Tag Archives: Sweet Briar

What I’ve Been Avoiding

I started this blog over a year ago in order to express my feelings on an event that would have caused me to cry if I had told it out loud. So it would be wrong of me to ignore blogging about the things that do make me cry – the things that one typically doesn’t read in a study abroad blog where everything is all travel and butterflies.

France is amazing. I’m speaking French every day – heck I’m even thinking in French! When I’m speaking English, French words accidentally pop out of my mouth and it’s absolutely wonderful. I eat baguettes for breakfast, strange French dishes like cow tongue for lunch, and croissants and pain suisse for French snacktime almost every day. I commuted to my internship past the Eiffel Tower for the last two months!

The Louvre will always be my favorite museum.
The Louvre will always be my favorite museum.

I’ve become more independent here and that’s wonderful. So I spend a lot of time by myself here. I tour museums by myself, eat lunch by myself, plan trips by myself, and shop by myself.

The truth of why I haven’t been blogging as much this semester as the last one? Besides the fact that I truly have been extremely busy with my internship these last few months, I’ve been lonely. There. I said it. It’s out.

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I don’t want to get into the details. My friends back home would just tell me to be more social, but somehow I feel that it’s not that simple. Long story short, I just don’t have a friend niche here. Who knows? Maybe that’ll change in the two months I have left, maybe it won’t. It’s not something that started this semester with the new group of students – just something I’ve been gradually feeling for the last six or seven months.

I have a friend back home who a year ago called me stupid for wanting to study abroad for the whole year. They constantly brought up the subject, arguing against the idea vehemently – until one day I became angry with them and told them straight up to stop insulting my lifetime dream of studying abroad in France. They agreed to stop bringing it up, but being the stubborn person that they are, told me that I would regret going abroad for the whole year before shutting up.

Study Abroad isn’t perfect. It’s a learning experience through and through. But do I regret it? No. I’ll never regret it.

I love this city.
I love this city.

I still love France. If anything this year has just made me love it more. But aside from France, culture, and the French language, this year has had its fair share of struggles. All of which I’m learning and growing from, with independence and learning to be okay with being lonely among the most important.

Thanks for listening.

I’ll go finish my Scotland blog now I promise!

And if you’re someone on my study abroad program reading this…

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Uh… Hi?

Busy girls who appear to have their life together since they’ve been here all year need love too okay?

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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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A Busy Parisian Bee

Now that the first week of full classes has gone by I can admit that this is going to be a very busy semester! 4 days out of the week my schedule is packed and then the other three days I’m like this:

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What do you mean I’m in Paris? It’s cold!

This semester I’m taking 3 classes at Sweet Briar (the program I’m studying abroad with), 1 class at the Sorbonne, and I have an internship at the École Militaire. 

I intern there. (It's not a joke)
I intern there. (It’s not a joke)

My study abroad program finds internships for the spring semester students and so I’m working in a journalism/international relations office where I’m translating and will soon be writing my own policy analysis articles. I had to create a CV all in French and apply like normal, but now I have one of the undoubtedly coolest internships in all of France. I’m probably one of the dozen un-uniformed people there and I am constantly surrounded by generals and strange French working customs.

For example, you give handshakes at the office in France! (Which is weird for France. I’ve stuck my hand out several times only to be awkwardly stared at.) But of course if you’re a girl you shake hands and do la bise (French cheek kiss thing) which is typically the only greeting I’ve been used to here.

I just go with it
I just go with it

 

I might just be super lucky, but also the attire for the non-military personnel is decidedly casual (albeit French casual which is miles ahead of American casual any day).

Class wise, at the Sorbonne I’m taking the History of the Middle East in the 20th century, which is covering everything from the creation of Israel to the Arab Spring in 2011. Most Sorbonne classes are simply continuations of the previous semester so I was a tad bit nervous about not knowing what happened in the Middle East in the first half of the 20th century. Then the professor handed out the final exam from last semester and there was a big picture of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk so I knew I was going to be all right. (If you don’t know I did a big research project in Turkey last year and Atatürk was kind of the founder of the modern Turkish state)

My professor is clearly an expert on the subject of the Middle East, she’s easy to understand, and she informed me (the only foreign student in the class) that I will not have to take the final exam at the end of the semester.

