Understanding America from the Outside

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Being removed from American soil, where I have lived the majority of my life, has given me a new understanding of my label of “American.” In the academic setting, my American Foreign Policy module has forced me to think of the United States in a whole new context. One of the first questions posed to the class was: Is or was the United States an empire? When I hear the word empire, I think about the British during the 17th century, certainly not my home country which started out as part of that British Empire. The class’s discussion leaned more towards the notion that the United States was an empire, even today! The short colonization of the Philippines and Cuba are discussed; however, the main point of discussion was that the United States is a militaristic empire today. In 150 countries the U.S. has active duty military troops. For the argument of an American empire, this fact shows that there is an official American presence almost everywhere.

My absolute favorite way of learning about my country through my time here has to be talking to my new friends and classmates. I have learned the over arching thoughts about my country just from these interactions alone. During the conversations I have found: 1. Guns or Obama will, at some point, be topics of conversation. 2. We are seen as incredibly friendly (sometimes exceedingly so). 3. The U.S. prices of clothes, food, and any other goods are considered dirt cheap.

In the process of writing this blog post on about being an American in England, I am beginning to remind myself of little things I miss from the good ole U S of A. In the shops and stores here, no one comes up to you and asks if you are need any help, nor does the cashier ask if you found everything okay, nor do they say “have a good day!” or make chit-chat.  It is surprising how much I miss the little, super-friendly interactions each day with strangers.  Another small cultural tidbit I miss is the dollar bill, oddly enough! Here the smallest denomination of paper currency is a £5 note! I need to get used to the £1 and £2 coins, because that’s a lot of money (especially for a college student)! I simply cannot write off the coins as petty change as I would back home.

The British coins come in 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, and £2, and the smaller valued ones hold a special secret that I only recently discovered! When all are placed in a certain arrangement they complete the image of the Coat of Arms in the United Kingdom.

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As I’ve written before I feel like I am learning new words each and every single day. Here’s yet another list of vocabulary from across the pond:

Quid: a term than can be used interchangeably with the unit of currency ‘pound’. For example, if an item is marked £20.00 can say that it costs twenty quid.

Tea: this means what you think it means, but in addition to being a hot beverage it is your dinner. Example: What are you having for tea? Oh just fixing myself some vegetables and potatoes.

Eggy bread: French toast!

“x”or “xx”: Usually found at the end of a text message or Facebook message; meant to mean a kiss, but it is not necessarily romantic. This mark can just be friendly.

Courgette: Zucchini

Aubergine: Eggplant

Squash: a very popular, usually fruity liquid that is added to water.

The adventure went to the seaside this past week! Specifically, I traveled to the seaside towns of Sheringham and Hemsby. Both towns were beautiful, but held an eerie presence. They are very unusual compared to the beaches of New Jersey. The first two pictures are of Hemsby and the third and fourth are of Sheringham.

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Can you see the wind turbines out at sea? They really contributed to the eerie, but serene feeling at these British seaside towns.

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Thank you for reading!

~ A Paradise Called Valencia ~

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After the end of midterms, getting to know Spain and its culture resumed. This time, my journey took me to Valenci, the third largest city in Spain located on the east coast of the country. Valencia was once a part of the Roman Empire; it was conquered by Moors (medieval Muslim invaders coming from Northern Africa who conquered parts of Spain, Portugal and France) for about 500 years and then eventually re-conquered by Spain in 1238, so the city has an incredible amount history, which is reflected through its architecture and its people. I’ve learned so much in the 48 hours that I was there and enjoyed the scenery to the max! It is actually my favorite place in Spain so far—sorry Madrid :(

After a short 4-hour train ride, we checked into our hostel and strolled through the city for a couple hours on a lovely Friday evening. We walked by Plaza de la Reina, Plaza de la Virgen, Valencia Cathedral and many more landmarks that were simply beautiful in every possible way.

Nighttime view right off the train

Nighttime view right off the train

Sooooo this is their train station.......

Sooooo this is their train station…….

