Week 14

WORD OF THE DAY: arc-en-ciel= rainbow

Well, here we are, friends. It’s finally my last week in Paris. I won’t say that I don’t know how I made it to this point, because that cliché statement doesn’t hold any merit for me. Time passes, whether we want it to or not; it’s what we do with ourselves that determines for us, and for us alone, whether it was time well spent.

This has been one of the hardest years of my life. It flung me into a world of loss that until now, was fortunately a stranger to me. This year taught me independence on a scale that sleep away camp and regular college could never begin to teach me. I’ve met some pretty incredible people this year, some of whom I know I will most likely never see again, and together we’ve forged a path for ourselves in a way that’s only really possible through great change.

Let me break it down for you. Have you ever heard the expression, “sink or swim”? Well, it’s a little bit like that. Choosing to go to school in a foreign country is, I would say, akin to throwing yourself into the deep end of a pool. You leave behind the familiarity of the pool deck, your home, for something where you have far weaker footing. You may flounder, for a moment or longer, but eventually you learn how to tread because there is no other option. You learn how to tread, and you do it on your own because you’ve left your friends behind on that dock.

Once you can paddle around for a bit, you find new people also fighting to stay afloat. Together, you go from treading water to learning how to swim.

And eventually, you grow tired from the water. Now comes the task of returning to shore. Your new swimming friends all must return to different docks around the pool; you must find your dock all on your own. You finally pull yourself out of the pool and onto your dock, weary, but strong. Your new friends have all found their docks as well, and they all seem so far away.

But when you turn around, you find the friends you left behind to get in the water in the first place. They seem different, older and with experiences that you weren’t a part of. You know that they’ve changed, for better or for worse. You hope they can see just how much you’ve changed too.

From time to time, you’ll think back fondly on your time in the pool, reminiscing the heart-pounding moment you decided to take the plunge. Perhaps you’ll get back in the pool someday; you are, after all, now a very competent swimmer. For now, though, you’re content to be back on solid ground.

Except now, that ground doesn’t seem so solid anymore. It wavers underneath your feet. Those you were close with before entering the pool suddenly feel so much farther away.

In those moments, I urge you to look out to your friends, on distant docks. Look and see how they struggle to find their footing as well. While everyone must find their footing on their own docks, you can take solace in knowing that you’re all struggling.

You took that initial plunge into the deep end of the pool and survived; I know you can do the same now that you’re back on the dock.

À bientôt,

-E.

La Belle Notre Dame

WORD OF THE DAY: feu- fire

I’m writing an emergency blog tonight because as I write this, Notre Dame is still on fire. As far as I understand, the fire started around 2.5 hours ago when the spire collapsed.

Image result for notre dame

I already spoke a little about this with the gilet jaune, but this is a good chance to review what to do in crisis situations like this in a foreign country. Skidmore in Paris is part of the larger, IES organization. In situations like these, IES sends out a mass text to everyone studying at one of their centers here in Paris, and everyone is expected to respond with your name, your location, and whether or not you are safe. How do they send out a mass text, you ask? Simple, at the beginning of the semester, IES had everyone write down their phone numbers before the end of the first week. If your number changes, you’re expected to notify them immediately.

I, like everyone else, am devastated by what has happened tonight at Notre Dame. The city of Paris has been through so much heartache in the past five years; this did nothing to help it. I am hopeful thought that Notre Dame will survive this. The National Cathedral in DC, my cathedral, suffered terrible damage from an earthquake in 2011. The cathedral is still being repaired today, but it is still standing. It may take a while to repair, but Notre Dame will not fall.

…probably not

À bientôt,

Elizabeth

Week 13

WORD OF THE DAY: aube (f.)- dawn

As this will more than likely be my second to last blog, I’d like to share with you a list of pros and cons of the Skidmore in Paris program. Here, I’ll list my 5 favorite aspects of my semester so far, and 5 things I wish I had known before I came here.

