Progress

Just this week I finished my first six weeks of my semester in France and can I just say, wow. I know study abroad is an incredible experience to get out and see the world, but my classes have put the study in study abroad. This week we will be talking about the French education system, particularly the university system of which I am the most familiar.

For my program with CIEE, I am required to complete two six-week intensive grammar classes and three other classes taught in French, one of which has to be done at a local university. Since I am now six weeks in, I have just completed the first grammar class and also a French philosophy class. Being intensives, these classes meet frequently and for long periods of time. As an example, for my grammar class we meet Monday through Thursday for two and a half hours each day, ending with a grand total of sixty class hours over the span of six weeks.

This class is entitled Writing Workshop and it is essentially designed to help us succeed in our classes at French university. I actually really enjoyed it because this class is taught by probably one of my favorite human-beings in existence, Marie-Christine, who is a lifelong parisienne that probably stands no taller than five feet and is well into her sixties. If caffeine could take a human form then it would definitely be MC, she has so much energy which is exactly what you need at nine a.m. on a Monday morning.

Everyday after MC marches in and shouts a joyful “BONJOUR” to us, my class starts with a warm up called “quoi de neuf” which means “what’s new?” This is the time where my classmates and I can tell stories about our experiences in Paris and give each other recommendations on places to visit, gossip about our host families, and really just talk about anything so long as it is in French. I consider this my favorite part of class because I can recount a story about something incredibly mundane and normal but Marie-Christine will listen intently and after I’ve finished she will shout some exclamatory like “GENIAL” (great) or “FORMIDABLE” (wonderful). Honestly, this woman provides the kind of encouragement I need.

After our daily quoi de neuf, Marie-Christine moves on to teach important grammar points that will be important for refining our language, but her first mission was to teach the class how to do an exposé. You may be asking yourself: what is an exposé? Well let me tell you, it can be really fun and it can also be really not fun, but we’ll get to that later.

An exposé is essentially a twenty minute presentation, usually done in pairs, about a subject presented to you in the form of a research question, not really anything new or exciting. However, the French way of presenting is quite different. Here’s how I would explain it: Americans say what their subject is and make a claim about it, then they present information supporting their claim and refute counterarguments, ultimately ending with a brief summary of the argument and how it can be applied to different real-life situations. The French explain the context of their subject, state their research question, state their research question in different words, explain the order of what they will do, talk about their research, restate what they have talked about, and lastly state their argument. While my class was learning about this incredibly foreign and slightly nonsensical way of presenting, we were all completely blown away by how counterintuitive the entire process was from what we had been taught in the American system and it took us a while to fully understand the concept.

After we learned how to do an exposé, we were tasked with actually carrying one out on different subjects and people in the quarter of Paris called Montmartre. Since the concept was so strange to us, this first round of exposés was slightly awkward because we had never done them before. After that first round where we all presented our exposés for our class and the beloved Marie-Christine, we started a second round of exposés that went much smoother than the first on the subject of Montparnasse, another famous quarter in Paris.

When we aren’t working on our exposés in writing workshop we are learning grammar, and not normal grammar; this is upper level stuff that has definitely had my brain doing gymnastics. While it has been hard to learn and difficult to grasp certain concepts, I definitely feel like I’ve already learned so much and my French is much more fluid than it was six weeks ago.

One final piece of this class that I have yet to mention are our group outings. My class has done extensive research on two important quarters in Paris: Montmartre and Montparnasse. These two neighborhoods have been host to some of the greatest French and foreign artists to live in Paris. Characters such as Pablo Picasso, Sartre, Gertrude Stein, Saint Denis, Josephine Baker, Kiki de Montparnasse, are all people we have studied and after all of that research Marie Christine took us out on little field trips to explore the areas. It was on one of these tours that I got to see Bateau-Lavoir, the workshop of famous creatives linked to Pablo Picasso, Cimetière de Montparnasse where Jean-Paul Sartre and Man Ray are buried, and Sacre Coeur at the top of Montmartre.

The view from Montmartre

La Coupole, one of the most famous cafés in MontparnasseThe other requirement of my program is to take at least one class at a local university. For this, I was given the option between two schools within the University of Paris system, Sorbonne Nouvelle which is well known for its classes in cinema and literature, or Paris Diderot which is a largely humanities based school with broader options for classes. Not quite knowing what kinds of classes I wanted to take, I chose Diderot since it gave me greater variety.