The next day we walked through half (about 45 mins) of the ‘Garden of the Turia,’ which is a long park that was created on the Turia riverbed after redirecting the river due to the 1957 flood. The riverbed was turned into a park as a strategy to increase tourism and as a way for locals to move through the city without dealing with traffic. At one end of the park, there’s the City of Arts and Science, which is the most modern part of Valencia. It’s comprised of six parts; El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía – opera house and performing arts center; L’Hemisfèric – IMAX cinema; L’Umbracle – garden; El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe – a science museum; Ágora – a venue for different events; Oceanografic – largest aquarium in Europe. The different parts were opened one-by-one starting 1998 to 2005. The architecture is astounding and one of a kind so here are some pics!

Walking through "Garden De La Turia", soooo beautiful!

Walking through “Garden Of The Turia”, soooo beautiful!

Palau De Les Arts Reina Sofia

Palau De Les Arts Reina Sofia

Agora

Agora

L'Umbracle

L’Umbracle

Oceanographic

Oceanographic

Museo De Las Ciencias Principe Felipe

Museo De Las Ciencias Principe Felipe

Hemisferic

Hemisferic

Panaromic View of the City of Arts and Science

Panaromic View of the City of Arts and Science

Had to pose for a selfie!

Had to pose for a selfie!

On our last day we took a walking tour that our hostel (Red Nest Hostel) was providing. It was a tour of “The Old City” and that’s where I got to learn all about the city’s history and culture. Here are some notable cultural points about Valencia!

Paella A.K.A Love!!

Paella A.K.A Love!!

Paella is widely knows as Spain’s traditional food but it originated in Valencia. It came to happen when the Moors were in Valencia and they brought rice and other ingredients with them so it became a tradition from then on. It is usually made with seafood but I am not a big fan of sea food so I got the Valencian Paella, which was made with chicken, rabbit and vegetables; it was amazing!!

Horchata and Pastry!

Horchata and Pastry!

Horchata is a traditional Valencian drink made with nut milk, water and sugar. It is also common to find Horchata with cinnamon in other parts of the world and that is what most people are familiar with. The classic way to have it is by getting Horchata and pastry, and dunking it in!

Valencian Flute in Plaza de La Virgen

Valencian Flute in “Plaza de La Virgen”

Valencia Cathedral

Valencia Cathedral

The Valencia Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Cathedral build in 1238 after it was re-conquered by Spain. If you look closely, you will see that there is the Star of David on top of the gate, which naturally does not belong there. Our guide told us it was a matter of money! When the cathedral was being built, they did not have enough funds to finish it so Jews provided the fund but wanted the star to be put up in return. That simple.

What is left of the walls that used to surround the old city

What is left of the walls that used to surround the old city

Valencia is almost a middle ground between Madrid and Barcelona! There is the modern and industrialized part of city like Barcelona and there’s also The Old City, which resembles Madrid. However, they are still not as famous so there are less tourists and it is less crowded and that is what I loved most!

Bon Appétit!

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Everyone who travels knows that one of the best things about visiting new places is getting to try new food. Big cities especially have a large selection of restaurants that not only represents the national cuisine but also food from around the world. I have found many different restaurants in Philly that take me to a different place the moment I step inside. Paris, of course, is a whole other world.

My experience with food has been an interesting one so far. I am a vegetarian and also lactose intolerant, two pretty terrible things to be when living in Paris. I decided before my trip that I would be more lax when it came to trying meals containing meat or dairy so I wouldn’t be holding myself back from trying new things, but it’s been a bit difficult since I really don’t like meat and dairy makes me feel sick. When it comes to home cooking, I’m super lucky because I have the best host mom in the world who takes my dietary needs into consideration. In general, I’ve been able to avoid the two without missing out.

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AMAZING gelato on Montmatre (that I couldn’t eat- my friends got some!)

First, let’s talk about…. Bread. I know that I’ve exhausted this subject already, but humor me. I’ve always been a bread lover, but coming to Paris has turned my crush into a full-blown love affair. There are boulangeries on every street with breads of different sizes and colors, ranging from long, pale yellow baguettes, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, to grainy-brown rectangular loaves with nuts sprinkled on the top. Every meal here is served with some form of bread, and it’s always my favorite part. I buy it almost daily; there have been two life-altering experiences when I bought a baguette that happened to be fresh out of the oven and took a bite right in the store. Oh. Mon. Dieu. The bread here is so good that I never put anything on top of it.  I honestly don’t know what I will do without French bread when I return to America.

