Stephen Lamm ’19 was a junior at Mary Washington when he studied abroad at the foot of the Alps. During those four months, he learned to speak fluent French and trekked across Europe. He also lost his grandfather – and found himself.
As an openly gay student who led UMW’s College Republicans, Lamm spent his college career crossing boundaries and building coalitions within his own party and across the aisle. Overseas, though, he had to rely on a new set of voices to see him through a difficult time.
“I was in a foreign country, speaking a different language, and yet I found myself surrounded by friends who felt like family,” said Lamm, who now manages health insurance cases as a legal analyst at a boutique D.C. law firm.
Hailing from Pennsylvania, Lamm had a feeling he was destined to go to UMW. His parents, 1985 graduates Christopher Thomas Lamm and Joanne Bartholomew Lamm, had met on their first day on campus nearly four decades ago, and he and his sister, Rebecca Lamm ’13, followed in their footsteps.
A political science major, Lamm loved the small classes and round-table discussions he had with his peers and professors like Elizabeth Larus, who hired him as a research assistant; Stephen Farnsworth, who helped him secure an internship on Capitol Hill; and Rosalyn Cooperman, who guided him in his senior thesis on female GOP congressional candidates.
“Stephen’s moral compass always points in the direction of decency, and his desire to find common, workable ground with others is a skill that is uncommon, and yet desperately needed in our contemporary, highly polarized political environment,” Cooperman said of her former student.
As College Republicans chair, a role that earned him outside recognition, Lamm was “proud that he cultivated a diversity of thought on campus,” adding that voices like his break the mold of what conservatives can be and how they should think.
“When people talk and listen to each other, you can solve problems,” said Lamm, who also served as the Legislative Affairs Committee chair for the Student Government Association.
Politics wasn’t Lamm’s only passion at UMW. He used his business French minor on study abroad trips to Francophone countries and served as a Center for International Education (CIE) peer advisor, sharing his experiences with students who were beginning to explore their own education abroad options.
“He gave them valuable advice on how to culturally adapt in a foreign country and represent UMW abroad,” said CIE Director Jose Sainz.
After participating in a week-long faculty-led trip to Québec, Lamm spent the spring of his junior year in a French immersion program. The semester spent studying politics, culture and language at the University of Grenoble was a life-changing experience, he said.
“My French blossomed there. It wasn’t a touristy area, so being able to communicate with the locals was essential,” said Lamm, who attained an advanced level of fluency.
Between classes, he traveled to 11 European countries, connecting with friends from home who were also studying abroad. When he learned his grandfather had died, he said the support he received from his friends in Europe, as well as those at UMW, got him through it.
Losing his grandparents – all four passed away while he was a Mary Washington student – had a tremendous impact, Lamm said, as did his experiences overseas. Both made him more assured of who he is and how he wants to live his life.
“I remember sitting in a citrus grove in Sardinia, shaded by lemon and orange trees, writing my thoughts in my journal,” he said. “In that moment, I felt happier than I’ve ever been. I can’t wait to discover more experiences that bring me joy.”
In celebration of International Education Week 2019, Nov. 18 to 22, UMW shares stories of students who have studied abroad. One in three Mary Washington students volunteers, interns, conducts research, or joins a faculty-led trip or other UMW-approved experience outside the United States, according to Center for International Education (CIE) Director Jose Sainz. Visit CIE or call (540) 654-1434 for more information.