In front of Diderot, excuse the wild hair

At Diderot I chose to take two classes, a history class about South Asia with a particular concentration on colonial India, and a sociology course about migration and globalization. These are both semester long courses taught in French (obviously) for French students. The one really great thing about these classes is that they aren’t intensive like my classes at CIEE so instead of meeting every day we only meet once a week for three hours.

Right away I noticed some very distinct differences between French and American university:

  1. The professor is never on time. Both of my professors show up to class usually two or three minutes after the scheduled start time and don’t rush to start class even though they are late. Consequently, they don’t end on time either. This is especially unpleasant because three hours is long enough for a class, my attention span cannot be extended much longer than that so an extra fifteen minutes is not exactly my cup of tea.
  2. We have breaks. This is one of the differences that I actually like about French university. Because classes are three hours long (and sometimes even longer), the professors usually give us a 5-10 minute break around the middle to get up and move around so we don’t fall asleep.
  3. Grading system. The French university (and every other level of French education) is established not on a 100 point scale but a 20 point scale. This is something I’m still getting used to because when I get a paper back with a 14 out of 20 I freak out thinking I got a 70% on that assignment. The funny thing is that a 14 is actually considered a really good grade…let me explain. According to the university scale scores from 15-20 are an A, 14 is A-, 13 B+, 12 B, 11 B-, 10 C, and so on. From what I’ve been told, a 10 is the cutoff for passing or not so if a French student gets a 10 or higher, they’re really happy. Marie-Christine has told me that not many students even get a 15 and if you do then you’ve done really, really well. That being said, I’m still adjusting to this scale because I prefer the American 100-point scale since there isn’t such a steep drop-off between an A and failing.
  4. French students don’t know how to speak in public. Okay that’s only partially true, but hear me out. From my experience, I have never had a problem understanding a French professor because they all speak clearly and use good diction. Occasionally professors will start to speak a bit too fast and their words will run together but that hasn’t happened very frequently. The students, on the other hand, don’t speak like that at all. When they ask questions or speak in class they don’t raise their voices, speak clearly, or have any kind of gap between their words, yet somehow the professor manages to understand them perfectly! I noticed the same thing when they present their exposés. A lot of students will have scripts written out so they just read what they want to say and when they do that it’s even harder to understand because they read so fast and speak directly to their notes, not the class. Even if I try to read their lips or look at their powerpoints, I don’t really get a good sense of what’s going on.
  5. You get what you pay for. University is a lot less expensive in France than it is in the United States and it shows in the way that the university functions, particularly in the relationship between professor and student. In the U.S. I’ve had so many professors who are incredibly invested in the success of their students, so when I got to France I was shocked to find that this wasn’t the case. This isn’t to say that I have bad professors because I think both of them are fantastic, however they need you to tell them where you’re at with class subjects and lectures in order for them to better accommodate to your needs. They don’t have office hours so it’s important that you talk to them right away before or after class. If that doesn’t work, then an email will have to suffice, however they tend to take a long time to reply, if they do reply. As an international student, I can’t expect my professors to read my mind so if something is wrong I have to speak up.

One kind of funny example of this last point comes from my first day at French university. I was with a friend from my program and we had taken really good notes throughout the entire class, then the professor wanted to assign exposés before the class was over. Now my friend and I weren’t technically registered for the class and she and I had yet to do our exposés with Marie-Christine so we figured we would wait until we got officially enrolled in the class before we volunteered to do an exposé for it. Well wouldn’t you know, the professor assigned exposés to everyone in the class and then asked if there was anyone who hadn’t yet volunteered. It was clear at this point that it was down to just a select few people who hadn’t, my friend and I included. So I raised my hand and asked if I could speak to the professor after class. It all went downhill from there. Instead of saying that she’d talk to me, she assigned my friend and I the very first exposé to be presented in a week. It took a second for the information to sink in and then suddenly class was over and everyone was gone. I went up to the professor and explained to her that I was an international student and that I wasn’t yet registered for her class and could I please not do the exposé next week? She enrolled me in her class right there and told me she anticipated my presentation. I was in a bad way after that. I called my mom and talked her through the situation and she did her best to encourage me.