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We all know what my favorite part about this meal was! (Hint: it’s to the right of the picture)

Of course, I have been eating other things since I’ve been here. Another incredible food experience that I’ve had in Paris involved the Marais and a falafel. There are many places that you can buy a falafel sandwich in the Marais, but only one place where you can buy the best: L’as Du Fallafel. Oh la la la la. Every time I’ve passed this place, there has always been a huge line. A couple weeks ago, my friend Lexi and I decided to to go and get one. It was about a 20 minute wait. I wasn’t super hungry so I didn’t expect to eat the whole thing, but that premonition vanished into thin air after my first bite. Lexi and I just kind of looked at each other and kept eating, literally stunned into silence over how good it was. If you’re ever in Paris, I highly recommend that you 1. go to the Eiffel Tower at night and 2. spend eight euros in the Marais to have the best falafel of your life.

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This sandwich lasted about 8 minutes, tops.

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L’as Du Fallafel: best place to get a falafel in Paris.

There have been other incredible eating experiences that I’ve had here in Paris, such as the amazing meals cooked for me by my host mom, the Bordeaux that is mere miles away from its original source and drunk at many meals, the many hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurants discovered by my friends and me, the fresh produce bought at little side markets on the streets, and, of course, the countless cafés everywhere you look. There are many things I miss about the states, but food, at least thus far, isn’t one of them.

“It’s about that time”

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I’ve reached a point in the semester that I find some study abroad students referring to as “it’s about that time.” “It’s about that time” when it’s a little over a month into the semester and midterms are coming up, so the inevitable stress kicks in and everything that used to be fun and adventurous becomes stressful as well; you realize your family and friends are not exactly what you would call “right by your side” and the thought of that stresses you out; and also, it’s getting cold! To precisely define this time, it’s basically homesickness. My remedy? Parks and phone calls! If my professors decide that they all want to have midterms on the same day, I will find a nice park, ease myself through nature and study. Luckily, Madrid makes that very easy!

It’s times like these when I thank god for making me wanderlust…….. and for the Internet. Over the past month, I have run into a couple parks or green areas where I thought to myself “I can come here and study” and the time has come. Last week, a couple days before my first midterm, I needed somewhere to study and my super blue room was not helping me with staying focused so I went to Canal De Isabel II (or sometimes known as Parque Santander). This park has a big golf area in the middle, a track that goes around it for those who want to run, a beautiful area with fountains and a nice, quite area with benches, which is where you’ll find me most of the time. I was definitely able to get some studying done in peace without feeling suffocated in a room.

Canal De Isabel II

Canal De Isabel II

Canal De Isabel II

Canal De Isabel II

Canal De Isabel II

Canal De Isabel II

So after the success of my first park study session, I googled the next closest park to my house, which was Parque del Oeste, so I packed my bag, popped the address into Google maps and headed out there. It was about a 20-minute walk from my house and it did not disappoint. This one is less recreational so there is a large grass area with trees where people sit and have picnics. If you go deeper, it seems endless, so I had to remind myself I was there to study—I took a seat and got to work! I saw an ad for a cable car ride from Parque del Oeste to Casa de Campo (another huge park), so I will definitely be going back there soon!

Parque Del Oeste

Parque Del Oeste

Parque Del Oeste

Parque Del Oeste

 

Parque Del Oeste

Parque Del Oeste

Unfortunately, it is getting colder by the day now so I have had to move my outdoor study adventures indoors. I am starting to explore the hundreds of cafes in Madrid now. My favorites so far are La Rollerie and Monkee Koffee. They’re both small, cozy cafes tucked in between small shops on my way to school. For all of you tea lovers out there, these are the type of places to keep an eye out for! I stop at one of these two after school or the gym to enjoy the calm atmosphere and have some tea!

