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Boss of Her World Harleigh Bean ’18 studied in Paris, spent a summer at one of Middlebury's competitive language schools and attended the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute at Princeton University.

Harleigh Bean ’18

“For seven weeks I spoke only French, I wrote in French, I watched TV in French; my whole life was in French. As this experience took place the summer before my abroad experience, I was more than prepared to travel to Paris, confident in my ability to communicate in another language.”

Hometown: Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Majors: Romance Languages and Politics

Though I could surely go on and on about the amazing social, academic and athletic experiences I’ve been fortunate to have here at Washington and Lee, I’d rather spend this time sharing the story of my summer experiences and study abroad semester and how W&L played an active and supportive role in each of these opportunities.

During the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I attended the Betty Ashbury Jones MA ’86 School of French at Middlebury College. As a romance languages major (with a Spanish emphasis), I picked up French upon arriving in Lexington. It’s safe to say that I struggled with it. However, I was determined to establish a solid foundation with the language, not only to satisfy the requirements of the major but to form a solid foundation from which I could learn additional languages in the future.

I was first introduced to the program through a classmate who had attended the French language school the previous summer. He was practically fluent. After talking with him about his experience, I knew I had to pursue this opportunity. With the help of my French professor, I pulled together a competitive application and sent it in. To be honest, I did not expect to receive admission — Middlebury language schools maintain a rather cutthroat reputation, for good reason! For seven weeks I spoke only French, I wrote in French, I watched TV in French; my whole life was in French. As this experience took place the summer before my abroad experience, I was more than prepared to travel to Paris, confident in my ability to communicate in another language.

This brings me to my second experience—my Fall Term abroad in Paris. This experience was completely facilitated through W&L. With the help of the Study Abroad office, I identified the country I wanted to be in, the subjects I wanted to study and the living arrangements I wanted to pursue. With their help, I chose to study abroad from August to December in Paris through the IES: Business and International Affairs Program. Thanks to the Financial Aid Department, my full scholarship at W&L transferred to pay the cost of the program and gave me a stipend to use as disposable income while I was abroad. With the help of the Romance Languages and Politics departments, I was able to receive full credit from my semester abroad without having to push back my graduation date. I can say with full honesty that my semester in Paris was the best semester of my life, and I couldn’t have done it without W&L.

The last experience I’d like to share took place in Princeton, New Jersey, this past summer. In February 2016, I was chosen as one of about 30 students out of a pool of 600 applicants to attend the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute at Princeton University. This program strives to expose underrepresented minorities to public policy and international affairs through coursework and extracurricular programming in order to prepare us to become influential leaders of the future. It goes without saying that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

During this seven-week program (I seem to have an affinity for those), I took graduate-level courses in economics, statistics and international policy. Retired ambassador James Gadsden taught my international policy course. In addition to the coursework, we also attended various bag lunches with established professionals in the fields of public policy, international policy, health care, education and more. We also took a trip to D.C. to meet with international officials at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, attended a specially organized graduate school fair, and networked with PPIA alumnus in the area. This program also ensures that I will receive some funding for graduate school once I embark on that journey. The cohort of students is amazing — we’re still constantly connecting via social media, and the alumni network has proven to be an amazing resource.

I would not have gone through with this experience without the insight of a W&L student the year above me who also was a PPIA Princeton alum, the courses I’ve taken at W&L that made me academically competitive, and the extracurricular opportunities that demonstrated my commitment to public policy and service.

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More About Harleigh

Extracurricular involvement
University Ambassadors, the Peer Counseling program, Kathekon, Pluma and an internship at the George Marshall Foundation housed on VMI’s campus. Though each of these opportunities seem extremely different, they all afford me the opportunity to interact with people, give back to the community, and develop personally and professionally. The internship at VMI is pretty interesting because for most of my W&L career, VMI has been this elusive institution; now I’m on its campus quite frequently.

Why did you choose your major?
Growing up in the greater Washington, D.C., area exposed me to the realm of politics. As I got older, I became more and more interested in international politics, so the choice to major in global politics was natural. My romance languages major was also an obvious decision, as I’ve been taking Spanish since kindergarten. Though I wanted to branch out into other languages, specifically French, in high school, I was unable to do so. The romance languages department offered me the opportunity to pursue a second language (or third, really) while maintaining my first foreign language.

What’s your personal motto?
Recently, I’ve been referring back to the quote “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss.” I’m unsure of its origin; however, it came into my life when I heard Beyoncé recite it during a campaign for the Girl Scouts of America. Many times in my life I’ve been told that I’m blunt, too honest or aggressive. When I was younger, I used to feel bad for being this way. Now, I love it. I may be blunt or brutally honest, but these are personality traits I admire as I move to establish my professional career.

Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Napa Thai. My friends make fun of me because I eat there so often. My usual order is chicken pad Thai with a side of fried rice. If I’m feeling exceptionally gluttonous, I’ll also order spring rolls.

Post-graduation plans
Though my post-graduation plans aren’t completely solidified yet, I do have a plan. I hope to work in Congress this summer in order to get a better understanding of a key branch of the U.S. government. I then aspire to work in the D.C. area for about a year in the realm of international politics, specifically transnational terrorism or nuclear proliferation, before moving overseas to gain more experience in international security.

Favorite W&L Memory?
The first memory that came to my mind upon reading this question is from a random lacrosse practice last season. Truthfully, I don’t remember what day of the week it was or what we were supposed to be doing, but I definitely remember the feeling of my stomach hurting from so much laughter. Last season, there were four goalies on the women’s lacrosse team dubbed “Goalie World” by Coach Brooke O’Brien and the other members of the team. It was a pretty appropriate nickname because we were always in our own world. As we all would stand behind the goal during practice, we had a lot of time to goof off. On this particular day, we were supposed to be executing some drills, but we got distracted. Well, the rest of the team was ready and Goalie World got distracted. All I remember is the look on Coach O’Brien’s face when she turned around fully expecting the goalies to be present and ready to begin and instead saw all four of us on the ground (or slowly moving to the ground), dying from laughter. It shocks me to this day that we didn’t get in more trouble for that. Although I am no longer a member of the team, my time on the women’s lacrosse team provided some of the best memories I have at W&L.

Favorite class
This question is very hard. I will call it a three-way tie between La Guerra Civil Española, Terrorism,  and Web Programming for Nonprogrammers. The first class is in my top three because I had been waiting four years for the opportunity to take a class with Professor Ellen Mayock. She is one of the most highly regarded professors in the Romance Languages Department, one of the most intelligent women I know and my advisor. The class was honestly amazing. Professor Seth Cantey teaches the second class. Though the winter semester is still underway, I can already tell that this is going to be an amazing class due to the meticulous way Professor Cantey put together this course. I am also currently enrolled in my third favorite class. Though I’m a millennial, computers and I do not have a close relationship. As I needed to fulfill my science foundation requirement, I decided that this course would be a good idea. Truthfully, I’m horrible at web programming. But that’s one of the reasons I really enjoy this class. I think it’s healthy to be constantly challenged in a subject I’m not strong in. It’s very humbling to constantly be wrong.