Pro #1) The field trips here are amazing. This semester alone, we’ve had the opportunity to go with IES to the Loire Valley, Reims, Normandy, and Giverny. Through Skidmore specifically, we spent a weekend in Brittany, visiting the beautiful, seaside towns of St. Malo and Mont Saint-Michel. Within Paris itself, IES has had group field trips to the Senate, the French Daily Show, the artists square in Montmartre, and many more. IES also holds raffles throughout the semester for soccer, ballet, opera, and cooking class tickets. Only those who have proved that they went out of their way to find new cultural experiences here are eligible for these tickets.

Something I wish I’d known beforehand) It’s not necessarily a con, but it would have been nice to know the size of the program before arriving. I was one of 13 people in Bologna last semester; there are around 50 people at the IES French Studies Center. I think it would have been helpful for Skidmore to explain more clearly just what IES is, and the role that Skidmore itself would play in our stay here.

Pro #2) IES provides the opportunity to take classes outside of the IES center at either the Sorbonne or l’Institut Catholique. Having taken all of my classes at a European university last semester, I know that it’s an overwhelming experience, but that it immensely improved my foreign language skills.

Something I wish I’d known beforehand) IES requires everyone to take five classes. I normally take four academic classes at Skidmore, so taking five classes here can be very overwhelming. I took two classes last semester in Bologna and still spent around the same amount of time every week in class as I do here, just with the chance for a lunch break (many students here have class from 10:45 to around 2 o’clock with only 15 minutes in between to dash across the street to buy a sandwich). I believe that being required to take five classes is very stressful and the fact that many people do just fine with four classes at home means that taking four classes here should be ok as well.

Pro #3) I really like some of my teachers here. They’re experienced with teaching international students who don’t speak french as their first language, which makes it much easier to acclimate to taking all of your classes in french.

Something I wish I’d known beforehand) This kind of goes back to the five classes thing, but there are 50+ people at the IES French Studies Center who each need to be taking five classes. This means that there are a limited number of seats in the 10 or so classes there are to choose from at IES. I think that it would have been helpful to go over the details of taking classes at the Sorbonne or L’institut catholique so that people had more information when choosing classes. If people had more information beforehand, perhaps they would have chosen to take a class outside of the center but as it is now, most people, myself included, opt to take all five classes at IES. This limits your choices for classes.

Pro #4) As someone who’s lived in both an apartment and a homestay while abroad, I think that I prefer the homestay system here. It isn’t that I didn’t love my roommates in Bologna, but home life is just easier when you’re living with adults. As opposed to my apartment last semester, this one is more thoroughly lived-in, it has a dishwasher, and each host family is responsible for providing you with a breakfast every morning and dinner 3 times a week, the latter you eat with the family. The immersion aspect is still here, but I got the chance to request a family that didn’t speak english, which I believe has helped me immensely. I have been studying french for three times as long as I’ve been studying Italian; it made sense to have the safety net of english speaking roommates. But after 10 years of studying french, I knew I was ready to take away that safety net. IES gladly took my request into account, and I’m so glad that my wonderful host parents do not, in fact, speak english.

Something I wish I had known beforehand) The attendance policy here is, in my humble opinion, unnecessarily strict. There are no unexcused absences allowed for any of your classes, being 15 minutes late counts as an absence, and every unexcused absence is 1/6 of a grade deduction for a 90 minute class and 1/3 of a grade deduction for a three-hour class. If you are too sick to go to class, you are expected to go to the doctor and obtain a “certificat medical” to excuse your absences for the day. I believe that this policy limits our independence, not because we can’t get away with skipping class, but because IES does not trust us, as adults, to know when we are too sick to go to class and to make up the missed work on our own time. Of course, the possibility that people may use lenience as an excuse to skip and travel is very real. I believe that there must be a balance between the two. Lots of teachers at Skidmore allow one or two unexcused absences per semester; IES should consider doing the same.