My friend and I worked tirelessly all week and consulted Marie-Christine on how to do it, by the time the next class came around we were nervous. The professor invited us up to present and just as I got out of my seat I knocked my Hydroflask (those huge metal water bottles you see all over campus at Hope) off my desk onto the tile floor and let me just say it was not quiet. I was mortified! I quickly pulled myself together and we got up to do our presentation. It was a little weird considering we were two foreign students presenting in a language and format that made sense to everyone else in the room but us, but we did it! We finished and I swear I left that class feeling two inches taller!

So this story doesn’t really have much of a moral, but if I could do it again, knowing what I know now, I would have had a longer conversation with my professor and told her my situation: I’m not only an international student who doesn’t speak French as a first language, but also I’ve never done a presentation in the French format before. If I would have done that I’m not sure what the result would have been, but at least the professor would have been more aware of my situation so that maybe she would have given us more guidance and let us learn from other students before we had to present ourselves.

In sum, school here is difficult. It’s difficult to summarize my entire six weeks of schooling in just a few pages of writing, but while it has been a challenge, I also know that I’m growing immensely. Just yesterday I went to an extra-curricular lecture and started talking to a professor in French, he thought I was in France for my masters degree and was shocked to find out that I was just here for a semester after only having visited the country once before. It’s moments like this that remind me that despite this program’s difficulty, I am making progress.

La Vie Française

Hello, world! I am back at it and this time not suffering from the negative effects of jet lag! I have now been in Paris for almost a month so I feel that I’m much more able to start posting about happenings and life in general in Paris now that I’m better acquainted with the city. This week we are talking about: the French home.

My study abroad program, French and Critical Studies with CIEE, is a language intensive program which means that everything that we do associated with CIEE is in French. What that means is that the program forces us to be fully immersed in the language ALL .THE. TIME. CIEE in Paris has two options for housing: student apartments or a homestay with a French family. The students in FCS, however, don’t have a choice; we are required to live in a home stay in order to keep us exposed to the French language.

That being said, for the past month I have been living with my host mother, Katherine (pronounced Kat-rine with a nice French rgh) who, as I mentioned in the previous post, doesn’t speak a word of English. When I first learned this, I was terrified that she and I would struggle to relate with one another; I feared that I wouldn’t be able to express myself. However, we are nearly a month into living, speaking, and dining with each other every single day and I can confidently say that my fears were completely unfounded.

You see, Katherine loves, and I mean LOVES to talk. She sits with me at breakfast every morning and listens to the radio, but as soon as she hears something that sparks her interest the radio is forgotten and she is speaking, with a relatively high level of knowledge about the subject and flowing right on into the next one. This was especially great for me the first few days into living with her because there really wasn’t a need for me to talk and I could get used to the pace of speech from an actual French speaker. These days I’m much better able to interject with my own opinions on the subject and she and I can have more and more conversations which I think both she and I really appreciate.

As I’ve been able to communicate with Katherine, I’ve learned a lot more about her and her life. She is in her 70s with three grown daughters, two of whom live nearby and frequent the apartment. She started her professional life as a secretary but somehow got connected with someone in the art restoration business which led to her second and most favorite career as an art restorer. She told me that she’s worked on a team that has restored big pieces of art such a painted ceiling in the Louvre and another work in l’Assemblée Nationale. She still does some smaller pieces and I occasionally come home to the smell of some of her chemicals that she uses on the paintings.

Speaking of home, for Katherine and me home is a two bedroom apartment in the northwestern suburb of Paris called Neuilly-Sur-Seine. There I have my own room with a big window that looks out over our ally with those cute white Parisian window shutters. I also just have to mention: in the bathroom we have a heating rack for our towels! It’s pretty standard for French homes but I just find it amusing and also incredibly amazing when I get to wrap myself in a warm towel — it’s just great.

My bedroom

Our living room

A little bit about Neuilly: it’s smack dab in between l’Arc de Triomphe (that fancy Roman-looking arch that Napoleon built way back when) and La Defense which is just a gigantic hollow cube in the more business-y part of Paris. Neuilly, as I’m told, is rather chic, although I can’t say that stops people from letting their dogs “relieve” themselves on the sidewalks and not clean up after them. Yeah, watch your step.

Other than that, I’ve found that our apartment in Neuilly is actually in quite an ideal location. It takes me about four minutes to walk to the metro which will then take me straight into the city which can connect me to ten of the fourteen lines in the city. I am also just a ten minute walk away from the Bois de Boulogne which is to Paris what Central Park is to New York. Saturdays are especially hectic with runners and walkers everywhere, not to mention tons of adorable dogs out playing in the fields.

