10 May 2008
As for life right now, the semester is winding down, and finals are next week. I can hardly believe that it's over, right as I'm feeling much more comfortable speaking French and right after I've finally made friends with all of the girls in my Sorbonne class! Not to mention that the weather has finally become perfect- 75 degrees Fahrenheit and no clouds- every day of the week, which makes Paris almost a completely different city. However, happily, I still have about a month abroad, making travels to Freiburg/Munich/Prague/Berlin/Amsterdam with Livy, Aix-en-Provence/Marseille to visit Teresa, and Frankfurt to visit my German pen pal, Anni as well as returning to Paris three times before I come home.
For now, I want to give everyone a snapshot of what life was like day-to-day here for me in Paris. Last Tuesday May 6, I decided to keep track of everything I did, complete with pictures. Enjoy!
Mardi, le 6 mai 2008: Un jour dans la vie
7:30 am Wake up, get ready, eat a breakfast of Nutella on baguette and hot chocolate
8:17 am Catch métro line 9 at Marcel Sembat, change to line 10 at Michel-Ange Molitor, change to line 13 at Duroc, and arrive at Gaité
8:53 am Arrive at IES Center on rue Daguerre
9:10 am French Language and Culture class starts 10 minutes late. Topics of the day: le discours rapporté passé (how to narrate a dialogue) and "Ulysse" by Ridan (French singer), based on the words from the poem by Joachim du Bellay
10:30 am Bolt out of class to RER line B at Denfert-Rochereau
10:45 am Arrive at Port Royal, walk to centre Michelet where I have Sorbonne classes and run into my friends Claire and Alexia on the way
10:50 am 20 minutes late to make up a TD (travaux dirigés, or discussion in the US) for my Sorbonne class in Art History. Listened to three students give exposés on Olympia and Le balcon by Manet, and Une baignade à Asnières by Seurat (same topic as my exposé a few weeks earlier).
12:30 pm Say goodbye to my art history professor as this is my last TD for the semester, take RER back to Denfert-Rochereau
1:00 pm Buy a sandwich from the Greek place near IES (choosing neither the viennoiserie nor the boulangerie that we pick from every day) and go back to the IES courtyard to eat
1:30 pm Leave IES after finishing sandwich and a 0,40 € coffee (thank goodness for SOME things that are cheap!) and walk down rue Daguerre to get watch battery replaced at a bijouterie (jewelry shop)
1:47 pm Decide not to get gelato at Amorino, the Parisian gelato chain, though sorely tempted
2:15 pm History of Paris class: last lecture of the semester, covering the Haussmanian transformations of Paris in the 1850s, Franco-Prussian War, and the Third Republic up until World War II (though only 2 sentences were said about World War I...go figure)
3:45 pm Make copies of history notes in the IES center from a day missed due to Morocco
4:00 pm Visit with Kendra, the study abroad director at Indiana University who happened to be visiting that day
4:30 pm Take the RER line B from Denfert-Rochereau back to Port Royal
4:40 pm Decide to buy a chocolate macaroon near Port Royal, since I'm already almost an hour late to my last Sorbonne lecture
5:00 pm Arrive an hour late to my last Sorbonne lecture on the representation of myths in art. Sit with friends Stéphanie, Timothée, and Claire while Prof. Texier lectures on representations of Theseus and the minotaur. (Note: the only reason why I went to class was to see my friends again, since all of my work for the class was already done)
6:00 pm Walk over to Jessica's (my best friend from high school's) homestay since it's only 5 minutes from the centre Michelet, randomly walk through rue Mouffetard, my favorite street, as we're talking
7:15 pm Catch métro line 7 at Les Gobelins, change to line 6 (outdoor métro line) at Place d'Italie and see the Eiffel Tower and the Seine as I'm on the train, change to line 9 at Trocadéro, and arrive at Marcel Sembat
7:53 pm Arrive home to see that my host mom and sister have already eaten due to my host mom's night class, so I eat my portion of Indian chicken, rice, and cauliflower by myself in the kitchen
8:45 pm Call Bloomington via Skype to figure out why we have $955 to owe for our apartment (notice emailed the day before); find out that it's our subletters racking up late fees and not turning in rent. Great.