Pro #5) The friends you make. I know I already marked the program size as something I wish I’d known before coming here, but I think it also works to my advantage. I was so worried about making friends this year. I had no problem doing so last semester when I was in a program with only 12 other people; just think of how much easier it is here with around five times the number of people here. Towards the beginning of the semester, I spread the word that I wanted to go to Brussels for the weekend. In no time at all, I had a veritable army of new friends booking their bus tickets to come with me. Because Paris is so large, it is slightly more difficult to hang out with my friends here than it was in Bologna. But i’ve still made so many friends here that no matter where they live, I have plenty of options for people to hang out with.

Something I wish I had known) IES seems to be of the mindset that we came abroad for a semester to work even harder than we do at home. This is false. Of course we came here to work hard and improve our french, but we also came here to have fun and learn about new cultures. I had absolutely zero homework and tests last semester before the finals that counted for my entire grade. I have a LOT of homework and tests here this semester. Both of these are problematic. The first was problematic because I had too much independence; I was required to make sure for myself that I knew all of the material. The homework system here is problematic because the amount of work we have every week here for classes that may or may not interest us takes away from the fun, cultural aspect of studying abroad. Two thursdays ago, as we were finishing a test in our grammar class, our teacher announced that we’d have another test the following thursday. Some people hadn’t even finished taking the first test yet. It really would be a manageable level of work at Skidmore, even more so, since the classes would most likely be taught in English. However, I really think that slightly fewer tests and papers would make a big difference in people’s willingness to get out and explore Paris.

Bonus thing I wish I had known) This is specifically applicable to French Majors. As a French Major, I knew that if I wanted to spend a year abroad, I’d need to spend a semester getting credits done for my major. Literally the only program available to do so on the list for ocse is this program: Skidmore in Paris. I wanted all of my classes for the semester to count for my major, and I assumed that as a french major taking classes in french, in France, on a skidmore-run program, that all of the classes here would count for my major. This is false. Even if the classes here, in the capital of the francophone world, are all taught in French, unless the subject matter is specifically related to France, the course will not count for the french major at Skidmore. As a result, I had to switch out of a class with my favorite teacher into a very boring class just because the original class didn’t count for my major, and the boring class does. This doesn’t make much sense to me, as the french major at Skidmore has never specifically meant that one must focus on France, and France alone. The francophone world extends far beyond the boarders of France; the classes available here on subject matter not-specific to France show that very clearly. It’s time that the Skidmore French department showed that as well.

À bientôt,

Elizabeth

Week 12

WORD OF THE DAY: bell (f.): cloche

I apologize for not posting last week; the looming end of the semester has made me lazier than usual. So what’s been going on since last I posted? If you didn’t see it, I did my Instagram takeover for OCSE last week. I also have had several tests in the past two weeks, and spent last weekend in Aix-en-Provence.

I think that the spring weather here has put everyone here, myself included, in a great mood. It’s cool and rainy, but still warm enough for the flowers to come out, for trees to start showing their summer leaves, and for everyone to use any excuse to spend as much time outside as possible.

Last week, we registered for classes for next semester. I think class registration made something very clear for me: my time abroad is almost over. I’ve had mixed emotions over this realization. My first instinct was to panic. What haven’t I done yet this year that I still want to do before I leave? What if I’m not enjoying myself as much as I should be?

I also feel excited. I may have mentioned this before, but a year is a long time to be abroad. It’s been a wonderful, thrilling experience, but I haven’t spent longer than two weeks in the United States since last May. I’m excited to go back to the life I left behind almost twelve months ago when I arrived in London, ready to start this adventure. I’m excited to see my friends and family, and show them how much I’ve changed for the better. I’m especially excited to see my dog, Rosie, again.

As for me worrying I haven’t made the most of my time in Europe, I’d like to quickly recap everything I’ve done this year. In mid-May I flew from Washington DC to London to spend a week with my cousins. I got to see family members that I never get to see, and I visited some of the sights that make London such a great city. I then flew to Turin, where I spent six weeks interning as a translator for a law firm, called Jacobacci & Partners. It was there that I learnt how to take on adult-levels of responsibility, and how to dress, act, and speak like a northern Italian. The stipend they provided covered my rent and proved to me that I can find work as a translator if I look hard enough.

