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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the July 14, 2004

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

For the French, Home Away from Home

More than 5,000 French people live in the Princeton area, says

Isabelle Wilhelm, the honorary consul of France in Princeton, and

thanks in part to the pharmaceutical companies, thousands more

populate New Jersey.

Born and raised in Paris, Wilhelm fulfills the functions of honorary

consul in addition to her paid work as a medical writer. For her

consul’s job she receives no salary, but she must be "at home" on

Princeton-Kingston Road for French citizens who need passports,

certified papers, absentee ballots, and almost anything that would

otherwise require a trip to New York. Issuing a visa is one of the few

tasks she cannot accomplish in Princeton.

She took the job because American attitudes toward France and the

French have recently been less than positive. "There had been some

French bashing," says Wilhelm, "and when I was asked if I would

consider doing it, I thought it would be a good way to give back to my

country. We honorary consuls are not career diplomats, we do it on a

voluntary basis, and we are trained as we go."

Since last October Wilhelm has provided consul services, processing

about 10 items a day and making thrice weekly trips to the Carnegie

Center post office. No courier pouches for this consul. "They know me

very well at the post office," says Wilhelm.

It would seem difficult to balance working at home, writing in French

for pharmaceutical company, with the demands of this volunteer job.

But when you consider that this woman, trained as a physician, is the

mother of one set of triplets and one set of twins, then you realize

that juggling many tasks is part of her nature.

The daughter of a professor of medicine, she has two sisters and three

brothers. She earned her medical degree at the Faculty of Medicine in

Paris and married a physician who is currently vice president of

clinical research at Akros Pharmaceutical, a fast-growing Japan-based

company at the Carnegie Center. They moved to Princeton several years

ago, and the triplets are attending McGill University in Montreal,

while the twins will enter their senior year at Princeton High.

In her efforts to reach out to the French community in New Jersey,

Wilhelm has started an E-mail list with information about cultural

events. She has compiled a list of 80 faculty members at Princeton

University who are connected with France, two thirds of them working

on French subjects and the remainder who are natives of France. She is

helping to form the Centre d’Etude Francaise, which will encompass a

variety of groups and associations.

Her greatest joy: "Simply to meet with all the French people around

here, discovering the variety of things they are doing in the U.S.,"

she says. "Some French people are very isolated."

– Barbara Fox

Isabelle Wilhelm, Honorary Consul of France, 604 Route

27, Princeton 08540. 609-430-9109. Home page:

www.consul-france/ Also see the French-Speaking Association

of Princeton,

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