A New Language and a New Country: Age-Defying Women

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Jackie Fromm refuses to let life’s obstacles get in her way. Led by her love of the French language, she traveled abroad for two months to study in France—at the age of sixty-five. I had the opportunity to talk with Jackie, now eighty-six, about her French experience.

JH: What inspired you to move to France?

JF: I was attending a French class sponsored by the adult school at Pacific Palisades High School. I have been addicted to the French language for years and have always enjoyed attending French classes. I even love French irregular verbs, which everybody hates. One night a man in the class was reporting on his two-month course at a language school in France, where he lived on campus and spoke nothing but French. The government of France sponsors these schools all over the country for foreign students.

I was green with envy, but it gave me a germ of an idea. Could I possibly do that, too? The motivation to participate in such a wonderful experience overrode the obstacles that immediately popped into my mind. I had never done anything like that on my own. Could I get such a long leave of absence from my job? Could I afford it? Would the time frame work? I had just bought a condominium and was scheduled to move just at the time the classes were to begin. But I was determined to do it and I did, thanks to a lot of luck and mostly to the incredibly generous help of my son Randy and daughter Felice, who assured me they would oversee the move to my condo and set everything up.

JH: Did you ever entertain the idea of moving to France at thirty?

I never thought of doing anything like that [then] because I had just had my second child at that time and was thoroughly fulfilled being a wife and stay-at-home mom.

JH: What was your biggest fear about going to France … and did it come true?

JF: My biggest fear was doing it alone. I had never been much of a loner to begin with and even though I did speak some French, it was daunting to know that there might be occasions when I had to depend entirely on my own ability to communicate in a foreign language. My fear actually came true the minute I arrived at the school, called Le Vieux Moulin or The Old Mill, which was located in an old chateau about sixty miles south of Paris. The students, most of whom turned out to be between eighteen and twenty-four years old, lived on campus and had all their meals there. Unfortunately, I arrived on a Sunday and found the school totally locked up, without a sign of a human being. After a while I located the caretaker, who didn’t speak a word of English. I finally understood that everyone was away for the day, but he would let me in and show me to my room. However, there was no food available and I would have to walk two miles to the nearest town and manage to find a meal if I could just understand the menu.

JH: What did you enjoy most about being there?

JF: Outside of the fact that it was so different from anything I had ever known [I liked that], we could hop on the train and be in Paris in an hour. I had a French friend who lived in Paris so I spent every weekend with her.

JH: What did you learn about yourself?

JF: Not to give in to my fears. If I push past them and persevere, it can result in a fabulous experience that I might otherwise never have had.

JH: What advice would you give women—specifically younger women—who are hesitating for whatever reason about pursuing a goal or dream?

JF: My advice to young women would be to consider this: at the end of my life, I want to be able to look back and say, “I’m glad I did,” not “I wish I had.”

Read about another Age-Defying Woman.


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