That's one less exam I have to take!
Basically she’s 100% amazing.

For my Sweet Briar classes I’m continuing with the amazing grammar class and I’m taking the History of Art in France in the 19th and 20th centuries, which is basically a continuation off of last semester. (This is the same class where we visit the museums in person for class). I’m also taking the History of France and Europe in the 20th century, which I should drop because I only need to take 3 classes because of my internship, but it seems like a really interesting and useful class since I would get to know more about recent French history. (Which you know could be useful for an aspiring diplomat)

I’m also continuing to give English lessons to family’s kids a couple hours a week for a few extra euros. Gotta pay for my pastry and coffee addiction somehow! (Actually let’s be honest: I’m starving and saving all my money for the opera)

Oh also… It snowed this weekend. This Texan girl was like this:

"Are those actual snowflakes??"
“Are those actual snowflakes??”

(I had never seen snow fall before. It was a good day.)

Anyone want to hazard a guess from the gifs where I’m thinking of travelling next? (If you guessed England you would be right!)

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I am now a (beginner) French Pastry Chef!

I finally did it! I went to a cooking class with La Cuisine Paris a couple days ago and learned how to make croissants, pain au chocolat, pain suisse, pain au raisin, and then a bunch of other pastries I don’t remember the names of. Turns out they’re all made with the same croissant-butter dough so it was really easy to make a bunch of things when everyone had a slab of their own dough!

Pain au chocolat in the back, and something the teacher called a "basket" with the jelly in it
Pain au chocolat in the back, and something the teacher called a “basket” with the jelly in it

The entire class lasted three hours. The process of making the croissant dough is actually very complicated as it involves folding (like literal folding) a block of butter (yes that’s right) into the dough. However once you have the dough the hard part is over and it’s pretty simple to shape them into the correct shapes.

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Putting chunky sugar on top of these pinwheel things

I doubt I could ever recreate these on my own especially since the specific butter and flour would be difficult to find in the US, but I’ll probably spend a good week of my life this summer trying!

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Pain suisse: which has to be my favorite french pastry ever. That would be vanilla pudding/custard in there under all those chocolate chips!

At the end of those very labor intensive three hours, when the pastries came out of the oven we all looked a little bit like this:

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We were hungry.

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The end results! From left to right: pain au chocolat, those basket things, pain suisse (my favorite ❤ )

Then they brought us some tea and coffee and we all ate as much as we could!

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One of our croissants before I ate it

Then because there was still trays upon trays of croissants left, we were all given bags to take the remaining pastries:

So this is what happened
So this is what happened

All in all it was a successful morning and I can honestly admit I couldn’t even look at croissants and pastries the rest of the day!

I’m considering going back to the same place sometime this semester to learn how to make macarons (macaroons for all you English people) but it’s pretty expensive! But I suppose it’s worth the money to be able to tell people that I’m now a French pastry chef! What else did people expect me to learn when I came to France??

"Oh I don't know, maybe FRENCH??" -my parents
“Oh I don’t know, maybe FRENCH??” -my parents 

Moving beyond food: the first week of classes just ended, I snagged an internship, and even grabbed another pair of cheap opera tickets and went to see the German opera Ariadne auf Naxos! Stay tuned for a more in depth explanation 🙂

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How to: Paris Opera Edition

Dear future boys seeking to win my affection,

Opera tickets. Buy me opera tickets.

As I’m typing these very words I’m listening to opera music on YouTube. I have the terrible feeling that one day someone is going to ask me what I’m listening to and I’m going to have to tell them that I have fallen in love with the opera and it now owns my soul.

Because the opera was all like:

and I was like "Fine with me!"

And I was like:

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Sweet Briar, the program I’m studying abroad with, takes us out on excursions every so often to plays, and guided tours within Paris. A few weeks ago they took us on a guided tour of Opéra Bastille, the modern opera house in Paris completed in 1989.