Bois de Boulogne
Some new friends I met in the park

Another essential part of my French home life is the food. Katherine is an amazing cook. She can turn anything into a delicious and nutritious meal. I remember my first night with her I was a little apprehensive when she put my first meal in front of me: cabbage wrapped in ham and covered in cheese. As far as looks went, I was strongly questioning whether what I was about to put into my body would even be worth it, but I was starving so I dug in and it was incredible! Also, leftover night at our place is not to be dreaded because she just whips something completely new together from the ingredients she used previously. I’m serious — carrot and mushroom in a creamy sauce over angel hair pasta…who would have thought?!

At times Paris can feel slightly exhausting and incredibly lonely; it’s hard to live in a place that you’re unfamiliar with around people who don’t know you or even speak your language. In a city where it is so easy to be anonymous sometimes you just want a taste of home. I’m sure every student who has studied in a foreign country understands exactly what I mean, but I have to remind myself how lucky I am to have this opportunity. When I get these kinds of feelings I’ve found that it’s best to talk to friends and family; they really are just a phone call away! Also, if you can find it, eat some of your favorite food. If you can’t find that, listen to some of your favorite songs or do the same activities you would at home. For me, I’ve found that going for a run helps me immensely because running has always been a very cathartic activity and it’s something that I’ve done first at home, then at school when I moved away from home, and now I can do it here!

No, things will not be exactly the same as they are at home but that’s precisely the purpose of study abroad: to gain a new perspective. Instead of being stuck on what I miss about my home in the U.S., I go out and explore to find new things that help me feel at home here.

Paris Reflections!

   

Since I arrived back in Michigan, I have been thinking and reflecting on my summer semester in Paris. I kept a journal from the first day I arrived in Paris, and detailed every moment and funny memory. Looking back, I am so glad I did this because I was able to better understand what I learned and see how I adapted to a foreign culture. Studying abroad in Paris was undoubtedly the best adventure in my life so far. I met the most incredible group of people through IES, who became my close friends I am blessed to have lived in France over the summer. If I typed out everything I learned about living in a foreign country, we would be here for hours. So to save the trouble, here is a short list of the best lessons I learned while living and studying in Paris:

  1. “So much of who we are is where we have been.” -William Langewiesche. I found this quote written in graffiti on a wall in Paris near the Seine River, and it resonated with me as I progressed through studying abroad. I felt myself becoming more adventurous, where I traveled by myself to Belgium, Luxembourg, and Stonehenge. I felt myself becoming more comfortable speaking a language I had never studied before, where I was not afraid speaking French with locals. I felt myself falling in love with Paris. So much of who I am will remain in Paris.
  2. Bread will never be the same. When it comes to bakeries, the French have this perfected to an art. I probably ate my weight in croissants and baguettes, but French bread is incredibly delicious. My favorite dessert, and what I will miss the most about French food, is Pan du Chocolat (chocolate-filled croissant). Hopefully I can find an authentic French bakery in Michigan!
  3. Travel. Travel. Travel. Traveling within Europe is incredibly cheap and easy. When are you ever going to live in a foreign country again in your life? Take advantage of every opportunity and leave no stone unturned. My group and I went to London, England together, and I went to Brussels, Belgium and Luxembourg City, Luxembourg by myself. My group was more interested in exploring Paris than traveling far, but I didn’t let that falter my plans. Even if you have to go alone, don’t regret not going somewhere. I had a blast both on my own and with my group. Also, I learned how to book travel accommodations and research places to go all on my own. When my flights were delayed and trains became cancelled due to strikes, I figured out alternate routes on my own last minute. How cool is that? Travel, and travel far.
  4. The Eiffel Tower never gets old. From the first time I saw the Iron Lady to the last night under the sparkling lights, I never grew tired of looking at how beautiful the tower is. Every Wednesday, my friends and I had a picnic under the tower to watch the sunset and sparkling lights. I always looked forward to every Wednesday, and could not get enough of the Eiffel Tower. The view from the top of the tower isn’t bad either, but I’d much rather watch the lights sparkle with a baguette and wine from our secret terrace we found.
  5. Take the leap and study abroad. I have to admit, I was a little nervous just before I left. I had never traveled on my own before and had never been to Europe. I would have to learn a new language and learn to navigate a foreign country. Luckily, the nerves went away the second I got to my apartment. I fell in love with Paris and made incredible friends in my study abroad group. I learned a ton in my classes that I know will take me far in the rest of my studies. I created internship connections through my professors. I tried food I never thought I would dare eat. I traveled alone to other countries. I saw Stonehenge. Nothing will ever compare to what I experienced, and most importantly, I learned that a classroom is much more than four white walls.