 

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Tea time! (La Rollerie)

Homesickness is expected when studying abroad so when it comes, finding the right way to deal with it is important. For me, just a phone call to my parents and a reminder of why I chose to study abroad in the first place is enough to bring me back to reality. If that doesn’t help, I look back at the past month of my life and think of the incredible experience I have had and amazing people I’ve met, and that gets me as excited as the first day I arrived in Madrid!

Getting cultured

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One of the main reasons I chose Spain as my study abroad destination is because it’s a country with rich culture and history. I wanted to explore and better understand the Spanish culture to the best of my ability and I can say I am making progress. Just by being here and walking around the city, I have learned a lot. I attended a ballet show by The National Dance Company in Spain as they celebrated their 35th anniversary at Teatros del Canal where I learned about the history and importance of ballet in Spain. Let me tell you a little about what I have been able to pick up so far and what I have learned at the show!

The first thing I noticed that made me happy is the respect Spaniards have for their elders. For a reason that I have not yet figured out, the area where my school is located is highly populated with the elderly so I’ve had a couple encounters with them. They are very friendly and it is very noticeable how much the younger generation respect their elders simply by the way they look at them, maneuver around them when walking and help them at times of difficulty.

Effort goes a long way!! Local residents appreciate the effort you put into speaking Spanish regardless of how good you are. Waltzing into a restaurant and trying to order your food in English without trying to explain what you want in Spanish (especially in traditionally Spanish restaurants) can be considered disrespectful. Speaking a language without knowing exactly what you are saying is difficult but it is also part of the experience. Just last week I ordered my food perfectly in Spanish and mentally patted myself on the back! My motto for this semester is practice makes perfect :).

I took a big step in understanding the arts aspect of the Spanish culture when I attended a ballet show by Compañía Nacional de Danza (The National Dance Company) at Teatros del Canal. I researched the company prior to the show to understand their story and found that it was established in 1979 as “The National Classic Ballet of Spain” and was directed by Victor Ullate. According to Marca España (a Spanish newsletter), CND was created with “the objective of presenting the entire works of Spanish dance and Flamenco to the world, to bring greater fame and recognition to our culture” and that it did! The show was beautifully choreographed and the audience was engaged! The audience did not make a sound during a show and clapped from the second they finish a number until the curtains touched the floor. The show was an hour and a half with a 20-minute break after the first hour.

Teatros De Canal

Teatros Del Canal

Sara and I before the show! (Sorry, no pics allowed during the show)

Sara and I before the show started! (Sorry, no pics allowed during the show)

 

We went to the theater about 45 minutes prior to the show and noticed that the crowd was a mix of all generations. There was a layout of different outfits from different plays that have been and are being performed in the hallway at the theater. Even though Spanish people (particularly women) tend to dress up more than the average American, a social outing like this one calls for a very well-dressed crowd so I’ve been trying to keep up!

 

Layout of outfits at Teatros de Canal

Layout of outfits at Teatros de Canal

My favorites! I couldn't pick one

My favorites! I couldn’t pick one haha

Here is a link to The National Dance Company’s website if you want to learn more about them! http://cndanza.mcu.es/es/

Deeper Cultural Observations…. & Montmatre

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Unquestionably, there are many cultural differences between the U.S. and France. A full month in a new country has allowed me to observe some of these differences more fully.

There are some that that I love and others that I’m not thrilled with. For example, while walking on the streets or in the metro, I’ve never seen one person smile in passing—everyone keeps their heads down or looks away if your eyes happen to meet. In the U.S., people will smile or say hello when your paths meet, and I miss the warm smiles of friendly strangers. The French are also much more frank. “O la la, Danielle, vous ne l’avez pas bien sur votre essai, vous avez fait?” (“Danielle, you didn’t do so great on your test, did you?”) said my Grammar professor to our class of three students. Malheureusement, it was true, but he then continued to talk about all the things I had gotten wrong on my test. Yikes. In the U.S., that’s illegal, but here in France it’s apparently perfectly normal. A friend was also recommended a certain kind of face wash by a saleswoman for “all the blackheads that she had.” There are no pretenses here in France.