Towards the end of those six weeks, my mother arrived in Turin. After showing her around for a few days, we drove up north to Lake Maggiore. We spent the next two weeks driving around central Europe, and I got to remember just how cool it is that after only taking it for a year in college, my mom can still converse with locals in German.

I flew home in late august and went straight to the funeral of an old friend, and spent the next two weeks recharging in DC. I never wanted to come home before the year started, but I’m so glad now that I did, as that was the last time I got to see my dad.

Two weeks later, I’m back at the airport and flying to Bologna, Italy. It was through Brown in Bologna that I met some really great people who helped me learn to actually hold a conversation in Italian. My roommates became my best friends. Together with my American roommate and our friends, we travelled all over Italy, and even to Warsaw, Poland. We made ourselves uncomfortable, both through unfamiliar situations and learning how to travel cheaply, and became more resourceful with our time and money as a result of stepping outside our comfort zones. Before I could even blink, my time in Bologna was already over.

After a quick Christmas break, I hurried back to Europe to start my semester here, in Paris. I’ve had my grumbles and generally low moments here, but my friends and I really have accomplished so much in the span of three, short months. We threw ourselves whole-heartedly into this french-immersion program, gladly taking all our classes in French, conversing with each other in French, and living with French families. We’ve explored the farthest corners of France, and of Europe in general. We’ve learned that Paris is not always a fairytale city, and we’ve embraced it as our own anyway. Paris is our city, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am tired. It’s been a long year. I’ve accomplished so much here, and I know that everything I’ve experienced here has shaped me into a better, more independent person. I’m tired, but I’m excited for the future. After this semester ends, I plan to travel for a few weeks with my friends, then finally…

I’m going home.

À bientôt,

Elizabeth

Week 10

WORD OF THE DAY: nostalgie (f.)- nostalgia

I’ve had such a pleasant past two weeks. Last week was our spring break, and I went to visit my friend Rachel, who is studying abroad in Seville, a town in southern Spain.

It was absolutely gorgeous there! The weather was beautiful, the buildings and the people were so colorful, and everything smelt like oranges because of all the orange trees (duh!). We visited the Alcazar, the University, the Torre del Oro, and enjoyed eating lots of orange-based products and wandering around the colorful, sunny little city. I loved Seville so much that I was absolutely dreading going back to cloudy Paris.

But honestly, I had a really great week this week in Paris. After getting back to Paris at about midnight on Monday, I had to return to school the next day at 9am. I had a relatively easy week at school; no more exams or anything, and had a wonderful weekend exploring Paris. This Friday, I spent the afternoon wandering around the Louvre on my own. I had a marvelous time taking advantage of my student ID to take in the artwork of the largest museum in the world for free. My favorite painting in the Louvre is of Marat, a prominent french politician during the Revolution. He ratted a lot of people out in his paper as being against the Revolution, and he wrote all of these articles from his bathtub (he was a bit of a germaphobe). The painting is of Marat just after he’s been assassinated in the tub. The Louvre is so large though that I wandered around for 2 hours without finding it. Ah well, that’s just ample reason for me to return before I leave.

I’ve been feeling such a strong sense of nostalgia all week though. Not for Skidmore, but for Brown in Bologna. I won’t say that I prefer one program over the other, though I do have enough experience now with Skidmore in Paris to make that decision. Each program has its faults and its strengths. We always complained last semester that we had far too much independence in Bologna, something that, as Americans, we weren’t used too. Here in Paris, I feel that we have far less independence. Skidmore in Paris does a great job of providing opportunities for cultural experiences in Paris, while Brown in Bologna had us taking all of our classes at the university.

Last week, in Seville I met a man at my hostel who was from Bologna. In speaking with this man, I had the realization that my Italian is more or less falling to pieces. What two months ago would have been a very easy conversation to have, took far more brain power than I thought it would to execute, and left me with a killer headache. I had the same problem last semester when I came here to Paris; the level smarts it took just to find the way out of the airport was honestly higher than I’m proud to admit.

