Tag Archives: Paris

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.
photo 2 (1)
Lamb and potatoes? It was delicious
photo 3
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…

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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Halloween in Paris: Ghost Tour

While I’m not actually in Paris at the moment to celebrate the wonderful Pagan, commercialized holiday of Halloween, I did go on a ghost tour a few weeks ago in order to get into the spirit of the month.

That Halloween spirit
That Halloween spirit

I took the walking tour with Mysteries of Paris. We started in front of Notre Dame where we heard stories about the alchemist Nicholas Flamel (Harry Potter anyone?) a saint who carried his head for 6 miles after being decapitated, and the devil doors of the cathedral.

Alchemical symbols on Notre Dame
Alchemical symbols on Notre Dame. According to our guide these are the instructions for eternal life, but of course they’re not in the right order!

Our guide was lovely, at the beginning of the tour while we were waiting for other people to join, he asked us where we were from and how long we had been in Paris. It was quite amusing when he got to me and I told him I had already been here for 2 months because I was studying abroad and thus lived here. I ended up talking to the guide quite a bit about school at the Sorbonne as we walked in between the horror story locations and learned that he was studying translation in order to subtitle movies.

The tour guides
The tour guides. Mine is the one that looks like a vampire.

The stories included the following:

A young French woman and English speaking boy who were in love and because of a language barrier the idiot man proposed to her in the most cliche place in existence and the woman backed away from shock and fell off the Eiffel tower. Moral: Don’t propose to your girlfriend on the Eiffel tower.

The French Sweeney Todd, where the killers engraved the names of the young men they killed in their courtyard before chopping them up into meat pies. Moral: Don’t engrave the names of the people you’ve killed in the ground.

French vampires who literally bathed in the blood of young men, but not before chopping of their heads and preserving them as trophies. Moral: Don’t keep trophies.

The shop that inspired ratatouille:


And an insane writer with a taste for dancers, who carried a lobster around on a robe and was found hanging in an alleyway one day, still clutching his pet. Moral: Don’t carry lobsters around or lie to your dancer girlfriend.

All in all the tour was fantastic. Was it particularly scary? No, but it perfectly met my craving for the strange and the supernatural this month 🙂

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Wake Me Up: Daily Parisian Commute

My alarm goes off. I groan. Check my phone. My room is dark. The light hurts my eyes.

Sleep more? my mind says. No. Class. Have to go to class. 

I get up. The floor creaks beneath me.

Bathroom. Contacts. Clothes. Hair and Makeup.

I resemble a human again.

To the kitchen. Creak, groan, creak go the floors.

I press the button on the electric kettle. Grab a mug. Spoon some brown flakes into a mug. Drop in 4 sugar rounds.

I look at the kettle. I look at my cup.

Drop in another sugar round. Pour the boiling water into the mug.

Milk. Stir. Sip.

It’s still bitter.

First coherent thought of the day: I hate instant coffee. 

But it does its job.

Left to Right: Milk, Instant Coffee, Mug, Yogurt, Pear, Sugar, Honey, Special K. Sugar and Honey go in the yogurt.

I eat my breakfast in silence, preferring yogurt and cereal to a French baguette and jam. I check the news on my phone and finish my bastard coffee. I put the dishes away and replace everything in the cupboard. The floor creaks again as I return to my room to grab my bag, then I hesitate and grab a scarf, wrapping it around my neck and tucking it into my coat. I plug in my headphones as I walk out the door and hit shuffle on my phone…

Feeling my way through the darkness; Guided by a beating heart

I smile at the irony as the chilly air from outside blasts me as I exit into the courtyard.

I can’t tell where the journey will end; But I know where to start

I make my way to the street and then head towards the metro.

They tell me I’m too young to understand; They say I’m caught up in a dream

I stuff my hands into my coat as I walk quickly, nodding to the mother who passes by me.

Well life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes

I glance up: the Arc de Triomphe towers over me and grows closer with each step I take.


Well that’s fine by me. 

I smile slightly, forgetting the requisite resting bitch face for Parisian commuters.

A couple blocks later I walk down the stairs leading to the metro, swipe my pass over the turnstile and then board the train.

Then I ride the line to the end… So wake me up when it’s all over 



What did you guys think about this post? Definitely different from my normal style, but I wanted to try something a little different.

Here are the *cultural* facts from this post:

1. French breakfasts are pretty small. Apparently, my yogurt breakfast is unusual as my host mom typically eats bread, butter, and jam. Nothing, nothing is better than a warm, buttery croissant for breakfast, but we can’t all live at boulangeries!

2. The Parisian Commuter resting bitch face is a thing. You don’t smile on the Metro. What is a resting bitch face you ask? According to Urban Dictionary, a person with a resting bitch face is “usually a girl, who naturally looks mean when her face is expressionless, without meaning to

3. When it’s cold, everyone is wearing a scarf. The French would reach for a scarf first over a jacket.

Benedict Cumberbatch likes taking them off
So it makes sense the English like to take them off. I ❤ Benedict Cumberbatch.

Also, this next week I’m going to be travelling! So make sure to stay tuned if you want updates on my trip to Athens, Rome, Florence, and Venice 🙂

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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:

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.”


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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