Tag Archives: France

Relating to the Globalized World

My name is Tammie, and since as far back as I can remember, I’ve been an adventurous spirit. In every aspect, I enjoy the new, the foreign, and the unrelatable. I’m always down to try something novel, whether it’s food, places, or ideas. I enjoy people, because they allow me to experience things I might not always have access to like different cultures, ways of thinking, and lifestyles. This year I decided to study abroad so that I could experience an intense immersion into a different culture as an adult with responsibilities, expanding my horizon and my worldview.

I was accepted into a world renowned school for the social sciences, SciencesPo, located in seven cities across France, locations as diverse as the program content and its academic community. Before leaving the U.S., I don’t think I had a very good perception of France or its people. To be honest with you all, I admit that I had extremely limited knowledge of France and weighed heavily the opinion of others regarding French culture and attitude. 

 

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When I got to France, my fears melted into the void like a popsicle in the summer sun. I felt enchanted driving through the Northern French countryside, mesmerized at the number of vineyards and villages whose charming and old-fashioned aesthetic transported me into what felt like a romance novel. The city of Reims in particular dazzled me with its French classic architecture and symmetrical set-up.

 

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The basilique (church)

 

Any fear, any assumption, and any bias I may have had completed rescinded, and I fell in love with France. There has been really no culture shock, because I’ve lived in Europe before and sort of understand the dynamic of life on this continent, even within the different European nations. I believe coming to France with a biased perspective helped to ease my culture shock (usually the opposite happens), because I was so pleasantly surprised with what I’ve gotten to know, and how I’ve been received in this small, fairytale town. The grand cathedral in the center of town, visible from all around the city center and even beyond, is a source of comfort in my new home, and I am happy that my homesickness is minimal.

 

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Me and my friend’s mom in front of the cathedral

 

So far, I’ve been here (in Reims) for 22 days. Twenty-two days of gorging on French food, 22 days of struggling to speak French with my American accent, and 22 days of discussing my role as an American in global politics. 22 days of learning new things, 22 days of missing New York, and 22 days of self-improvement. In this era of new presidential leadership, we (as Americans) are trying to make sense of political change. I came here looking to get politically involved, understand more about my role in global politics, and expand my education to be a better advocate for the underrepresented and oppressed. Since I’ve been here, I’ve noticed many stark cultural differences between France and New York. I feel uncomfortable comparing my experiences here to that of the entire U.S. because many of these differences apply only to New York City as I know it and many regions of the U.S. are so starkly different from the Northeast. Some of the biggest differences I’ve seen are an emphasis on politeness in the French language (even if you don’t want to be!), a difference in embracing the “melting pot” culture (the French can’t stand to be separated by race or religion; even if this isn’t apparent – the oppressed groups will tell you that the French can be very racist, even if it isn’t bluntly so), and finally, a globalized understanding of the world and its politics.

The last point I mentioned is the difference that I came to embrace, something that can be argued for really most European countries, but particularly France because of its history. The French are incredibly aware of their imperialist history, and my school in particular celebrates the scholarly pursuit of understanding many global cultures and nations as they play a role in international politics. Although it has always been my dream to work in international politics, it wasn’t until leaving the U.S. for my education 22 days ago that I realized that this was feasible, though a long way away. The U.S. tends to be selfish in its political studies; though we embrace world studies and different cultures, the focus on American culture particularly is important and our geography allows us to be relatively ignorant to what’s happening in other countries, continents, and cultures. France is a hotbed of ideology from all around the world, with African, Middle Eastern, European, American (North and Latin) people milling around, interacting in the French sphere. The French just seem to pay attention to what’s going on, while Americans seem to have to go out of their way to be involved in global politics. In my opinion, this difference in the French attitude regarding global politics is critical to both my studies, and my experience here; globalization has never seemed more vital to my personal and professional life as it is here. This semester in France, I hope to delve into the French language and political culture, soaking up knowledge about global politics that will allow me to become a better advocate when I return to the States, and as I continue my education.

