The Desert Life – A Killam Fellow’s Journey to Arizona


As a Film Studies major, Québec-born Marina Dallongeville knew that studying in the United States would benefit her immensely. “I chose to go to the States because they are very good at movie making,” said Marina during our interview on the windy hills of University of Montréal’s campus. “They are well known all over the world…everyone knows all their movies and I wanted to learn how they make movies.”

Marina originally thought that University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, with a very well-known Film Studies program, would be the place to hone her movie-making skills on a semester abroad. She applied for a Killam Fellowship (an undergraduate Canada-United States exchange program) with the intention of going to Los Angeles, but the reciprocity opportunity with USC was not available at the time. That’s when the Killam Program office at Fulbright Canada approached her with an alternative.

“Marina’s application was strong and interesting, and ranked well overall,” Killam Fellowships Program Officer Michelle Emond recalls. “We felt that we should try to offer her an opportunity within our partner institutions.” After a few phone calls, Michelle found that Arizona State University had keen interest in hosting Marina. “They had several Film and Media Studies and Production course selections that offered her academic opportunities that were not available at her home institution.” Michelle presented the idea to Marina, and she was excited that there were still opportunities to study film outside Los Angeles.

In regards to her ultimate placement, Marina reflects, “My first choice was originally… California, but I went to Arizona State University and I think it was quite a good choice because they have lots of cinema in Arizona because of western movie making and the beautiful countryside… It was also cheaper to make movies and to live in Arizona.”

Besides working in a beautiful landscape, Marina enjoyed the college-town feel of Tempe, Arizona, which she believed was a better fit than a university in a big city. Because of the desert heat, she would get up early and walk through the vast campus to enjoy an early morning swim. After that, off to classes during the day (in air conditioning, I presume), among a sea of eager students. Overall, she found the large campus, college-town life very suited to her style.

Throughout our interview, Marina gave me her answers in both English and French. She was a bit nervous about speaking in English because she lives her daily life in French. Marina was born in Quebec and grew up in France, where English-speaking was mostly confined to the classroom. When she left for Arizona, she knew she would need to push herself to study and make friends all in English.

“The first month, I didn’t speak a lot because I was too shy to speak in English. I was only listening to everything. A month later, I started to speak because I was on a shooting date, so I had to speak with the actor and with the crew… So I started speaking and the actor was very nice and loved my French accent!” Marina laughed at the memory, reflecting on the moment of realization that she would not be judged for trying to speak English, and she might even receive a compliment! She continued, “So that’s why I started speaking English…and I think my English is better now.”

So, did Marina get a chance to see California? Of course! The Killam Fellowships Program provides an $800 stipend for fellows to travel anywhere within their host country during their study abroad semester. Marina chose to visit Hollywood and San Francisco with a few friends. In Los Angeles, she toured the Kodak Theater, Hollywood Studio, and Disney Museum. In Northern California, she loved the “European way” that San Franciscans live and the culture of the city by the bay.

Overall, the study abroad experience to the United States was very successful for Marina. Reflecting on this, she said, “There was freedom to discover… all day and it was very interesting, and if I could do it again I would.”

If you are a Canadian undergraduate considering studying abroad in the United States, read the article in this insert titled “Funding the Best and the Brightest: A Look at Fulbright Canada Programs” to learn more about this excellent funding opportunity. For more information visit

Contributed by:

Jenika Heim, EducationUSA Advisor to Canada

Leave A Reply