I do miss speaking Italian. I miss the friends I made last semester. I wonder all the time about what they’re doing now that most of them have returned to their respective schools in the US. I wonder if they’re feeling nostalgic too.

I quite enjoy the sense of nostalgia; it means the memories I made were so strong and positive that I’m reminiscing about them, right? When the day finally arrives that I return to the US for a more permanent amount of time, I hope to wax nostalgically to anyone who has the patience to listen to me about my time here in France.

à bientôt,

Elizabeth

(I’m sorry that’s so large)

PS: don’t forget to follow @globalskidmore on instagram to see my instagram takeover this week!

Week 9

WORD OF THE DAY: époustouflant- mind-blowing, shocking

I haven’t posted last week’s blog yet! We’ll have to rectify that immediately, won’t we? Let’s talk about the Skidmore weekend trip.

This past weekend, everyone on Skidmore in Paris, both from the French Studies Center and the Business School, had the opportunity to go on the Skidmore-run, weekend trip to Brittany.

I woke bright and early, Friday morning, to join my friends in catching the TGV train from Paris to Saint Malo.

The train ride was very comfortable and quick, as we took the TGV. Most of the others slept, but I was too excited to sleep. After a 2.5 hour train ride, we arrived in Brittany! We opted to walk to our hotel, and got a great view of the city on the way. Saint Malo was primarily a fishing town for a long time. The most interesting thing I remember learning on our walking tour of the city was that children there have to take sailing and swimming lessons in school from 5th grade onward. This is important because the waters surrounding the city are very dangerous. At low tide, you could walk all the way out to neighboring communities on smaller islands, at high tide, it was as if the beach had never existed. Normally, the water level rises about 35 meters during high tide, and it rises about 80 meters during hurricane season! Sometime after the walking tour, we all went to get dinner and wandered around a bit.

We woke up early the next morning to catch our private bus (there were nine of us, by the way, including the teachers) to the monastical city of Mont Saint-Michel. I’d include pictures, really, I would, but for some reason, I’m having trouble uploading any pictures. My first impression was that the city looked like the setting for a new Series of Unfortunate Events book.

 

Image may contain: 7 people, including Elizabeth Brogan, people smiling, people standing, sky and outdoor

I found a loophole! This was copied and pasted from my facebook page. Isn’t this place cool? The big building on top is the abby. The first thing we did when we arrived was a visit to the abby, complete with audioguides. We even got our audioguides in english! (shhh don’t tell Skidmore.)

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Everyone was very excited all weekend to be by the sea. I know, it doesn’t sound that exciting at first, but imagine being in a city as industrious as Paris for as long as we have, and you can see how excited we were to breath some fresh air and feel the sea breeze on our faces. But anyway, after exploring the abby, we wandered around a bit until we found a tiny crêpe restaurant above a souvenir shop. We got there just in time, and got to enjoy our crêpes while the line to get in kept getting longer. I got a crêpe flambée, which I think I’ve only had once before here in Paris, and it was so cool to see the server set my dessert on fire!

After lunch, we wandered around a bit more before heading to the base of the city to meet our program leaders, Andrea, for the French Studies Center, and Michael, for the Business School. We enjoyed a pleasant, if rather long, walk back from Mont Saint Michel to the bus, which we then took to Dol en Bretagne in order to take the TGV back to Paris. We arrived far too early for our train, so we all wandered into a pleasant town that I’d never heard of before that day, and enjoyed hot chocolates and each other’s company before it was time to head back to the train station.

I adored this trip. I loved being by the sea, and, most importantly, getting to spend time with my fellow Skidkids. In a program filled with people from all over the US and beyond, it’s nice to take some time to bond with the people you came here with, and to talk about life back at Skidmore. This trip also reminded me how much I’d like to continue exploring France. I did most of my travelling last semester within Italy because I wanted to explore it thoroughly while I was there. I’d like to do the same for France.