 

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Me with lights in Reims.

 

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From Paris to Macedon!

This past week has been incredible. As much as I enjoy the classes at my study abroad program, College Year in Athens (CYA), and feeling at home in Pangrati, there’s nothing like being able to travel to other areas and experience the utterly unfamiliar. Last weekend myself and a friend of mine were able to go to Paris to visit another friend studying abroad there. It’s easy to think that a city so celebrated in film, books, and more could be over-hyped and as a result, disappointing in reality. However, Paris instead turned out to be one of the most amazing cities I have ever seen. The architecture on every street had something miraculous to offer; a truly beautiful city. As a suburban girl used to living closer to forests than cities, that’s saying quite a lot. Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower were far more incredible in person than I had ever imagined them to be. We were also able to see the Louvre Museum, and it was gigantic. In the four hours we stared incredulously at the art before us, we were only able to see a little over one of the four floors of artwork. To see the entire museum in a day would be absolutely impossible. The perfection of Parisian food rivaled the beauty of the city itself. Each and every dish I ordered over our three day stay–from French onion soup to macaroons, meat and cheese platters, and cheese fondue– was exceptional. In short, I’m already looking forward to the day I can return!

 

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Notre Dame.

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Parisian dining (French onion soup!!)

 

Once back in Athens, we were only home for one day of classes before CYA began our next school-wide trip to Thessaloniki, the area of northern Greece that was previously Macedon. The city is famous for its university, one of the best in Greece, and the students who make up 20% of the city population. As a port city, ships can be seen passing by day and night, and people are constantly gathered outside reading, playing music, and talking to friends. The atmosphere of Thessaloniki is far more young, vibrant, and calming than Athens thus far. I have to say I still love Athens just a little more; it’s home, and nothing beats home.

 

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Living out my philosophy major dreams with Aristotle.

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Graffiti art in Thessaloniki.

 

We’ve spent the past few days learning about the importance of how the town of Thessaloniki was planned and talking about the numerous Byzantine structures still standing sporadically throughout the town from the period of Roman Christian rule. The detail in many of the Christian churches constructed from that period has miraculously survived, and is still used in a modern sense. Between this learning experience in Thessaloniki, and my long weekend in Paris, the past week has undoubtedly made me realize the degree of appreciation I have for learning in an experiential manner, and solidified my gratitude for the way CYA runs our program.

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Farewell and Reflection

Saying goodbye to all of the friends that I made in Paris was very hard for me. They were the people who I had grown close to throughout my time abroad, so there were lots of tears. We all promised to keep in touch and that this would not be the last time we would see each other. It was hard to say goodbye to Paris as well. I had the best experience of my life. On my last day, I decided to walk around the neighborhood and listen to music. I wanted to absorb the beauty of Paris for the last time.

My friend Sofia from my program, AIFS

My friend Sofia from my program, AIFS

Upon arriving back in the United States, I found myself still speaking French. For example, at the airport I would say “merci” and “pardon” instead of “thank you” and “excuse me.” I remember my mother asking me a question and I replied “ouais,” which means “yeah.” It felt surreal being at home. Just yesterday I was walking around Paris and eating at a café with friends. I love my hometown, Chicago, but I miss the architecture of Paris so much. I miss being able to step outside and be less than five minutes away from a boulangerie. However, I was so excited to eat Chicago pizza again. It’s what we’re famous for. I was happy to be able to find exactly what I was looking for at the grocery store. And of course, I was happy to see my friends and family again.

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

Studying abroad has been such a life changing experience for me. At first, I planned on going to graduate school and earning my Ph.D. in Chicago. Now, I think I want to earn a degree abroad or at least in another city. There’s so much to see around the world and I want to try to experience it all. I want to be a global citizen. For now, I will continue my study of the French language so that I can become fluent and plan for my summer visit to Paris!