Take the leap and study abroad; you just might learn something about the world around you.

À bientôt, et je t’aime Paris!

-Alissa Smith

My Last Week in Paris!

Finals week finally arrived for all of us at IES Paris! While I feel like I’ve only been in Paris for one day, it’s been seven weeks of unforgettable experiences. Since our finals happened to be on the Fourth of July, the staff at IES Paris decorated the IES center with American flags and streamers. Our professors and staff have been incredible to work with, and we’ve all become extremely close. It’s hard to turn in our last final, but we’ve all learned so much and made great internship connections.

After we crammed for finals and turned in our exams, IES took everyone out to a fancy farewell lunch at a restaurant called Deuz. We were served fried eggplant rolls filled with goat cheese (sounds weird, but I promise it’s actually the best appetizer I’ve had), and some of the best duck in Paris with everyone at IES Paris. We were sad to say goodbye and we all hope to come back to Paris to visit everyone!

Even though it was the last week, we still had some exploring left to do. We visited the Paris Mosque, which is one of the most beautiful and intricately decorated buildings in Paris. The bright blue tile floors were gorgeous in the sunlight, and the mint tea served there changed my life. Tea will never be the same. The gardens were beautiful, and since the Mosque is a hidden gem of Paris, we were able to enjoy the gardens in peace with no tourists.

   

A few of my friends from Avondale (my high school in Michigan) happened to be in Paris while on their trip through Europe during my last week. I was super excited to meet up with them! I took them to my favorite crêpe place, La Crêperie de Josselin for lunch. We had a blast catching up and exchanging travel stories, all while enjoying some of the tastiest crêpes in Paris! (Shout out to the IES Paris staff for introducing me to this crêperie!)

Shortly after, I explored the city visiting some of the places I still needed to cross off my list. One of these places was the famous Love Lock Bridge. This bridge is an icon of Paris, but unfortunately Paris removes the locks each month to keep the bridge from collapsing. Although, I was not disappointed, as there were hundreds of locks on the bridge. I hope to come back one day and put a lock on the bridge, as this ranks pretty high on my bucket list!

For my last night in Paris, I decided to do something special for myself. I bought a ticket to the top of Montparnasse Tower, which is the tallest building in Paris. I stayed for the sunset and watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night. The view was breathtaking and I could see for miles beyond Paris. I enjoyed some fantastic chocolate mousse while watching the sunset from the skydeck, because when in Paris, why not?! It was a great way to close my summer semester in Paris and the view of the city is something I will never forget.

Au revoir, Paris!

-Alissa Smith

Musée d’Orsay, Top of the Eiffel Tower, and the World Cup!

I was able to visit the Musée d’Orsay over the past week, which is a very unique museum. The museum itself is inside the old Paris train station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. Musée d’Orsay houses several famous artworks, including an entire wing of Vincent van Gogh paintings. If you climb to the top floor of the museum, you can look out across the Seine and have a great view of the Louvre from behind the famous Orsay clock. The Musée d’Orsay was one of my favorite museums in Paris and I can’t wait to come back soon!

  

  

  

When in Paris, going to the top of the Eiffel Tower is on everyone’s list. Unfortunately, elevator tickets sold out months in advance, which meant I had to climb the 674 stairs to the top. The climb was not bad, as I had a great view at the top of every staircase. Once I finally reached the top, the view was breathtaking! I could see all of Paris and into the hills of the French countryside. The climb was definitely worth the hard work for the amazing views! (I treated myself to some French ice cream at the top of course).

  

I was lucky enough to have to opportunity to study abroad during the World Cup. France has been playing exceptionally well in the tournament, which means all of Paris is constantly celebrating their victories. My group and I attended one of the World Cup watch parties on a Paris rooftop. The place was packed with French soccer fans, and everyone went wild when France scored to win the game against Australia. After the game, everyone took to the streets to celebrate the win. There was crowd surfing and free food, which made for an amazing day. The game also happened to be on the same day as Fête de la Musique, which is France’s national day of music. There were live music stages on every street corner, combined with the crazy energy of French soccer fans. This was definitely one of my top experiences in Paris!

