Sep 18th, 2018, 09:08 PM

Accents: Pamela Montfort

By Sofie Granberg
"I love helping people find balance in their lives."

AUP has a new student counselor this year, but Pamela Montfort is not new to the university. For the past five years, she worked in the academic advising department, but it is in her new job she gets to do what she loves the most.

"When I was looking for a job I wanted something involving psychology, language and academics because I really like those three things." Ms. Montfort said. "I found AUP and saw this position, that it existed, but it wasn't available. I looked more into the university and found an open position in academic advising, so I applied for that and they hired me, and I've been there for five years. And I enjoyed it, especially having a job where I'm in contact with the students. I love the institution and I love helping people find balance in their lives, which is what I originally studied for. So when this position opened, I applied."

Ms. Montfort was born and raised in Mexico. After high school, she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to work as an au pair for a year. 

"Part of my contract was that I studied English, while also taking care of the kids." Ms. Montfort said, explaining her duties as an au pair. "But I went to an American elementary school and my English was pretty okay, so I decided to spend that money on other classes like ice skating, Italian and dancing, things like that. I also made close friends with other au pairs in Cincinnati. It was a great year."

After finishing her stay in the US she returned to Mexico to study clinical psychology. She graduated with a master's degree and went on to take on two jobs in the field right away. Then, after working in Mexico for five years, she was invited to Germany, to the wedding of one of her fellow au pairs from Ohio. 

"I actually had to choose between going to that wedding and buying a car, because plane tickets to Europe were so expensive. So I said, 'OK, I don't care about the car, I'll go to my friend's wedding.' I took three months off from work and after the wedding, I traveled around Europe. I came to France and I fell in love with it, and that's how my life in France started." Ms. Montfort said, expanding on how she made it to AUP. "The states had already given me that feeling of wanting to do something else and see the world, but when I came to Europe and went backpacking after the wedding, I realized that it wasn't the in the states I wanted to do it, but here. It made a lot of sense, knowing also that my great grandfather was European and I grew up with stories about our family. A lot of things fell into place."

In Paris, she started studying again, learning French and re-completing the final years of her master's degree to get it approved. It was after completing this that she found AUP and started in her first advising job. Having moved here herself from a different culture, she recognizes many of the struggles AUP students face during their time in Paris. 

"I was also here for the first time once, missing the same things and worrying about the same things, wondering sometimes if it was a mistake or if I should stay. And all things like visas and health care and banking, tiny things that become big monsters. I can empathize with that," Ms. Montfort said.

For students wishing to talk to Ms. Montfort, she emphasizes that you don't have to wait until things are falling apart before you reach out to her. 

"A lot of people think that coming to someone like me is something you should do when you can't cope with things anymore." Ms. Montfort said, welcoming students to come to her as soon as they feel they could use it. "These services aren't always seen as preventive. We all need help once in a while, but our society focuses on us being independent and autonomous and not to need anybody. It takes a lot of courage to acknowledge that you need help with something, so it is really the brave people who seek out this kind of help, not the weak. And the best case scenario is when someone prevents a worse situation before it installs."

Montfort helps students with any difficulties keeping them from feeling well mentally or performing academically. She can assist by discussing issues in academic or personal life, referring students in need to off-campus therapy and psychological support, and help with time management. Her services are fully confidential and available to all AUP students.

If you want to meet with Montfort, she is available by appointments in the morning and drop-in in the afternoon, Monday to Friday. You can book an appointment in her online appointment tool, or contact her by phone or e-mail. Contact info and a link for the appointment tool can be found on the AUP website, together with more information on counseling services on and off campus. If you need help outside of her office hours you can contact the school's emergency hotline