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Christina’s Final Study Abroad Reflections

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Christina in France Introductory Video

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Bonjour Paris!

Hi everyone!

My name is Christina and I’m from Chicago, Illinois. I’m a junior at Columbia College Chicago, majoring in Cinema Art and Science while also earning a minor in Black World Studies. I’m currently studying abroad with The Institute of Language and French Culture in Paris, France! My classes include the French language, French cinema history, and art history. It has been a dream come true for me! I’ve always wanted to experience Paris since I was a little girl. At first, I wanted to go to Paris for the stereotypical reasons like seeing the Eiffel Tower and eating macarons. However, the need to go to Paris intensified once I started studying French cinema in school and listening to French music. I wanted to go to this place that inspired so many artists.

Before my arrival, I was nervous about being able to communicate with people because my French was still at its beginner stage. Although I have studied the language for two semesters and refreshed over the summer, I felt that I still wasn’t where I wanted to be. I was nervous that some people would be rude to me because my French wasn’t perfect. I also feared being away from my family. I had never traveled outside of the country before and I had just recently started traveling within the United States. In fact, no one in my family has ever studied abroad before.

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When I arrived in Paris, my emotions were a mix of excitement and terror. I had finally made it. I was in a foreign country, thousands of miles away from my friends and family. As I looked out of the window of my airport transfer, I started to tear up because I could see the Eiffel Tower. It wasn’t in a photograph. It wasn’t in a painting. I was looking at it with my own eyes. After arriving at my apartment, I started unpacking and making the place a little more homey. I looked out the window (which had French doors, of course) and took in the view. Paris would be my home for the next three months.

The view from my apartment.

The view from my apartment.

The same night, I went to get a few groceries because I wasn’t comfortable dining out just yet. I wasn’t ready for the frustrated look on the waiter’s face as I pronounced the item on the menu incorrectly. However, I did encounter frustration at the grocery store: having to translate all of the labels! I knew this wouldn’t be the case every time, but it was my first reality check. There aren’t going to be italicized translations in English on everything. I will have to adapt.

My study abroad journey began in the produce section. I went back to my apartment and immediately started practicing my French.

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Dancing Kizomba in Bordeaux, France

One of the most exciting subcultures that I have encountered while in France is the dance subculture, particularly the large group of individuals who love to dance Kizomba. I learned about this type of dance through a Senegalese guy named Mahomed, who I met at the park while watching football.  He related to me that there were dance lessons at Punta Cana – a neighboring club – for five euros per lesson, and that I would have fun learning it. I therefore took him up on the offer and upon my arrival I was given a warm welcome and introduced to everyone.  Subsequently, Mahomed and I became very good friends and together we frequent local venues to practice Kizomba.

Kizomba is a very sensual dance that originated in Angola.  One must be very comfortable with physical contact from the opposite sex in order to participate.  In fact, one of the basic instructions given by the teacher is that, “one must remain very close to their partner.”  And if someone is having trouble with a technique, the instructor usually blames it on the two people not sticking close together.  Another difficult aspect of the dance is that it requires the male to be the lead, while the female merely shadows what he does and follows his direction.  Therefore, if the male is a beginner, as I am, the dance can be tedious and frustrating for both participants.  Still further, since my French is not so great, more problems arise when I need to tell my partner something or when she needs to tell me something. But as time has went on, I have learned to simply have fun.

Learning Kizomba is something I would have never ventured into while in the United States.  However, being in a different country and trying to make new friends, I have been forced to adapt to the French culture and do what they do, in order to fit in.  This has proved a great benefit for me; I have met a lot of people, my French is improving, I am exploring new facets of the world which in turn is presenting me with new opportunities and making me more curious.  I am now eager to learn more dances like the Salsa, for example, and I owe it all to the diversity which I have encountered while studying abroad.

Below is a clip of my first experience with Kizomba:

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