Jude Poisson, a junior at Buckingham Browne & Nichols (BB&N), spent his fall a little differently than other high school students—traveling Europe, studying French culture, living with a host family, and creating lifelong friendships.
A Steppingstone Story
Jude found his way to BB&N after completing Steppingstone’s Academy program and applying to an impressive 11 independent schools. Jude detailed the support he received as a Scholar during a round table discussion in April of 2022.
“Steppingstone doesn't do the work for you,” Jude shared, “but they guide you and give you that kind of path for you to do it when you don't know how to do it yourself.”
The combination of Steppingstone’s support and Jude’s fierce ambition has led Jude to new opportunities—some on the other side of the world. “I really thank Steppingstone for that because without them, some of the opportunities I have now were kind of unimaginable and kind of a fever dream to me.”
Jude was first bitten by the travel bug on a middle school archeology trip to Greece. He knew then that studying abroad was in his future. Jude has been taking French since the seventh grade and grew up around French-speaking family members, which made a semester program in Rennes, France the perfect fit. While there were many offerings to choose from (with the help of BB&N’s travel coordinator), one from School Year Abroad, a nonprofit organization focused on providing immersive study abroad programs to high school students, was his top pick.
Finding Family Abroad
Jude was welcomed in France by his host family: two host parents and a host brother, as well as three host siblings outside of the home. They grew close in the span of three and a half months. Jude recalled a time where his host mom found out about his “ridiculous obsession” with tiramisu. “I just love tiramisu with my whole heart,” he said. She took him to their vacation house on the north coast of France and taught Jude how to make tiramisu. “It was so beautiful, it tasted so good.” Jude says his host mom made a habit of running to the store and fixing whatever food he mentioned enjoying. She also noticed how Jude’s fluency in French improved over time. “She tells me all the time she’s noticed a big change…we have conversations that are fluid and don’t come to a stop.”
The “Study” in Study Abroad
His time wasn’t all vacations and tiramisu. It was a course load of honors pre-calc, English, political science, environmental science, and two French classes. With the exception of English and math, all Jude’s courses were conducted entirely in French—and across subjects, his coursework immersed him in French society, molding him into an “engaged French citizen.”
He read James Baldwin and Ernest Hemingway. He learned about French history and culture, including secularism in French schools. He studied geology and environmental impact using data from the town around him. He was able to explore key landmarks and venture beyond the city. One of these trips brought Jude and his classmates on a six-kilometer walk through nature—a trip he’d admittedly “probably never do again,” but also never forget.
Even his French classes focused on everyday life like writing a formal email, going to the grocery store, or chatting with a friend. “If you’re going to use the language,” Jude explains, “you need to learn how to sustain yourself.” Applying what he was learning to the world around him was the most engaging part of his time in France. What stuck out to him most was the French architecture he saw in his studies. “It was always so pretty. There was beauty from centuries ago that I couldn’t find in the US.”
What surprised him most about his study abroad experience was his sense of independence. From traveling to and around countries he’s never visited, to speaking entirely in French to his host family and in his courses, Jude was happy to rely on himself to thrive. “I was fine on my own and came back and realized I’m still fine… I’m more capable than people allow me to be.”
Fulfilling the Steppingstone Oath: “I am going to college”
Where next? As Jude thinks about college, he contemplates a science major. “I’d like something related to chemistry,” Jude explains, “like in the medical field but focused on a certain part of the body, like dermatology or dentistry—I’m very intrigued by dentistry.” His travels to other corners of the globe have inspired a possible International Relations major. Luckily, Jude shares, both programs of interest are strong at his dream school, University of Miami.
Though he sees an American college in his future, Jude’s travel bug isn’t going away any time soon. On his travel list is Brazil, Morocco, Japan, and China, just to name a few. No matter where he lands, it's obvious Jude’s ambition, intellect, and curiosity will take him far.