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.

 

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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.

 

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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