One of the biggest differences that I’ve observed so far is our different views on work and work ethic. In the U.S., hard work is praised and encouraged almost more than any trait. In school, it’s a competition to be the student with the hardest major or the most work (in my family, I definitely lose that battle, with a twin in neuroscience and a brother in pre-med), and 20-somethings are known to do pretty much any job and work any amount of hours per week right out of college. I saw this culture in its  most extreme embodiment this summer when I interned in Washington, D.C. It is a cut-throat environment and everyone is killing themselves to get to the top of their fields.

In France, however, things are slightly different. The national average for a work week is 35 hours as opposed to 40 in the U.S. During the week, shops and museums will be closed from 12:00 to 2:00 so workers can have a lunch break. The majority of stores are closed during Sundays, and vacation time is 4-5 weeks as opposed to 2 in America. Don’t get me wrong: the French are very hard-working, especially the university students. They also seem to realize that there is a time and place for work and a time and place for relaxing. It makes sense: you work to make a better life for yourself, but if all your life consists of is work, then what are you working so hard towards? We might call them lazy, but I’m pretty sure the French are the ones who are having the last laugh (in their beach chairs, on their one-month long vacations in Cannes).

So, I’ve definitely been benefitting from the laid back culture through our 3-day weekends. This Friday, we went on a little excursion to Montmatre, a hill in Paris famous for many different things, including the Roman-Catholic church, the Sacré-Cœur. We went specifically to get a tour of the vineyard there, the Clos Montmatre. We got a little tour (en français, bien sûr) then walked around to see the Sacré-Cœur and look at the street vendors surrounding the area. Even though there was a lot of walking involved, the trip was a relaxing way to absorb some more of the French culture, and I’m learning to appreciate the concept of work-life balance.

 

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Clos Montmatre

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Lexi, me, and one of Paris’s adorable side streets.

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Sacré Cœur

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Montmatre is known for its amazing view of the city.

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English Academia & the Opposite of It

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I’m beginning to feel more at home at UEA. Slowly, my time here is becoming more of a college experience and less like a vacation. (It’s certainly still amazing though!)

The "ziggurats" of the University of East Anglia add a mysterious and futuristic feeling to campus.

The “ziggurats” of the University of East Anglia adds a mysterious and futuristic feel to campus.

Sunset over the UEA campus. Student accommodation are on the left side of the photograph.

Sunset over the UEA campus- student accommodations are on the left side of the photograph.

My classes, also known as modules, only began in full last week. Compared to what I am used to with Temple, this is such a late start! Some of my Temple friends are starting to have midterms, whereas I have only had a single graded assignment so far. Starting later is just the first way in which studying here is very different.

I only have three classes this semester, compared to my usual course load at Temple where I would take five or six per semester. My classes for the fall include: America in the World: The History of U.S. Foreign Relations, English Legal Process, and Introduction to Anthropology. Each of these classes are equivalent to five credits. In total, for all three classes, I have a mere five assignments which count towards my final grades. For English Legal Process I have one assignment…worth 100 percent of my grade! Not like that’s any pressure or anything! The past two years at Temple University has made me more accustomed to smaller assignments, projects, quizzes and exams being assigned with greater frequency. I have been cautious of my seemingly greater amount of free-time. The amount of reading assigned weekly is intimidating; therefore, I have been using this more flexible schedule to stay on top of it and keep the large final assignments in mind.

Another discrepancy is the types of assignments included in the syllabus. Summative and formative assignments are listed in each of my classes. The summative assignments are the few which are graded and count as the final grade. On the other hand, the formative assignments count for zero points towards my final grade, yet they are still rather large tasks such as a paper or a presentation. My first reaction to this was confusion and I was a little upset. Why do I have to work so hard on an assignment that was not going to affect my final grade at all? With closer inspection, I realized that the formative assignments were similar to that of the summative assignments. The formative assignments are purely for the instructor to give you feedback in order to score as best as possible for when it counts.

