By Anna Allen, '16
After falling in love with the French language early on in his time at Richmond, Peter CampoBasso, ’14, later figured out a way to create a place for himself in Paris as a working professional.
A French major who studied abroad in Switzerland, CampoBasso imagined what it would be like to live overseas after graduation.
“Peter really wanted to work and live in France,” says Olivier Delers, associate professor of French. “We had a long discussion on how to do that — with me telling him that it was nearly impossible.”
The “nearly impossible” became possible once CampoBasso made up his mind. The year after graduation, CampoBasso left for France to work as a middle-school English teaching assistant at a school two hours north of Paris. While there, he found the company OpenDataSoft at a job fair and began working in a full time position with the company a few months later. “He’s now working in France, just like he wanted,” says Delers.
OpenDataSoft builds platforms for companies in the public and private sectors to help make their data accessible. “Many of our customers are cities that are opening up their data to the public as part of their open government initiative. We also work with other actors in public services, such as with transportation networks and energy companies,” says CampoBasso.
His work involves helping his team communicate OpenDataSoft's message of accessible, open data, whether that's through organizing a trans-continental webinar series, helping create and update social media content, making videos, or even building Lego cities — no day is ever the same.
“I was really drawn to this company for its mission and its product,” says CampoBasso. “It’s all about making information available for community collaboration. Our platform (OpenDataSoft) allows cities and governments to be more open about their operations and serves as a resource for developers to innovate new technologies and applications that make cities more accessible for their residents.”
CampoBasso feels that his studies and experiences at Richmond have prepared him to take on the challenges of his new position. During his first two years, he became interested in education policy, particularly the politics that can surround it. He wrote his senior thesis on the subject with a focus on local and city government as a means through which the United States could improve its educational system. “The more I studied education policy, the more I began to realize the value in improving cities as primary way to help improve our schools,” he says.
“Working with Open Data allows people to better understand the unique challenges a city faces from different angles and helps people to create new tools to respond to those needs, whatever they may be,” says CampoBasso. From smartphone applications that allow access to public transportation schedules to applications that show health inspection ratings of local restaurants—the range of problems that Open Data play a role in solving is endless.
He may no longer be student with classes and assignments, but living in Paris has made CampoBasso a full time student of the culture around him. He has particularly enjoyed immersing himself in French culinary traditions. “A lot of people in the U.S. skip lunch if they have a really busy day; this seems unimaginable in France. The French language has so many more technical words for different foods. It’s such a big part of their culture and community, and something I’m gladly learning to adjust to,” he says.
Even under the worst of circumstances, CampoBasso learned a lot from the citizens of Paris. “After the Paris attacks, I definitely noticed the city was a bit shaken up for a bit, but people were brave and people were there for each other. I remember reading about the #PortesOuvertes (#DoorsOpen) on Twitter the night of the attacks, where Parisians were opening up their homes for people stuck on the street, unable to get home due to lack of transportation. That willingness to be there for one another was pretty powerful for me,” he says.
While the transition was not easy at times, CampoBasso could not be happier that he managed to accomplish his goal of living and working in Paris. “It took a while to get me here, and a lot of patience, but something that I learned while at U of R and that keeps being reinforced today is to never give up, and to always keep trying,” he says. “I'm now not only here, but I'm really in a dream job that I never could have imagined a few years ago.”