Now to contradict myself completely, thursday marks the beginning of our five day spring break! I will be heading to the south of Spain to visit a friend, and I’ll talk about it next week.

À bientôt,

Elizabeth

Week 8

WORD OF THE DAY:  gilet jaune- yellow jacket

I woke up this morning to the same email I’ve gotten once a week since I got here: a warning to stay away from the gilet jaune protests.

Les gilets jaunes à Paris le weekend du 23 février.

First off, we need to answer a few questions. Who are the gilets jaunes? What are they protesting against? How do these protests work? Where are they happening? And why should you care?

To start, the gilets jaunes are part of a grassroots movement demanding for economic reform in Paris. The movement started in November, 2018 when an online petition against a hike in fuel prices gained over a million signatures. Shortly afterwards, thousands of french people donned these yellow vests and took to the streets all over France in mass protests. These protests have been happening every weekend since. In an attempt to quell the ever-growing number of protesters, Macron decided last December to lift the increased fuel-price bill, but it was too late; the movement has grown far beyond that. Now, the French protest against far more than just fuel prices. They’re protesting for true economic reform in France so that the average french person doesn’t need to struggle to make enough to feed their families and to pay rent.

Not that these people don’t want to fight climate change; they simply oppose the notion that the working class must bear the burden of the fight instead of multinational corporations. If multinational corporations had more incentive to reduce their carbon footprints, the biggest contributions to the warming of the earth would make a great difference in ensuring that we’ve got a future on this planet.Image result for gilets jaunes

Now then, as I said, these protests have been happening all over France since last November. They’ve been relatively peaceful for the most part, but it’s difficult to have such widespread protests without someone getting hurt. There have been a recorded total of 10 deaths so far, and around 2 thousand protesters and a thousand police have been injured.

 

Image result for macron

And what is President Macron and his administration doing to appease the protesters? On December 10th, Macron made a televised address to the the protesters, declaring an end to the new fuel tax and a 100-euro increase to the minimum wage in 2019. This increase ended up being not enough though, as the majority of the protestors make just enough money to not qualify as minimum-wage workers. Whether or not the French parliament agrees with the protesters, they don’t have the same checks and balances system that we enjoy in the United States; if Macron wants to do something, Parliament cannot stop him; he just needs to tell Parliament that he’s going to do it. This level of power is because France is still in it’s Fifth Republic, and when General Charles de Gaulle established the Fifth Republic, he consolidated his power as leader so he could do as he pleased to rebuild France after World War II.

So why should you care? If you’re like me, here in Paris until May, it’s quite difficult to be a tourist over the weekend. We’re given strict instructions not to interact with the protesters in any way, and given the rate of injuries so far, I’m not complaining. But one of the aspects of French protests that make them so ingenious is how much they affect everyone else. For example, last summer, French air traffic controllers went on strike for the whole summer. Not only did this affect flights to, from and within France, but it affected any plane even flying over France. I myself got stuck in Spain this summer when connecting in Barcelona on my way from London to Turin, Italy. Why? Because the plane needed to fly over France in order to get there. Paris is one of the busiest capitals in the world for tourism; the protests detract from that revenue. So even if you don’t give a crud about French politics, french protesters can and most likely will find a way to make their problems your business.

À bientôt,

Elizabeth

Week 7

WORD OF THE DAY: Quotidien- daily

I know it’s cheesy to say, but I can’t believe we’re already on week 7. I’ve been traveling for so long now that my life abroad has reached about the same level of normalcy that I had at home, but I still try everyday to take a moment to appreciate how fortunate I am that this has been my life for the past 7 months and counting. Not every day is jam-packed with adventure; today I ventured outside my apartment once to go across the street to a bakery for my new favorite desert: raspberry macaroons.

But yesterday, I had the opportunity to be an audience member on Quotidien! It’s the French Daily Show, (literally, since you know now that quotidien is the french word for daily)

We were on french tv!

