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, 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!

 

Week 1 and 2

WORD OF THE DAY: marécage-swamp

Here we are, at the end of week 2, and I can’t help but think how familiar this all is to orientation for Brown in Bologna. I’ve been in Paris for 2 weeks now, and so much has happened in this short amount of time. That’s how study abroad orientation works though; you have to hit the ground running or else risk drowning in the sea of information needed to live in and adapt to a new culture.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? I arrived in Paris on January 13th, and the IES Abroad French Studies Program officially started on January 14th. This meant hauling a packed suitcase from my hotel onto the metro to go and meet my host family. My host family lives in the 12th arrondissement, which is what the neighborhoods are called here in Paris. IES students live all over the city; you could be a ten-minute walk away from the French Studies Center, or a 40-minute train ride away, depending on where you live. Paris is a very large city, so the majority of us spend a lot of time taking the metro every day. My host parents are so nice! They have two grown-up children who live elsewhere now, so they’ve been hosting American students ever since the youngest moved out. What was really important for me when making my homestay requests was for my host family to not speak english. I know that the fact that neither of my homestay parents speak any english will end up frustrating me at some point over the next three months, but I also know that my french will improve drastically because of it.

Unlike with Brown in Bologna, we’ve already had our first overnight trip. For the past two days we’ve been exploring the Loire Valley. Located about 2.5 hours south of Paris, the Loire Valley is famous for its numerous chateaux. On Thursday morning, all 60-something IES students boarded a bus for the Chateau de Chambord. When we arrived, we were treated to a lavish, three-course meal in the chateau. Let me repeat, IN THE CHATEAU! We got to eat a delicious french meal in a CASTLE! After lunch, we split into groups for guided tours of the castle. Despite how gorgeous the architecture was, I personally felt that it was a bit too grand, especially since the guide told us that King François I only used it as a summer home. It was cool to see the religious symbolism worked into the design of the castle, since the French monarchy was considered to have been chosen by God to rule France. In exploring the castle with our guide, it was easy to see the care taken to show King François I’s apparent proximity to God. For example, the interior of the main building was built in the shape of a cross, and the chapel in the chateau had very little religious imagery in it, but was littered with the King’s crest.

5th to 12th grade->summer camp->Skidmore->France
I promise we’re not following each other on purpose
Lunch in a Castle! This must be what nobility feels like.

 

Day 2 of this trip was my personal favorite, as we got to visit the Chateau d’Amboise. Apart from this chateau being, in my opinion, more aesthetically pleasing than Chambord, Amboise was my favorite because it is the resting place of Leonardo da Vinci. You can imagine my surprise when one of my friends came out of this beautiful little chapel on the grounds of the castle and said: “Elizabeth, Leonardo da Vinci’s buried in there!” These are the type of moments on a semester abroad that I simply adore; exploring a beautiful place only to stumble upon, entirely “par hasard,” as they say here, a piece of history.

 

 

By far the coolest moment on this trip
Hi Morgan!
Team Skidmore poses for a group photo. Where are Soren, Cambel, Morgan and Sadiq? Who knows.

After exploring da Vinci’s resting place a bit more, I and a few of my new friends wandered through the quaint town of Amboise to another chateau, Clos Luce. While Leonardo da Vinci is buried at the Chateau d’Amboise, it was here, at Clos Luce, that he spent the last three years of his life from 1516-1519. Clos Luce was certainly a beautiful building, but the real allure of the place that made it worth the 10.50 euro entrance fee was the museum dedicated to one of the greatest minds mankind has ever known. Wandering through the mansion, my new friends and I were simply stunned at the vast list of inventions that da Vinci created. Did you know that da Vinci invented the paddle boat? Or the water wheel? Or the cross bow? Or the tank? Or the parachute? Or the catapult? Or that he discovered that plants were nourished by the sun two centuries before a parade of scientists began researching it and calling it photosynthesis? All of his achievements, both great and small, are displayed through his final home.