The Opera Bastille
The Opera Bastille

Contrary to popular belief, most operas in Paris are actually held at this new building and not the historical, Opera Garnier, which the Phantom of the Opera is tied to. Opera Bastille is newer and therefore has better acoustics and now holds the most operas while Opera Garnier shows more ballets.

The Opera Garnier: fancy huh?
The Opera Garnier: fancy huh?

Our tour was like a dream come true. Our tour guide took our small group of 5 people to not only the empty amphitheater, but to the “super-secret” side passageway that led straight onto the stage. I went backstage at the Paris Opera. 

Backstage. At the OPERA.
Backstage. At the OPERA.

The crew on stage was currently working on moving all of the Nutcracker’s props onto one large square area, so that the elevator underneath could raise the entire square up so that the decorations could quickly be moved into one of the massive storage rooms that were also behind the stage and could move in the props for that night’s show.

We walked around the sets for La Boheme and Don Giovanni and then he took us down to the 6th sublevel of the opera house where they store the oldest props and make the new ones for the coming seasons. Basically, the opera house is an iceberg.

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You only see that cute little top part and you have no idea of the monster that lies beneath.

One of the questions I made sure to ask our guide was how to get cheap opera tickets.

How to get cheap opera tickets:

1. Buy 6 months in advance: They start selling tickets for a piece about 6 months in advance, meaning if you want one of those 15 or 35 euro tickets, you need to act fast. After I visited the Opera Bastille I waited for the ticket office to open and bought one of the remaining 15 euro tickets to see Swan Lake… in April. (The tickets went on sale mid-november and I bought mine November 22, just a few days after they started selling them) They’re not good seats, but hey, I’m guaranteed to see Swan Lake and for only 15 euros.

2. Super lucky young adult deal way: Last Friday morning I woke up as usual and was eating breakfast when I got a text from the opera. The opera texted me.

Basically the text told me that there was a special deal for young adults (under 26) to see the opera La Boheme this Sunday at 2:30pm. They were selling tickets in the second best area of the entire theater that normally cost 180 euros for only 30 euros. 

Me reading that text
Me reading that text

Basically, I had a panic attack, woke up my friends with frantic phone calls and hurriedly purchased my ticket. Two hours later my friend decided to go as well and she scooped up the last ticket.

Why did the opera text me? Because in order to purchase tickets online, or to even look at the prices for that matter, I had to sign up for an account on their website which asked me for my french cell phone number.

So basically, I made that account about a week ago and I’ve already gotten one of these “Young Adult” deals. Who knows how often these deals pop up? My advice: get an account at operadeparis.fr as soon as you can in order to benefit from the 26 and under deals!

Oh and my seat at La Boheme: AMAZING. I was in row 7 of the orchestra, my friend: row 3. I could see the expressions on the actors faces!

3. Super-super risky/lucky way: Apparently if you show up an hour and a half before the show starts the opera will start to sell the remaining seats for 30 euros. (My tour guide told me this so it’s definitely a thing, but I haven’t tested it yet) In short: you might get lucky, you might not. Definitely have a backup plan in mind just in case your opera plans fail!

The actual opera: La Bohème

Bohemian Paris of the 1800s, a story of love and of course loss. Stupid tuberculosis.
Bohemian Paris of the 1800s, a story of love, and of course loss. Stupid tuberculosis. Also I walked through this exact set only the week before. All that snow? Tiny pieces of paper!

I was actually shocked at how much I liked it. The vibrato in their voices really adds to the emotion you feel during the piece and I felt myself tearing up in the final act, when the main character laments the loss of his love.tumblr_m32kilRJ1y1r9fj13

Thankfully, there were subtitles in both English and French, so I understood everything and I read the plot of the opera beforehand just to make sure.

But do you realize how hard it is to restrain myself from buying the expensive opera tickets now? Don Giovanni will be playing on my birthday in February, yet tickets are already 100 euros! I sincerely hope that these “young adult” offers come often and that I will be able to get to see all the ones I want to! (Aka ALL THE OPERAS)

If you guys have any questions about the opera or how to get tickets leave me a comment!

Don’t miss a single blog post of my entire adventure! Please subscribe (click Follow blog via email in the column on the right!) to receive this blog’s updates via email! Also, I love getting feedback so please comment!