Jennifer Montague has an exciting job with FIFA, which is ironic considering football was the one sport she didn’t grow up playing.
The American, now based in Zurich, Switzerland, holds Lancaster University responsible for giving her the courage to take on the risks and challenges that ultimately lead to transforming her life.
As a shy undergraduate student in the US, her world was a predictable one regulated by rigorous training and class schedules. She played on a national championship field hockey team on a full athletic scholarship whilst studying for a degree majoring in Communications and two minor degrees in Sport & Society and Sociology. On a whim, she decided to apply to study abroad at Lancaster for a semester as part of the Junior Year Abroad programme (JYA).
'I just woke up one day with this sense of panic that there was so much more to experience in this world than what was in my safe bubble of studies and training', Montague recalls. 'So I just went for it; I applied for the JYA programme at Lancaster the day the application was due, not knowing what I would do if I were actually accepted'. Upon acceptance to the JYA programme, Montague was forced to forfeit her full scholarship, along with her hard-fought place on her university’s championship team.
'Nothing could have prepared me for the experience of moving to a new country entirely alone and not knowing what to expect', Montague says. 'It was the first time I ever had the courage to take such a drastic step'. Although nervous, she quickly fell in love with Lancaster and the UK – the freedom, the friendly campus life, the independent study, the opportunities for travel and of course the sports.
While at Lancaster, Jennifer played many sports for both her college (Bowland) and the university. She was a member of the first team in hockey and basketball, and also often recruited to play rugby, cricket and lacrosse, to name a few. It was also during this time she took the opportunity to travel extensively during holiday breaks including a two-week visit to China.
Jennifer studied Communications courses that were part of her curriculum for her degree back in Boston, however she also took the opportunity to study additional modules of interest, including a course on American Studies. 'I was introduced to a different perspective on American history and culture, which was a fascinating experience that I never would have had back in the States', she recalls.
Jennifer loved the rigour of Lancaster’s teaching and emphasis on independent study. 'My lecturers made it very clear from day one that I would not have my ‘hand held’ and it was up to me to be proactive in order to succeed' – this, in short, summarises how she began seeing not just her studies, but also how she would need to approach life.
Upon her return to Boston College, and having forfeit her full scholarship to study at Lancaster, Montague had to supplement her final year by working two part-time jobs. She also started a club field hockey team for those who didn’t play for the university team, drawing upon her experiences playing at Lancaster. “I was inspired by how Lancaster had not just a first team, but also a second, third and fourth, where everyone got a chance to play, regardless of their level. I brought this back with me to Boston and we had a very fun, albeit not necessarily successful, club team”.
Upon her graduation, Montague, unable to get Lancaster out of her system, reapplied to Lancaster University for the Masters programme in Applied Research and Consultancy. Not only was the opportunity to return to Lancaster appealing, but the degree itself excited her. As the first MA of its kind in the UK, Montague would have the opportunity to implement the research and consulting skills she learned in the classroom within a real world business environment through a compulsory full-time internship.
After her Masters degree, Montague decided to take another leap – this time applying for the sabbatical position of Athletic Union President. After a long-fought campaign, Montague ended up winning the election, becoming the first international student in Lancaster University history to be elected to a sabbatical position. Not long after she was organising the 40th Anniversary of Roses, an event which ended up being a fantastic home victory for the red rose of Lancaster, of which she is still incredibly proud.
After ending her sabbatical position, she worked in London and then Brighton within international student development. 'My international experience at Lancaster changed my life and I wanted to help provide that for other people'. In 2010, while working at the University of Brighton, Montague was awarded the Excellence in Facilitating & Empowering Learning Award, not only being the first non-academic staff member to win the award, but also the first recipient who was nominated entirely by the very students she worked hard to support.
In 2013, Montague had the opportunity to once again make a life-changing decision when a chance to relocate from the UK to Switzerland presented itself. 'It was a hard decision, because I knew very little about Switzerland, and even less German!'. But, just like that day when she woke up in Boston and knew there had to be more out there, she knew this was a chance she simply couldn’t pass up.
After a few months she was able to land her current job working as a Client Services Coordinator for FIFA TMS, where she is responsible for assisting representatives from over 40 countries in processing international transfers of professional football players on behalf of FIFA. On a daily basis, Montague draws upon her experiences living and working within an international community. Growing up in New York attending a bilingual English/ Spanish school, Jennifer has decent Spanish and French language skills. However, from her experience with international students, she also developed basic skills in a wide range of languages including Japanese, German, Arabic, Mandarin, Italian, Faroese and Portuguese, which she finds incredibly useful in her current role. 'The phone will ring and you simply never know who will be on the other end. It can be scary when someone calls speaking a language you hardly know, but as with everything, you just need to dive in, give it your best and muddle through – most of the time it works'.
Aside from working, Montague is involved with charity work. In September 2013, she ran the Jungfrau Marathon, (voted by National Geographic as the hardest marathon in Europe) to raise money to send girls in developing countries to school. 'I never imagined I would ever run a marathon, let alone one up a one mountain referred to as ‘The Top of Europe’! But I went for it, trained hard and ended up raising enough money for eight girls’ scholarships' she recalls.
Montague’s work is demanding, but she wouldn’t change where she is for the world. As a student at Lancaster, she never dreamt she would one day train the Asian Football Confederation in Kuala Lumpur, attend the World Cup Final in Brazil or indeed run a marathon up a mountain. And yet here she is.' Over all, my experience at Lancaster has taught me that no one will hold your hand.' Montague says, recalling her teacher’s tough but necessary lesson on her first day at Lancaster. 'If you want something, you need to be proactive, if it means taking a risk or facing the unknown, you need to go for it. You never know, it could end up changing your life'.