Tag Archives: America

Back in America For an Hour

This past weekend Sweet Briar, the program I’m studying abroad with, took us on a day trip to Normandy to see the D-Day beaches and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

The land of the American cemetery was given to the Americans following WWII so I was technically back in the United States for a brief hour!

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Our professors even “allowed” us to speak English while we were there, except I forgot and kept speaking French.

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While there I realized that without the sacrifices of so many men and women, I would not be here in France today.

It is notoriously cold and windy in Normandy so the night before I had a conversation with my host family that went something like this:

Host Mom: “Emily, do you have a scarf?”

Me: “What? Of course I do!”

Host Mom: “No, like a real scarf and not just one that looks pretty? One made out of wool or something to keep you warm?”

Me: “Ha. No I don’t have one.”

Host Mom: “What about a bonnet?”

Me: “A what?”

Host Mom: “You know like a hat!”

Me: “Uh no.”

Host Mom: “Well what about gloves? Do you have any gloves?”

Me: “I’m from Texas…”

I'm sorry that I'm Texan and I don't understand the cold!!
I’m sorry that I’m Texan and I don’t understand the cold!!

Basically, my host family ended up lending me their ski wardrobe, which I was very thankful for because despite the clear skies and the sun, the beaches were still freezing cold and windy!

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Showing off my mittens

We were also accompanied by a couple of tour guides who didn’t really do much besides walk us down the beach and point out a couple memorials with all of the information about the landings written down on them.

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Our first view from the beach

We walked through the part known as Omaha Beach, where some of the American forces landed during the Allied invasion of German-Occupied France.

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I really like this seafoam

Then of course, no visit anywhere is complete without seeing and photographing the local inhabitants of today:

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Thank you hand, for distracting the cat long enough for me to snap a picture

Cultural Remark: French dogs are remarkably well behaved. Seriously, dogs get on the metro all the time and most don’t try to run after other dogs or show any interest in passing by pedestrians!

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Our trip to Normandy was in brief, very short. We spent about two hours total on the beach itself before we had to head back to the train station in Caen to catch our train back to Paris.

This past week I’ve also still been super busy with my internship here and a bunch of applications for internships and advising have come out recently so I’ve been working away on them instead of updating my blog like I should!

But I promise…

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Merci Beaucoup: Thanksgiving in Paris

I’ve been busy this month.

Me during the whole month
Me during the whole month

And I promise to post all about what I’ve been doing, including updates on all of my classes, including the one that meets at the Louvre every week, and all about this giant project that I’ve been working on all month long, but first I would just like to take a moment to celebrate the American holiday the only way I can in France, by saying Merci

Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this whole study abroad adventure! It’s not over yet! (Not even halfway yet wow)

To my parents who kept dropping not so subtle hints that they didn’t want me to go: I miss you too! And I’m super thankful to have parents that are supportive of their child packing up and living in another country!

To my roommates who begged me not to go away for the year, but still support me regardless: ❤ ❤ ❤

To all my grandparents and relatives who are keeping up with my adventures – your comments mean everything!

And finally, to you, my reader for coming along for the ride, thank you!

My dinner tonight was not American in the slightest, but I ate a ton and walked away stuffed so I guess that counts for something! Sweet Briar (the program I’m studying abroad with) was nice enough to take us all to a very nice restaurant to celebrate Thanksgiving. Here are the results:

Some sort of squash soup and croutons that were promptly dumped in.
Some sort of squash soup and croutons that were promptly dumped in.
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Lamb and potatoes? It was delicious
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Apple tart! Probably as close to pie as I was going to get

So there 🙂 I just wanted a quick post to thank all the amazing people in my life and show off food pictures because I’m jealous after looking at turkey pictures all day!

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!

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Sorbonne Class Update: Presenting the Idea of American Hegemony

“Emily, who is presenting on the article today, is very courageous,” my French professor started, introducing me to the class. (He’d never bothered to introduce anyone before)  “She is an American student and I’m very happy that she is presenting this orally because most foreign students do the written assignment instead, so she is very brave.”

Please continue Professor
Please continue Professor

It was true. I was the only foreign student in the entire class who was giving an oral presentation.

But, if he said anything else, I was too nervous to notice as I walked to the front of the classroom and set up my presentation. Did I mention my presentation was all in French and in front of a classroom mostly full of native French speakers?

First slide of my presentation. Go America!
First slide of my presentation. Go America!

“So today I will be talking about the text we just read,” my voice sounded shaky even to my ears and I tried to enunciate my words clearly, in an effort to calm my voice. “The New World Order, written by George H. W. Bush.”

This isn’t the exact speech I read, but some of the same ideas are found here in one of Bush’s later speeches.

