimes random questions posed when I evaluate them at their home court,” she says.
Reflecting on the greatest pleasure of her job, Stevens smiles and replies, “It’s you! You students have brought a lot of richness into my life.” Those students, arriving with different philosophies and social backgrounds, provide a breath of fresh air. “This job is very humane,” she says, “because every day I learn to understand the person in front of me.”