Fun fact: da Vinci isn’t his real last name. Vinci is the town where he was born. His name is literally “Leonardo of Vinci”

Reluctantly, we had to leave Clos Luce at noon to get back on the bus to go to lunch. This lunch was special because we ate it in a restaurant built into a cave! The food, wine and atmosphere were great, and I had a lot of fun trying everything and discussing everything we’d seen that day over a good glass of wine.

Lunch in a cave! My favorite part was the bread.

Finally, we took the bus down the street to another cave for a tour and a wine tasting. We saw videos of influential historical events and smelled different scents to understand that more goes into a glass of wine than just taste. At the end of the tour, we tried three different glasses of white wine, of differing ages and brands. While I didn’t quite care for the goat cheese that was paired with it, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the wines. I bought two bottles there: one for my host family and one for my mom. After we bought our goodies, we got back on the bus and made it back to Paris just in time for me to enjoy a tasty supper with my host family.

Wine tasting in a cave. Can you spot the Skidmore in Paris students?

 

Our real classes start on Monday. I’m apprehensive to take five academic classes, as opposed to the two I took last semester, but I’m so excited for the semester to come. This trip to the Loire Valley was so much fun; it reminded me just how much more fun there is to be had in the next three months, both in Paris and outside of it. This week, I hope to throw myself headfirst into what should be a handful of very interesting classes, explore more of Paris, and have the time of my life with some of my new friends when we travel to Brussels next weekend.

À tout à l’heure!

-Elizabeth

P.S: If you ever find yourself at a tourist site in Europe and you don’t want to pay for an audioguide, I highly recommend you download Rick Steves’ audioguides. I used his Loire Valley audio guide yesterday and it was extremely helpful.

Fear

WORD OF THE DAY: papillon-butterfly

Bonjour tout le monde!

My name is Elizabeth Brogan and this semester, I’ll be taking you on my adventure through Skidmore in Paris. Some of you may remember the Skidmore OCSE takeover I did last semester while I was studying abroad through Brown in Bologna. I am very fortunate to be able to spend a full year abroad, and I can’t wait to take you through the French half of my adventures.

I am so excited to start my semester in Paris, but studying abroad for a full semester, or a full year as I am doing, is a daunting experience. I had a beautiful and wonderful time in Italy, but I had my own fears and doubts for the semester. I was scared to leave my father while he was in the hospital, I was scared to be more disconnected from Skidmore than I had ever been before, and I was scared to be completely immersed in Italian, a language that I had only started learning two years ago. These are all legitimate fears that in no way should be dismissed. In fact, living my life abroad in spite of these fears contributed positively to my experience; I believe I’ve become a stronger person because of them.

I have my own fears and doubts about this semester. What if my professors don’t like me? What if my French has gotten irreparably worse after spending the better part of the past six months in Italy? What if my host family won’t be able to understand me? What if I get too homesick to continue? What if Brexit forces me, a British citizen, to leave France because I don’t have a visa? While I, and most of the world don’t have an answer for the Brexit question, I know that no matter what my fears may be towards living in Paris for four months, I can always take comfort in everything that I’m looking forward to.

What am I looking forward to? I have been to Paris many times in my life, but there is always more to discover in the most romantic city in the world. Paris has a classic elegance that draws tourists from all over the world all year to bask in its beauty, and I get to bask in it for four months! One thing that I missed a lot in Bologna was being able to speak French. I’ve studied French for 9.5 years now and I can’t wait to immerse myself in the language in a way that I was unable to do before with my more limited knowledge of French. Many people complain about how difficult french pronunciation is, but I think that French is a beautiful language. I take pride in being a French major, and I look forward to being able to practice my major for four months. Finally, I am looking forward to participating in a Skidmore program. As I mentioned before, I have had little to no contact at all with Skidmore for the past four months. I arrived in Bologna and befriended a bunch of strangers because I was the only Skidmore student on my program. I know that will not be the case this semester. I already know most of the people on my program, and I’m excited to enjoy a certain level of familiarity again,

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I hope you’ll join me again on my journey through next semester.

À la prochaine fois!

-Elizabeth