As I went on, my hands shook less and my voice evened out. Throughout the semester I’d noticed that most French students, when they presented in front of the class, used nothing but a sheet of notes and they occasionally wrote down important dates and names on the blackboard. As a foreign student, this was both extremely annoying and boring. Without something to follow along with on the screen I often ended up missing the most important information. For example, I’d write down the name of the event, but by the time I wrote it down they had already passed over its significance -rendering the name or date I wrote down almost useless! So I resolved to create a full out American powerpoint for my presentation, minus the English bien sûr!

Every important definition, point, date, and name was clearly typed out in my fancy presentation. I even included pictures.

Did the class like it? I don’t know.

But I did notice that it seemed that a much greater majority of the class was paying attention to my presentation that any other student’s. The real reason might have been that my American accent was interesting or maybe the fact that I was talking about American hegemony…

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Basically American Hegemony is the idea that America is the most powerful nation in the world and needs to act as a world policeman

 

Regardless, my presentation went splendidly. The professor added a couple other points at the end and then opened the floor for questions. By this point I wasn’t even nervous and eagerly listened to the question from a talkative guy a couple rows back.

“Why did the United States think that it was the only one who could spread democracy? There were plenty of other democracies at the time, like France and other European countries.”

I smiled. I had this answer down.

“Well even today in the United States some people have the idea -the ignorant idea that the United States is actually the only real democracy in the world. I come from Texas and there are some ignorant people who live there who don’t travel and don’t understand the world. When I talk about France with them they say ‘But France is socialist!'”

The entire class started laughing and I paused for a moment before continuing. “For some Americans socialism is the same thing as communism. So for them, the United States really is the only democracy in the world.”

Basically, I’m pretty sure I aced my presentation and got to make French kids laugh about a silly insight into American thoughts.

When I was doing research for my presentation I stumbled across this video… It should make you laugh and cringe at the same time. I definitely DID NOT share this with my French class!

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Thoughts on Being an America Encyclopedia

“Emily, what do Americans think about Reagan?” my French professor asked during my Contemporary World Analysis class at the Sorbonne.

Quoi?” I squeaked, a little surprised to be called on, especially by name in a class of at least 40 students.

“Well the French think of Reagan as an actor” he offered. “So what do the Americans think?”

Reagan?  We liked him?
Reagan? We liked him?

I think I muttered something about how religious he was, which was fitting since we were analyzing Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech in class. (For those who don’t know here’s a snippet: let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness–pray they will discover the joy of knowing God” ) Whew. It is a class on history from the Cold War to present day, which meant we talk about America a lot.

Which means that automatically makes me, the American, an expert on the subject!

Secret Here:
No.

Secret here: If I was an expert on the subject I wouldn’t be taking this class!! 

But it’s been really interesting to hear about the Cold War from a 3rd party’s perspective. I almost started laughing in class when the professor first said “American aggression”  because we never learn about it like that, and yet if you think about it aggression is as good of a word as any to describe some of our policies during the Cold War.

That day after class the professor waited for me to ask how things were going and if I was understanding everything. So contrary to what I had been led to believe, some French professors do actually care about their students!

I already explained classes a bit in a previous post, but there are two parts to French university classes.

1. The CM (Cours Magistral): This is your basic lecture class. One professor, a microphone, and a PowerPoint (if you’re lucky) and at least 200 students. Typically meets for one hour once a week.

2. The TD (Travaux dirigés): One professor/Teaching assistant, and max 50 students. This is the class where you get graded. Here you go in depth, beyond what you’ve learned from diligently attending the CMs. You read articles and discuss/present them in class. Typically meets for 1.5 to 2 hours once a week.

I’m lucky. I have one CM and TD for the same class where both professors use PowerPoints so I’m sure to get down 70% of what they’re teaching with the right spelling. For the Cold War TD (the one I was discussing at the beginning) the professor speaks slowly and writes important things down on the chalkboard so I get by. The CM for the same class is another story. Let’s just say I’m glad I already know a little bit about the Cold War, because it might as well be useless.

But, back to my original point: I’m constantly reminded that here in France, I truly do represent America.

 

For example, the other week I was getting coffee and grabbed 3 packets of sugar. Someone noticed and asked me “If all Americans like a lot of sugar in their coffee.”

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But I guess that’s part of the experience of studying abroad! I portray American culture and values while living abroad so I have to make it my mission to make sure that others perceive me (and consequently America) in a positive light.

In America if I don’t know the name of the President from a random year in history, it’s overlooked because no one expects us to remember that. But if I don’t know something about American history while I’m here in France I feel terrible! I should be the most knowledgeable resource in the class about the United States because that’s my country.

Nothing like living in another country to bring out your deeply buried patriotism
Nothing like living in another country to bring out your deeply buried patriotism

Honestly, I’ll probably be musing about this the entire year. (In between studying up on Cold War American stuff of course) What do you think?

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