Apart from learning about English academic cultural practices, every day I am still learning about popular culture. The most interesting tidbit I learned this week was that there is a British equivalent to the ‘reality show’ Jersey Shore! It is called The Only Way is Essex, abbreviated as TOWIE. Just like Jersey shore, the cast of TOWIE are represented as fake tanned, party-loving, and not the most intellectual people. I never expected something like this, but I found it hilarious! Pictured below is the cast of TOWIE.

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No matter if its from the classroom or the “telly,” all experiences here are filling me with fresh and exciting knowledge. More awaits me in the upcoming week. Thank you for reading about my third week in Norwich, UK!

Barcelona: Weekend Getaway

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Everyday is an experience while studying abroad even if you do not do anything extraordinary. There is plenty to do on a regular day to keep you busy that a weekend getaway to relax and replenish your energy is useful in more ways than one. When studying abroad in Madrid in the fall, it is better to plan your trips as early in the semester as possible before it gets cold, especially when your destination has a beach right in the middle of the city! Barcelona, located in the north east of Spain, has a lot to offer to study abroad students like myself in terms on history and entertainment. In this blog, I will write about my weekend getaway and give you one more reason to study abroad if you are having doubts.

There is nothing more comforting than knowing you can take a weekend trip to the number one beach city in the world (according to the National Geographic Traveler) without breaking your bank. Barcelona is the 2nd largest city in Spain, the capital city of Catalonia which rich in history, architecture and has a diverse population. I spent my first day at Barceloneta, one of the most popular beaches in the city, relaxing and mingling with other tourists and local residents. Later that evening, we joined some of our new friends to enjoy a calm evening of their rooftop over looking the Sagrada Familia, a large Catholic church.IMG_3919

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Javier Mariscal’s Funky Lobster

On our last day, we walked around the city because there was just so much to see on the streets. We ran into a couple of small-sized flea markets where many historical items were being sold and many of the vendors were happy to tell us the stories behind their items once we got past the language barrier. We then took a 90-minute cruise of the port over looking many different beaches and got a glimpse of the city from a different point of view.

My weekend in Barcelona allowed me to notice similarities and differences between these two Spanish towns. Both Madrid and Barcelona are big cities, which makes them both popular tourist destinations. However, personally I observed that Barcelona is more modern and offers a kind of hyper experience while Madrid still has that big city vibe, is more cultural and more conservative. I also found that many more locals spoke English in Barcelona than in Madrid.

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Cruise!

Utilizing your weekends to the maximum is essential while studying abroad and studying in Madrid gives you an advantage in terms of location. I certainly enjoyed my trip to Barcelona and recommend it to anyone considering a visit!

Studying abroad gives students a unique opportunity to travel while in school and everyone should take advantage of it. It is simply the most eye-opening experience because it allows you to meet so many different people and view everything from a different perspective. I am slowly starting to understand how the Spanish culture shapes the Spaniard’s lifestyles and subsequently, I see how my culture has done the same for me without even realizing it!

Promener- To Walk

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Walking is ESSENTIAL in Paris. If there is one thing I do here more than eat baguettes, it is walk. Je promène. The verb actually translates closer to meaning “to wander” or “to stroll,” giving it a more carefree connotation.  It is used a lot in the French language because Parisians are much more apt to spend time people-watching at a café or lounging on a sunny park bench instead of running from one place to the next like us work-obsessed Americans.

So, I promène a lot here in Paris. I purposefully get myself lost because I’ve learned that it is the best way to discover new things.  One of my favorite places to wander is Le Marais. It is an area in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements (neighborhoods) that is home to lots of art galleries, restaurants and cafes, shops and boutiques, and, on the edge, the Seine. Le Marais is prime ground for people-watching and window shopping. The apartment buildings are some of the most beautiful (and expensive) in the city, and there is everything from expensive restaurants and boutiques to cheap boulangeries and vintage shops.

Although promener-ing is fun to do with a friend or two, I like the freedom of being able to choose my own path, looking down a side street to decide if I should let my feet float that way. Thursday afternoon, after a trip to the Vincennes Castle with my Paris Collage class, I decided to take the metro to Bastille instead of heading home. From there, I headed off down a side-street and began my solo adventure.

