Discovering a Dream on Foreign Soil

Nicole Baker '17 in Haiti during her summer 2016 visit. (Photo provided)

February 10, 2017

By Rachel David ‘19

Psychology, English and French triple major Nicole Baker ’17 found career inspiration through a summer immersion in French. Baker spent her 2016 spring break in Haiti, then worked with Maui Jim’s French Canadian customers as an intern for the Peoria company.

Baker, of Frankfort, Illinois, ventured to Haiti with Fellowship of Catholic University Students for a life-changing spring break trip. The students, led by 2014 Bradley alumna Megan Swanson, assisted children with disabilities ranging from Down syndrome to Cerebral palsy.

"We had no idea what we were getting into,” Baker said. “At first, I didn't feel qualified to help, but then I learned anyone can. They're still people and they have such good personalities.”

Baker found herself using her French for the first time out of the classroom with some of the elderly members of the community.

"They were so excited to share their stories and speak in their own language,” Baker said. “It was so rewarding.”

After returning back to the United States, Baker found herself using her French in a different setting: the business world.. Maui Jim needed an intern who could assist French Canadian customers. With faculty recommendations to apply, she leaped at the opportunity.

Though it was a challenge to transition to a new French dialect, the experience proved to be a valuable learning experience.

"It was a little bit overwhelming because of the difference in the language, but I’m glad I did it," Baker said. “I learned so much about languages and the business world in that time.”

While her head was in Illinois for the summer, Baker's heart was still in Haiti. Following the Maui Jim internship, she returned to the Caribbean with several other Bradley students to teach French and math. That trip sparked a passion for teaching.

As a result, Baker charted a course into educating youth. She will begin her professional career with Teach For America, starting as a special education teacher in Buffalo, New York.

“I can’t wait to use all the opportunities I’ve had to help give others a chance for similar opportunities,” she said.