Julia SMU-in-Paris

Julia is a junior from Plano majoring in history, with a French minor, and is a member of the University Honors Program. She is studying abroad with SMU-in-Paris in fall 2007.

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Un Mois a Paris

I’ve officially been in France for a whole month, and while at first thought I can’t believe it’s already been that long, I definitely am starting to miss some things from home, specifically television and a clothes dryer! As Midterms are approaching next week, classes have gotten very intense with lots of reading, papers, and homework.

Last week I finally got access to the Bibliotheque Nationale de France (BNF) for my advanced History research class! It was a bit intimidating having to speak to the BNF officials completely in French, explaining exactly what I was researching and why the BNF would help. It was definitely a test of my French skills! I know my French professors and tutor would be very proud of how well I handled it!

The BNF is what I imagine the “Ministry of Magic” (from Harry Potter) to look like. It is an ultra-modern building constructed in four glass towers that are actually supposed to represent opened books. (Personally, I think it’s kind of stupid to keep books in glass towers that are exposed to the sun most of the day, but I guess I’m wrong…) Once inside, I have to swipe my card to get access to the bottom level where I can actually access my books. The entire library is decorated in an ultra-modern way, with deep red carpet, very high ceilings with exposed pipes and very modern furniture.

Dr. Kahan explained to me how to “order” books. The BNF is not like normal libraries. In order to view certain books, you have to order them from the library and are given a specific time to look at them. You cannot check out books, so I have to spend a lot of time at the library taking notes and reading. I’m currently researching a Catholic religious sect called the Jansenistes in 17th-century France, which should make for a very interesting research paper.

For my Art History and other History class I have also often been going to the Louvre, observing the pre-Impressionist painters such as Rubens, Constable, Turner, and Fragonard as well as images of the kingly power for History. I really like having class in the Louvre. At first I was skeptical of having class in the Louvre again because I spent nearly 18 hours this summer with Dr. Freidel at the SMU-in-Paris Summer Study Abroad, but I still find the Louvre a fascinating place. It just goes to show that no matter how many times you can be in the Louvre, there is always more to see!

Unfortunately, according to many French journalists, the government is expecting a public transportation strike to begin on October 18. I really hope the government and public transportation employees can come to a compromise before October 18 because a strike of that magnitude would mean all the buses, metro system, and RER trains would be shut down, leaving only taxis (which would undoubtedly raise rates) and walking as the only modes of transportation. I’m a good 45-minute walk to school, so let’s hope that doesn’t happen!

Now I have to buckle down and get to studying for my midterms!

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