The french host of the daily show is super short in real life, and he wears sneakers with his suit! I think it’s because he does his whole show from behind a desk, so he doesn’t need to wear formal shoes. I would try to find pictures; you can actually see Sadiq very well in most of the close ups of the guests, but it’s a pretty new episode, so I’ll just have to tell you what it was like.

We waited in a room for about an hour before someone who I think was a producer led us into the main room where the show tapes. It’s a circular room with the bleachers that we sat on circling Yann Barthès, the host’s desk. There were several, pre-taped clips that we were expected to be silent for (Barthès even gestured at us to shut up during one of them because we all laughed). The three guests for the day were Greta Thunberg, the 16 year-old, Swedish girl who is now the global face of the movement to stop Climate Change, Stephan Eicher, a Swiss singer, and Tony Estanguet, the commissioner for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

It was tiring to sit cramped on the bleachers for long periods of time, but this was such a cool experience. At the beginning of the semester when we got our calendars, I knew that this would be something that I really wanted to do, and I’m so glad that I got to do it.

My friends and I are spending the day in Rouen tomorrow. It’s a medieval-looking town in Normandy where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by the British after ending the Hundred Years War. I’m excited to see the Cathedral and to get a new fridge magnet for my collection. I’d show you my collection, but I left all the ones I got in Italy behind in Washington DC when I went home for the holidays.

So there you have it; another week is done. I know I don’t speak often of my classes, but I want to stress that I am learning a lot in them, even if they can sometimes be quite frustrating. I, along with everyone else, tends to get quite hungry during class because the majority of us have back to back classes through lunch time.But I’m trying really hard not to complain about that; we are, after all, here to study French; all of the travelling and exploring Paris is a happy bonus. I will try and show you more pictures of Paris next week. It is more difficult than you would expect to visit the big tourist attractions during the day on the weekend, as France is nearing the end of its 15th (I believe) week of Yellow Vest protests over fuel prices. That’s an entirely different can of worms to open, that I think I’ll try and talk about more next week. In the meantime, I’m ready to spend a day exploring the cute little town of Rouen.

À bientôt,

Elizabeth

Week 4/5

WORD OF THE DAY: grignoter-to snack

First of all, I apologize for not uploading a blog last week; I usually upload over the weekend but I got sick in Barcelona and went to bed early when I got back to Paris on Sunday.

I could talk about many things today. I could talk about how my classes are going, my recent weekend trip to Barcelona, or what’s going on in Paris. Instead, I’d like to talk about the future, that is, when I eventually go home and start my final year at Skidmore.

As much work as I have here in Paris, I still don’t really feel like I’m in school. Junior year has been my working gap-year; a year to finish some requirements for my major and minor, but mainly a year to travel and broaden my horizons. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences in the past six or so months of travel, and many horrible ones as well. However cheesy it may sound, I still wouldn’t have done most of them any other way.

I still dearly miss Skidmore though. It feels weird and uncomfortable to say it, but at this point, I’m starting to struggle to remember a lot of things about my school. I don’t remember what it’s like to trudge through snow banks in well-below freezing temperatures, only to reach your class and need to shed all your layers as quickly as possible because the change in temperature from outside to inside is so drastic it’s making your skin sting. I don’t remember planning your meals around when your friends are free and, if they’re not, searching for one of the high tables by the windows of D-hall because you don’t want anyone to see you eating alone.

I can’t remember what Broadway Street looks like. I can’t remember the last time I went into Saratoga, nor can I remember what I did when I was there. I think I’m even starting to forget some of my friends’ voices.

What do I remember? I remember waking up for work in complete darkness at 6am in the middle of winter, and listening to country music on my phone as I drag myself to the pool for my 7am shift, clutching my cinnamon pop tart and a thermos filled to the brim with Death Wish coffee. I remember the rising sun illuminating the mountains of snow in brilliant shades of pink just for me, the only one awake.