À Bientôt!

-Alissa Smith

 

 

 

London Calling!

This past weekend my friends and I took a weekend trip to London! I booked an all-day tour to Windsor Castle, Roman Baths, and Stonehenge, which was definitely my favorite part of this study abroad experience so far! Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge history fan, so I was incredibly stoked for this tour.

First we stopped at Windsor Castle, which is where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip live. As it turns out, we were in London for the Queen’s birthday celebration so all of London was decorated with photos of the Queen. Windsor Castle is the oldest operating castle in Europe, and is one of the most beautiful castles I have seen.

After Windsor Castle, we headed to the ancient Roman Baths, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These baths are still running from the same hot spring the ancient Romans used. The baths had tons of Roman artifacts and I learned a lot about Roman life. I definitely hope to come back to Bath, UK, to explore the beautiful city more!

  

 

Lastly, and my personal favorite, we visited Stonehenge. Stonehenge is in my bucket list top five, and I could not have been more excited to finally see a historical site that I have wanted to experience my entire life. Stonehenge is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so the UK definitely has a lot of history I cannot wait to come back and explore. Stonehenge has fascinated me since I was little, and I was happy to learn on the tour that Stonehenge is actually an astronomical calendar. On the summer and winter solstice, the sunset and sunrise line up exactly through the stone arches. I had a ton of fun on this tour and saw some of the highlights of England!

Unfortunately, Big Ben is under construction so we were not able to visit the famous Benjamin. Although, we toured every other spot in downtown London. I, of course, had to take a photo in the iconic red telephone booth! We also visited Parliament and Buckingham Palace, where we saw the famous British guards.

    

 

   

To cap off our fantastic weekend in London, we rode the London Eye and saw the best view of London! The London Eye was a lot higher than I thought, but was a memorable way to close our last night in London.

    

 

Just before we left, our flight was delayed by several hours. I was happy about this because it meant I had time to explore the British Museum! This was one of the best museums I have been to, and my favorite artifacts included the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles, and an Easter Island head. Experiencing more world history was a great way to close a fantastic weekend!

Cheerio!

-Alissa Smith

Claude Monet’s House and the Towers of Notre Dame!

As an avid art fan, I was super excited to get the chance to go to Claude Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny. Giverny is a small countryside town in Normandy, France. Giverny is famous for its rolling countryside hills and impressionist art history, which was a great change of scenery from the busy streets of Paris. Monet’s estate is covered with sprawling gardens and the famous water lily garden. Walking through the gardens, I recognized several areas that inspired some of Monet’s most famous pieces. Monet’s house was filled with a ton of his artwork and sketchbooks. My favorite place was the water lily garden and green bridge that inspired Monet’s most famous painting.

 

  

 

  

After returning to Paris from Giverny, I decided to climb the Towers of Notre Dame. 387 stair steps later, I finally reached the top. I instantly recognized the amazing view of Paris and stone gargoyles from the classic Disney movie, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. This view was one of the best views of Paris, and I could see for miles. After climbing down from the tours, I stood at the famous Point Zero marker, which is the direct center location of Paris.

   

Since I have been living in Paris for the past month, something I have noticed is that Paris prides itself in being a very eco-friendly city. One of my favorite aspects of this is that almost all retail stores and grocery markets do not offer bags and expect customers to bring and reuse their own bags. I love this green idea and it is something unique to Parisian life.

Ciao!

-Alissa Smith

French Soccer, Versailles, and the Louvre!

With the World Cup kicking off this weekend, my study abroad friends and I bought tickets to the World Cup send-off game of France vs. Ireland at the Stade de France. As an avid soccer fan, I was super excited to see one of my favorite national teams (France, of course!) take on Ireland. European soccer games are an exciting experience in itself. Fans were singing soccer fight songs throughout the metro rides, and the crowd at the game was even more rowdy. The French fans sang the national fight song throughout the entire game, successfully drowning out the attempts of the Irish fans trying to sing. My favorite part of the night was that we took a baguette into the game and used it to cheer with (yes, you read that correctly).  France defeated Ireland 2-0, and closed with a small World Cup send-off ceremony. We did get caught in a massive flash-flood on the way out of the game, which now we look back on and laugh about; mainly due to the fact that I ran barefoot because I love my Birkenstocks too much to see them get ruined!