9:00 pm Take métro line 9 from Marcel Sembat to Franklin D. Roosevelt: to exit the station on the Champs-Elysées, I have to make the ridiculously long transfer to line 1 and then exit
9:40 pm Meet with Whitney (one of my IES friends) on the Champs-Elysées as the sun is setting behind the Arc de Triomphe to buy tickets for Disneyland Paris
18 February 2008
It was a great way to see the different areas of the city- and very convenient, since most of the streets have bike paths paved in red. However, be prepared to bike on cobblestone- it's very bumpy!
Side of the castle and view of the countryside after we first climbed up the hill next to the vineyard. Note the beautiful weather, and the clarity of the sky such that you can see the moon!
17 February 2008
Once again, I have much to catch up on in here, so I'm going to combine two weeks into one. This works though, because I can describe all of my new classes in one blog. Classes at IES stated February 4, while classes at Paris IV-Sorbonne started February 11. Winter break is officially over!
Weeks of Feb. 4 - Feb. 17
Themes of the week:
- Classes and schedules. For the first time since I've been here, I'm finally on a regular schedule. Though I don't have nearly as much free time anymore, I still have long stretches of time between classes with which to eat lunch with friends, go shopping, or explore the city. It's very strange not going to work at the lab with every break I have! More about the specific classes later in this entry.
- Traveling. Both weekends of these two weeks were spent outside Paris. It was hard to leave because all of my IES friends are here having fun together on weekends, time spent together that I missed out on. However, the weekends I spent away were worth it. The first weekend was spent with my pen pal Claire and her mom, in Draveil, and the second weekend was spent in Maastricht. I will write a separate entry just for my weekend in Maastricht to follow this one.
For the first time, I: made friends with a French girl without help from anyone. My international pen pals, Claire and Annika, were both introduced to me through my dad since they are daughters of his colleagues, so I didn't have to do anything to meet them. I had really hoped to make French friends here on my own, but was told that it's nearly impossible to make friends with French girls because they are very reserved and competitive with other girls. Mais, voilà! I met Stéphanie in my travaux dirigés (T.D., analogous to our discussion sections in the US) portion of my class at the Sorbonne. She helped me understand the assignments required for the class, since there was no syllabus given- all information was oral, and spoken too fast for me to understand. After class, we walked together back to Port Royal, the nearest RER station, and she explained to me that she was also friends with a Chinese foreign exchange student, so she understood my needs to become accustomed to the French education system and the French language. I'm very grateful to have a friend in this course- it will make my experience at the French university worth it!
Foods discovered: La raclette. The Bremonds introduced me to this special dish while I was there over the weekend. La raclette is a traditional dish from the Savoie region near Switzerland, and it involves heating le raclette (a type of cheese from the same region) and sliding the hot cheese onto steamed potatoes and cured meats. We had three types of flavored raclette to choose from: white wine, smoked, or pepper, and we put each slice on a little spatula, six of which fit into slots on a machine made specially for the purpose of serving la raclette. We had slices of prosciutto to go with the cheese and potatoes, and cider to complete the meal. It was delicious!
- La Sorbonne. Well, at least the Art History and Archeology department. The department is situated in the 6th arrondissement, right next to the gardens leading up to the Jardin de Luxembourg. The amphithéâtre, or lecture hall, is unbearably hot, so students have the habit of layering clothes to prepare for their two-hour long lectures five times each week. Luckily for me, I'm only required to go to one lecture per week! Instead of the tiny fold-up desks that we have in most lecture halls at IU, the hall is lined with long desks, which is useful for the French version of note-taking, which seems to be this complicated system of many-colored pens and highlighters. (And they're somehow able to write down every single thing the professor says, including all of the random tangents that a normal American student would not write down!) Here's the outside of the building:
- Château de Chamarande. A short drive from Draveil, where the Bremonds live, is this nice little château with a large park on the grounds. Though we couldn't go in, it was pretty from the outside, as was the path around the grounds. A nice way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon!
Lessons learned about French culture: Differences with the French education system. Most notably, the French generally don't have regular homework assigned, or even required textbook readings for the class. It's expected that the students will do research on their own to find out more about each subject. Also, since the education system is supported by the state, professors are government employees with no offices or office hours- and in my case, no email provided to contact the professor! (Though, I'm sure she'd give it to me if I asked.)
