The Fall 2023 semester at the University of Maine has brought academic and personal growth for second-year Nicole LeBlanc. Majoring in English and minoring in French, the Massachusetts native took Maine’s outdoor environment into consideration when deciding where to attend college.
“I am a huge hiker and this is definitely the place for it,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc’s second year has brought many shifts to her academic life. When she’s not tackling high-level English classes, she is interning at UMaine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. The Center’s podcast, ”Maine Policy Matters,” produces biweekly episodes about different policies central to the state of Maine. LeBlanc’s internship consists of research and technical writing for interviews and an occasional feature on the podcast.
“I get to write questions for people and ask them about their particular field, which is really quite interesting,” LeBlanc said.
In its fourth season, the podcast focuses on developing interview-style episodes. Their first installment highlighted a summer internship program for students interested in government, while their second tackled the impact of artificial intelligence on higher education.
“I’m glad that I’m starting out with this internship because it’s giving me a lot of skills in a professional, technical writing field,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc is excited for some of the podcast’s upcoming episodes, including topics like the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the issue of PFAFS forever chemicals in water. Working on “Maine Policy Matters” has given her an idea of what her future career might look like. She is having fun learning about how the podcast is formatted and hopes to go into a professional writing field.
LeBlanc’s choice to major in English stemmed from a culmination of factors, including her love for reading and inspiration from a particularly impactful high school English teacher. She has a special fondness for nature writing, something that has steered her to consider taking environmental science courses. A class from last semester, titled “Nature and Literature – The Arctic”, is her favorite class taken thus far.
LeBlanc’s French minor, on the other hand, has a more convoluted story of origin. It was not a predetermined decision, but rather something that simply fell into place.
“I definitely didn’t expect to go this far with French, but I still enjoy it…and I like learning about the structure of language. It’s very intimidating,” she said.
After long days of tackling French literature and podcast creation, LeBlanc will often take to the New Balance Recreation Center to unwind and de-stress.
“It has made me feel like I had a space to be myself,” she said.
When she’s not at the gym lifting weights, LeBlanc engages in various other forms of physical activity. She recently completed a hike at Chick Hill, readily visits the Orono Bog Boardwalk and hopes to visit Acadia National Park this fall.
LeBlanc’s lifelong background in dance encouraged her to join several movement clubs on campus, including ballet club, combo club and tap club. Although belonging to such a high number of student organizations might be overwhelming to some, LeBlanc thoroughly enjoys it.
“It’s something to take my mind off of school and something that my body absolutely loves doing,” she said.
She singled out the combo club as her favorite dance club.
“A different person teaches a different style combo every week. Last week we did a hip-hop, jazz funk combo which was awesome,” LeBlanc said.
She dedicates much of her free time in the winter to UMaine’s ski club, which takes trips to local skiing areas such as Sugarloaf and Saddleback.
“The best thing about the ski club is you get to meet new people every trip,” she said.
Like most English majors, LeBlanc spends much of her free time reading. She’s currently enjoying Haruki Murakami’s “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” and especially admires the emotion and color in his writing.
Although this is only LeBlanc’s second year, she’s had no trouble finding her space in the UMaine ecosystem. Her main academic goal for this year is to hone the skills of her major.
“I really want to push myself, especially in English. I want to learn more and I want to be able…to call myself a professional writer,” LeBlanc said.
The Maine Policy Matters podcast can be found at