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Bastille

The weather has been unusually warm for early October; around 75 degrees at the peak of the day. First, I stopped in a boulangerie, bought a baguette, and ate it as I strolled around the little alleyways, looking into shop windows and stopping into a couple of them. I browsed some vintage stores then kept walking until I happened upon Place des Vosges, a park that I had been to before on a different walk.

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Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges is one of my favorite parks that I’ve been to in Paris. It’s pretty small as parks go (especially compared to Philly’s Fairmount!), but it is extremely charming and not super-crowded like the Jardin du Luxembourg or Tuileries. There were groups of teenagers playing cards on the grass and Parisian children playing in the sandboxes at the head of the park. I decided to sit down on the grass for a bit and enjoy the last glows of sunlight. After a while, I got up and continued to amble. For the remainder of the night, I happened upon another small park, an art gallery opening, and a gorgeous apartment building with layers of ivy sprouting up the walls.

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Apartment building in the Marais. I’ll be moving in next week.

Nothing particularly exciting happened, but that’s the magic of taking time to linger over the hidden wonder of the city. The faint light of dusk tinges everything with grace and delicacy, romanticizing the buildings and people of Paris even more than usual… Not all those who wander are lost.

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“Paris… is a world meant for the walker alone, for only the pace of strolling can take in all the rich (if muted) detail.”

-Edmund White

A New Friend

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Three weeks in, and I am feeling more at home in Paris than ever. I am learning to speak in simple phrases, I don’t have to pull out my map every time I get on the metro, and I finally know which way the gate opens in order to get out of my apartment complex! I also eat an entire baguette pretty much daily, which I’m not sure actual Parisians do… But, as the French say, c’est pas grave.

This past week, I visited a good amount of token tourist locations. One of the highlights of my week, however, was Wednesday afternoon. CIEE set up a rendez-vous with French high school students from one of the best high schools in Paris, Lycée Henri-IV. As we traveled to the school, we were all rather nervous because none of us speak French fluently and we weren’t sure how much English the French students knew. When we got to the school, we entered a huge room chock-full of smiling and eager-looking students. “Hello!” “Bonjour!” “Salut!” they said as we filed past them to take seats on the opposite side of the room. As we sat down and the introduction proceeded, American and French students alike eyed each other from across the room.

“… Et maintenant, we will pair you up!” said Lucie, our program advisor who had brought us to the school. A name boomed out over the loudspeaker…

“Lexi!”

I looked to my right where Lexi, my closest friend, was sitting, turning red as we American students clapped obnoxiously and the French students howled at whichever student of theirs was called.  Lexi and the French student whose name had been called proceeded to walk outside to have a conversation while the rest of us waited for our names to be called.

I now know how Harry Potter felt before his name was called during the sorting hat ceremony; slightly anxious but also very excited.  I didn’t have to wait long; I was the third name called out of about 40 students. I walked to the front of the room and was met by an adorable French girl whom I had noticed on my way in. We smiled at each other and walked outside to sit down on a bench. She knew much more of my language than I did of hers, but I asked her to speak to me in French anyway. The conversation ended up continuing in “Franglish;” we asked each other how old we both were, where we were from, and what we were studying. Anouck is 17 years old, she studies English and French literature, and she has lived in Paris all her life. She has also been to Britain, where she refined her conversation skills.

During the conversation, I learned that most people from France really want to travel to the U.S.! It had never occurred to me that people from the country that I have always dreamed of traveling to would want to come to the country that I was from. Even though Anouck and I were essentially on a blind date, the conversation couldn’t have gone better. One of my goals for my semester abroad was to make a French friend, and I have a feeling that I’ll be able to check that off my list soon.

Besides that, I went on a couple of essentially Parisian excursions, which included visits to the Jardin du Luxembourg, Notre Dame, and Shakespeare and Company. New places and new friends make for another remarkable week in La Ville-Lumière.

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Le Jardin du Luxembourg. From left to right: me, Lexi, Amanda, Jenn.

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Notre Dame

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Notre Dame and the Seine

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Shakespeare and Company: a English bookstore and American hub famous for being one of Ernest Hemmingway’s hangouts when he lived in Paris.