- Questions d'esthétique. This class focuses on the philosophy of French art, encompassing all fields from music, to art, to literature. It's a twist on the class I took last semester at IU on the connections between music, art, and literature. The professor has a great sense of humor, and I love the small size of the class (only 8 people)! Possibly one of my favorite things is that the cover of our course packet for the class features Marcel Duchamp's "The Fountain." (Go look it up if you don't know what I'm talking about- it's very representative of the Dadaist movement.)
- Histoire de Paris. The class is taught by IES's oldest professor, who has been teaching there for 30 years. Not only is it interesting because we get to actually go on walking tours to see the history we are talking about, but the professor tells us funny stories about the monarchs of France and loves to go on random tangents. He's so knowledgeable- hopefully I'll be able to walk around Paris and tell stories about the history of the buildings marginally the way he does by the end of the semester! (And clearly, I forgot how much I liked history classes.)
- No Friday classes! This is the first (and probably last) time I'm going to be able to not have Friday classes, due to the schedules of science classes at IU. It's so strange that my relief with Fridays now comes on Thursdays!
- Histoire de l'art à la Sorbonne. I am officially taking a class about the representation of myths in art, but it's only one of the five lectures (or cours magistraux, C.M.) that the first-year art history students are required to take. With the five lectures, each student takes one discussion, or T.D., which means that my T.D. has absolutely nothing to do with the C.M. What makes it worse is that all of my graded work will be only in the T.D.- so basically, I will never be required to show my knowledge of how myths are represented in art! I was very frustrated this week because there is no syllabus provided with the T.D. class, and I didn't realize that my extremely fast-talking professor was assigning the exposés (or oral presentations) for the semester, so she randomly assigned me a Renaissance portrait- for a presentation in two weeks! I am fine with doing an exposé for the class, since there are only about 8 students total, but definitely not in two weeks! The only thing that made me feel better after the class was Stéphanie's kindness and willingness to help me out.
- Littérature du 19ème siècle. I thought this class would be a great way to knock out one of the 400-level requirements for the French degree at IU, but it's quickly becoming hard to tolerate because of the very French professor. She is incredibly critical, and always asks vague or ridiculously easy questions that no one wants to answer for fear of being wrong or not wanting to answer an easy question. At the beginning of each class, she asks if we have any questions- usually on comprehension or vocabulary- but is quick to point out that we should have understood everything on our own (for about 80% of the questions asked). Then, she proceeds to lecture for the rest of the class, which is definitely not how literature classes in the US are conducted. It's no wonder why there are less students that show up with every class meeting! The only good part is that I like the literature we are reading.
03 February 2008
Weeks of Jan. 22 - Feb. 3
Themes of the week:
- Wandering around Paris. Every day during the first week, I roamed the city with my newfound friends from IES, with no real objective. The best part is randomly "discovering" famous places when wandering around, such as the Cimitiere Montparnasse, which we walked into while wandering the 14th arrondissement.
- Being sick, unfortunately. Somehow I caught a cold the second week, so I became acquainted with the French pharmacy (obviously marked on streets with the flashing blue-green cross) and buying exactly the right brand of tissues.
For the first time, I: bought books in a place other than the school bookstore. Students here are told exactly which editions to buy, but even so, books are much harder to procure here! At least at IU, the bookstores work together to supply the books at exactly the right amount with the right editions for each class, but here, it's a search to find the necessary books. At first, I bought the wrong volume edition for my grammar book, which was a bit of a hassle because then I had to find a bookstore that sold both the right book and answer key. Students have it so much easier in the US!
- Indiana Café. Of course, me and my fellow Indiana-IES students had to check this place out, since it seems to be a chain throughout Paris. The name is deceiving- the place actually serves Tex-Mex food! I ordered a fajita salad, which was decent, but definitely not on a student budget. Oh well, at least we can say we've been there!
- Pain au chocolat. It's not a completely new item of food for me or anything, but I've taken to eating one in the afternoon as a snack because for some reason I can't seem to last between lunch and dinner without feeling ravenously hungry. It's cheap and delicious!