I remember the hair-raising panic of waiting for Saratoga Taxi to decide it feels like taking me to the barn for my riding lesson, and complaining loudly with sympathetic riders who suffered through the same before they had cars on campus. I remember the damp smell of hay and horse-hair, and the gentle clopping sound of hooves and horse snorts. I remember the anxiety of waiting to canter, and the exhilaration that comes with actually cantering. I remember sweet Sophie, the horse, and how excited and impatient she’d get once I showed her the apple I’d brought her after our rides.

I remember singing in VCE with my friends. I remember long nights of rehearsals, and the thrill of singing a beautiful piece of music. I remember sore feet from standing up for three hour-long concerts, and I remember watching ourselves on the livestream once the concert was over. I remember the excitement of learning a new piece, and the satisfaction I’d get when Katie, the choir director, would give us a piece that I knew already. I remember how much I miss singing.

I remember my friends. I may not remember what some of them sound like, but I remember their cats, their knitting, their music, their art, their horses, and their sports. I remember just how much I miss them.

I remember the important things; they’re the reasons I so dearly look forward to returning to Skidmore, a wiser and more well-rounded person, and making some new memories.

À bientôt,

Elizabeth

 

Week 3

WORD OF THE DAY:

chuchoter- to whisper

After a long week jammed full of classes and a two-day trip to Brussels, it’s nice to be back in my bed here in Paris.

If I had only one word to describe my first full week of classes, I’d say this week was overwhelming. Getting used to taking five academic classes for the first time since high school, I did my best to plow through several hours worth of classes this week because I knew what awaited me at the end of it: a weekend trip to Brussels with my new friends.

The new classes aren’t half bad, really. I quite like my teachers, and we went on two really fun field trips this week. The first was to Notre Dame with my Histories and Legends of Paris class. We toured the cathedral and learned about the religious significance behind the scene of Judgement Day on the front of the Cathedral, and behind the stained-glass windows within the cathedral itself.

Notre Dame

 

My second field trip of the week happened on Thursday, when my History of Photography class visited La Bibliothèque Nationale de la France to see an art exhibition of the famous photographer Nadar. I don’t know the first thing about photography, but I have a friend who’s Art Major concentration is Photography. I’m excited to learn more about it.

Portrait of Gerard de Nerval, a well-known French poet. I had to analyse his poem, “El Desdichado” for my French Literature class at Skidmore.

My first week of classes was hard work, but it was all worth it in the end when we spent the weekend in Brussels. This Friday, I, along with ten of my new friends, boarded buses from Paris heading for Brussels, Belgium. If you want to travel over the weekends while abroad, it’s important to take into account how far away your destination is, and how much each option of travel will cost you. Our original plan had been to take a two hour train from Paris to Brussels, but since Brussels is so close to Paris, we opted to take a much cheaper bus into Belgium. The bus was a four-hour ride, but it was worth it because we saved around 80 euros each. Brussels is an adorable city, and a worthwhile visit for anyone studying abroad in Paris because it’s so close. We visited a few art museums and a church, but the crowning attraction for us was definitely the food! One might not think at first glance that Belgium is well-known for it’s food, but just think of all the food that is Belgian: Belgian chocolate, Belgian waffles, Belgian fries, and I think my new favorite, Belgian fried mussels. Needless to say, we ate well this weekend.

La Grande Place
Le Marché
Belgian Waffles are officially the best waffles
Mannekin Pis. I promise I didn’t include this picture just for laughs; this little statue of a boy peeing is actually a national landmark in Belgium. It’s far less impressive in real life than you might imagine.
Cathédrale Saints-Michel-et-Gudule de Bruxelles. I love visiting Cathedrals; they remind me of my Cathedral at home in Washington DC.

I may still be overwhelmed by the end of this week, but I think that’s ok; this is an overwhelming experience. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t do my best to enjoy every minute of it. Next week I’ll show you what we’ve been learning in my new classes and hopefully also some pictures from what promises to be a great weekend in Barcelona with an old friend.

À bientôt,

Elizabeth

P.S: I’ve decided next week to do this challenge they offer here at IES called Le Défi. I have to speak only French all week. Wish me luck!