With the start of a new year, I would like to reflect on 2015. The year flew by faster than most because I traveled to various locations. Through a program conducted by Middlebury College, I studied in Paris from January to May. While I was there, I also had the opportunity to visit other countries in the European Union. For the summer, I remained in Paris to intern at a human rights organization. I then returned to the U.S. for senior year.
I gained a lot of valuable experience studying and interning in Paris. First and foremost, my French speaking and listening skills improved. Dining with my French homestay family as they discussed politics and family affairs; attending classes at La Sorbonne Nouvelle with French students and frantically scribbling down the professors’ lectures; listening to popular music and going to the movies; and socializing with Parisians—all combined to better my French tongue and comprehension.
Secondly, I learned how to balance activities outside the college bubble. Apart from academics, my schedule included grocery shopping; cooking; teaching English to young French children; interning two full days per week at La Fondation Scelles, a non-profit organization that researches prostitution; and using the métro which, surprisingly, consumes a fair amount of time due to the size of Paris. I also explored Paris by running through the Luxembourg Gardens and along the Seine.
Thirdly, I followed the physical traces of history by touring the Château de Versailles.Here, revolutionary forces captured the extravagant King Louis XVI during the French Revolution and French Prime Minister Clemenceau signed the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I. On the streets of Paris, I strolled through the passages couverts (commercial passageways) constructed in the late 18th century that marked Paris as a commercial center of the world. Following the steps of intellectuals Ernest Hemingway and Simon de Beauvoir, I sipped iced tea at Les Deux Magots café.
Fourthly, I feasted my eyes on art. I saw the progression of Pablo Picasso’s artistic style in the Picasso Museum, impressionistic paintings by Matisse, Monet and Manet at the Musée d’Orsay and, of course, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in the Louvre.
Lastly, I gained windows into the lives of those outside of my home and country. In contrast to my own family, who fled the Armenian genocide and immigrated to the U.S., the French family I lived with had ancestors that were French aristocrats. I also learned about the lives of individuals with different backgrounds from mine by interning at EACP, an organization that helps victims of sex trafficking exit the prostitution industry.
As much as I loved Paris, it was great to return to New London, the home of Connecticut College.
In comparison to the university I attended in Paris, Conn has fantastic facilities. At Conn, I learned Pilates in the dance studio, figure skated on the hockey rink, participated in free voice lessons in the arts center and ran in the woods surrounding campus. After having taken lecture-style courses in Paris, I appreciated returning to round-table discussions. One of my favorite courses, “The Novel and Globalization,” explored the meaning of the novel and globalization through fictional and theoretical texts. As pleased as I was in English class, I did not forget my French. I studied 18th century literature in a French course and organized francophone events, including a discussion with Professor Etoke on the refugee crisis in France.
Unfortunately, a fantastic semester ended tragically with the loss of a beloved student and fellow contributor to The Experience blog, Anique Ashraf. His death reminds us that our lives are temporary and that we must make the most of every day we have.
So, What’s Ahead?
I fortunately received a travel grant from The Center of International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA) to return to Paris over winter break to conduct research for my honors thesis in the English and French departments. I will visit the exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay entitled “Splendeurs et Misères: Images de la Prostitution” and national historical archives, meet with a literature professor at Paris III and with Connecticut College alumni living in Paris, and reunite with my homestay families and friends.
I am confident that my final semester will be as fantastic as the previous ones. I look forward to pursuing my passions and exploring new interests.