- Cimitière Montparnasse. As I mentioned above, we randomly "discovered" this cemetery during one of our walks wandering Paris. It was absolutely gorgeous, and crammed with graves, to the point where it's impossible to reach some of the graves since there aren't pathways between all of them! We found Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, as well as many other interesting-looking graves (see pictures in my photo album, link to the right). I was looking very hard for Saint-Saëns with no luck, though I did know the general "block" where he was buried. I'll have to come back to the cemetery some other time!
- Cité Universitaire. This place is like the city life part of every American campus. Because the French universities don't have extracurriculars or dorms in general, students have to go elsewhere to find these activities. Cité Universitaire is largely for international students, and there are many cultural houses that host different events each week. I tried out one of the practice rooms in the Maison Cambodge, which cost money but was of a much higher quality than the IU practice rooms. (From what I hear, most if not all practice rooms in Paris cost money, and you essentially "rent" the room.) Also, Cité Universitaire has a Resto U, or student cafeteria, where it costs only 2,80 euros for a full meal!
Lessons learned about French culture:
- Eating with a knife and fork. I'm now becoming quite adept at using the fork with my right hand and knife in my left. I knew that the French usually use both utensils at once, but I didn't know that they sometimes use the knife in the left hand. At first I thought it was just the Bremonds that used the knife in the left, but I think it's pretty universal.
- Taking Sundays seriously. Very few shops and stores are open on Sundays, at least in my neighborhood, but it really is a day of rest here. My first Sunday here, I just stayed at home and relaxed. However, I don't think the French are accustomed to the way American college students sleep in on the weekends- every time I sleep in, my host mom asks me if I was out late!
- The IES coffee machine. It only costs 0,40 euro for a small cup of goodness! I always buy a moccaccino, and have yet to try any of the other flavors. This is the one thing in Paris that won't cost much!
- My host family. Apparently I'm the first student that this family is hosting. I live with my host mother, who has 5 children (most of them grown up and out of Paris), the youngest daughter Typhaine, who is 17 and loves the music from Les Miserables, and Typhaine's cousin Jérémy, who just got a job and needs to practice his English so he can speak on the phone for his job. (Side note: speaking a second language on the phone is so difficult- not only do you have to be able to respond quickly, but you have to be able to understand people without seeing them face-to-face. It's harder than it sounds.) I also met the second youngest daughter Gabrielle, who is my age and is currently studying in England, and the oldest daughter Carole. My room is much bigger than I thought it would be, and the shower actually has a curtain! Possibly the best part is that my host mother is allowing me to eat dinner at home every night, in exchange for my occasional Indian cooking. It's really nice because we are supposed to be provided only breakfasts 7 days a week and dinners 3 nights a week.
- Trying to find a class at the Sorbonne that I want to take and that fits in my schedule. I really wanted to take a music history class, but the musicology department is 45 minutes away from the IES center, which means that I wouldn't be able to take the literature class that gives me 400-level French credit at IU. The real problem that everyone is having here is that the IES schedule of classes really doesn't fit well with the schedules of outside courses. I finally decided on an art history class, because I'd like to deepen my appreciation for art and because that campus is 20 minutes away from IES.
- Dealing with the awful exchange rate. One euro equals $1.50 USD, but things are still priced about the same which just means that I'll have to spend more while I'm here. I feel sad every time I update my expense log!
20 January 2008
I've decided to copy this journal format from a friend (hope you don't mind!) and fill out a weekly fill-in-the-blank form on this blog, which will hopefully make my posts more interesting to read! I'm making up the categories as I go along, so here goes:
Week of Jan. 15 - Jan. 21
Themes of the week:
- French movies. I saw Ratatouille in dubbed French on the plane, Hitman (an American movie that apparently flopped) in dubbed French, Garage (Irish independent film) with French subtitles, and Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain with French subtitles to help me understand. Looking back at that progression, I had a hard time understanding Ratatouille on the plane even though I've seen it in English- real, spoken French is so fast! It was still entertaining to see how the nuances describing the American views on French culture were translated. I especially liked Amélie, and I hope to watch it throughout my stay here to gauge my progression in the language!
- Improving my abilities in French. More than anything, my stay at Draveil enormously increased my fluency in French because Claire and her mother spoke only in French to me the entire time, and I wasn't around anyone that spoke English, so it really forced me to become better at speaking. I would really recommend going "cold turkey" on the language if you want to learn it faster!