***Bonus points if you can spot the baguette in this photo

Later in the week for marketing class, our IES program took us to the Palace of Versailles. The palace itself is massive and covered in extravagant gold. The inside houses hundreds of famous artworks, and of course the famous Hall of Mirrors. After touring the palace, we explored the backyard gardens. The gardens cover over one mile, including sculptures, fountains, and a hedge maze. At the back of the hedge maze, I found a small café hidden in the garden. This was one of my favorite places to eat, as it was very serene and peaceful.

   

On the weekend, I decided to take on the true challenge of Paris: tackling the Louvre. The Louvre has over 35,000 pieces of art and several floors. I started very early in the morning and followed a plan to see the artworks I was most excited about. My favorites included the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, and the Egypt exhibits. I explored the Louvre from opening to closing time, and saw everything I planned and more! I absolutely loved the Louvre, as there were so many timeless pieces of art history.

 

A few hours in, I found my absolute favorite piece of art. I stumbled across it on accident, and fell in love with the intricate detail. I also thought it was funny that this painting is actually a painting of other famous paintings. The piece is called Gallery Views of Modern Rome by Giovanni Paolo Panini (attached below). The room this painting hangs in was completely empty, so I was able to enjoy the art peacefully which is rare in the Louvre.

After hours exploring the Louvre, I ate at Café Marley which overlooks the Louvre courtyard. The Louvre is a massive museum, but definitely one of my favorite places in Paris. I hope to come back to see even more art at the Louvre!

Au Revior!

-Alissa Smith

 

Latin Quarter and First Day of Classes!

Classes finally started at the IES Center! My first class is French 101 with Professor Lerouvillois. I have never taken French language before, but I find learning the language very interesting. I think the language rules are very similar to Spanish which I studied for five years, so I am learning pretty fast.  After class concluded, all of us students went down the street to a local deli.  We also put to use what we learned in class and ordered our food successfully in French! (Je voudrais un sandwich, s’il vous plaît = I would like a sandwich, please.)

The other class I am taking here in Paris is Global Marketing with Professor DeGendre. I absolutely love this class and it is super interesting. We learned about how companies change their advertising campaigns to match the culture of a country. McDonald’s was a unique example I found interesting, as the McDonald’s here in Paris has a very fancy interior, a different menu, and also serves macaroons! I hope to have a career in international marketing, so this class is great experience!

After class and lunch, our group decided to take the metro and tour the Latin Quarter of St. Germain des Prés. The Latin Quarter is the oldest area of Paris and contains all of Paris’ old universities. It is known as the Latin Quarter because the universities used to only teach classes in Latin. We also visited the famous cathedral of Notre Dame and the royal chapel of Saint Chapelle. Notre Dame is famous for its two large towers that I plan to climb to the top of sometime, while Saint Chapelle is famous for its extensive stained glass walls. My personal favorite is Saint Chapelle (bottom photo) because the intricate details on the stained glass are amazing. No two panels are alike and the glass is hand painted.

   

Since the Latin Quarter is famous for being the oldest area of Paris, I of course had to eat at the oldest restaurant in Paris.  I ate at Café Procope, which was established in 1686 and is still open.  I sat outside in the back alley as I was served duck and crème brûlée.  This was definitely the best meal I have ever had (and probably one of the fanciest)!

     

Bon appetit!

-Alissa Smith

Arc de Triomphe, Seine Boat Tour, and Champs Elysees!

What is a summer studying in Paris without a visit to the Arc de Triomphe? This was one of the monuments I was most excited to visit! Something I did not know is the only way to access the Arc de Triomphe is to cross the street through an underground tunnel because the street is so busy all the time. Once we got to the Arc, we decided to climb the tons of stairs to the top for an amazing view of Paris.

   

Our IES group also took a boat tour on the Seine to see all the famous locations of Paris. We learned the history of each monument, and saw all of Paris within a few hours. One of my favorite monuments is the Pont Alexandre III bridge, pictured below, which is the most ornate and extravagant bridge in Paris.

Later on, we went shopping on the famous Champs Élysées. This street houses all of the most expensive stores in Paris, ranging from Louis Vuitton, to Gucci, to Versace. We soon realized we were the most under-dressed customers, but still had a ton of fun window shopping. While on Champs Élysées, we stopped at Ladurée, the most famous macaroon store in France. I had a lavender macaroon and it was one of the best desserts I have ever had. I will definitely have to buy a box before I leave!

   

Bonne Soirée!

-Alissa Smith