For the first time, I: tried archery, or tir à l'arc in French. Claire takes archery lessons each week, and I thought I would go along to see what it was all about and take pictures. Little did I know I would be asked to actually try my hand at the sport! One of Claire's instructors was nice enough to teach me, and I got the gist of how to hold the bow and arrow properly (though from pictures, I now realize that I didn't have perfect posture). Towards the end, I even got to try popping balloons that were attached to the target. My left arm was becoming more and more worn out, but I persisted and eventually popped all of the balloons. The end.
Foods discovered: Many, many types of cheese. The previous time I was here, I wasn't as open to trying new foods, but I am eager to try as many different types of cheese as I can this time. It is a French tradition towards the ends of meals to pass around a cheese platter and eat with slices of baguette. Chez les Bremonds, I ate: pelardon, cantal, fourmette, coulommier, brie de Meaux, carréchèvre, epoisses au mare de Bourgogne, vieux comté, and beaufort. I'm discovering that I really enjoy goat cheese (chèvre), and the very expensive beaufort.
- Provins. A medieval town to the east of Ile-de-France, officially named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. It had just rained the day before we went, so it was quite a bit muddy while walking around the ramparts of the town! There were hardly any other people around, mainly because it was cold and gray outside, but that made it seem as though we were really exploring the town. We went inside la Tour César (Caesar's Tower), which is the symbolic monument of Provins and an illustration of the history of medieval military architecture, as well as the Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church. Though I have been to a few European medieval castles before, it was still amazing to experience the small castle stairways once more- what a contrast with the historical sites in the US! (This was my first full day in France, so I was still absorbing the fact that French history is much more rich than that of the US.) We kept smelling something like freshly baked bread in the distance, but according to a man walking his dog who lived there, it was actually a distillery!
- Rue Mouffetard. During my first full day in Paris, spent with Claire and her boyfriend Sébastien, they introduced me to this very French pedestrian street in the south end of the 5th arrondissement. I was immediately enchanted by the numerous outdoor shops that lined the streets, with every specialty from fruits and vegetables to cheeses to fish to wine, and even other items like watches, scarves, and coats. We ate at one of the many crêperies that had windows and heating pans open to the street. As expected, the crêpes were delicious (and fairly cheap)! To me, streets like this represent exactly what I love about Paris: smelling fresh markets and crêpes while walking on small stone-paved streets.
Lessons learned about French culture:
- The tradition of the galette des rois, or king cake. The cake is usually eaten around Epiphany, January 6, but as Claire's mother explained to me, it is usually eaten throughout the month of January. Traditionally, a figurine is placed in the cake and whoever finds the figurine in his/her piece of cake is the king or queen for the day. To guarantee fair distribution of the cake slices, the youngest person at the table (which happened to be me) sits under the table and yells out a name for each slice of cake. A few bites into my slice, I realized that I got the figurine in my slice, so I was crowned queen!
- How to shower without a shower curtain. It may seem bizarre to those of us in the US, but some of the bathtubs here do not include shower curtains! I felt very awkward at first, but then learned how to shower sitting down. I managed not to spray water everywhere, which was a very good thing.
Frustrations: Trying very, very hard to understand what is going on at all times, but not having the brainpower to follow every conversation. Became especially frustrated when I couldn't understand exactly what the guy at France Telecom was saying when I bought my phone. I need to improve, otherwise I won't understand the language when it matters!
Progress in French language skills: I can now talk more fluently, especially after having learned how to understand real, spoken French, which is very different from the French we learn in classes in the US. "Je ne sais pas" (I do not know) becomes "Je sais pas" or "Jsais pas" (I don't know) which becomes "Chais pas" (I dunno). Still having trouble conjugating verbs correctly while talking.
15 January 2008
In other news, I finally got my housing assignment last week. I'm staying in Boulogne-Billancourt, a town south of the Bois de Boulogne to the west side of Paris. It's almost completely bordered by the Seine, so I hope it's a pretty town! I have no idea what it's going to be like living there, but my host mother seemed nice in the email she sent me so I think I'll be happy there...guess I'll find out next week.