Brenda with SMU-in-Paris

Brenda is a junior majoring in journalism and French who is studying with SMU-in-Paris this fall.

Goodbye Doesn’t Have to Mean Forever

Brenda-1eiffel1.jpgWith two finals down and one left to go, enjoying my last few days in Paris has been rather difficult, but I am trying to soak up everything I can about this wonderful city before heading back to the States.

Brenda%20-16emaciated.jpgThese last few days have been filled with countless hours of studying, but also enjoying all of the little things that make me call Paris my own. Everything is in the final stages.

On Saturday, I went out with friends to the Champs-Elysees, and it is probably the last time that I will ever see the beautiful avenue lined with Christmas lights before heading home. On Monday, Brooke and I went to our favorite bar to meet up with our French friends. We have become the Monday night crew, and it was sad and almost surreal to realize that we will never see them again.

I have gone to my favorite sandwich shop, visited my favorite shopping areas, and walked all around the city. Everyday reminds me of why I love Paris so much, and it is because I always find myself discovering something new or something I had never seen before. Each part of Paris has its own personality, with little shops and cafes waiting to be discovered.

Brenda-1girlstower.jpgFour months pass by incredibly quickly. I remember thinking in May that September seemed so far away, and it would surely never come. But it came, and almost four months later, I am thinking of how quickly the time has passed. Where have my four months gone? But looking back, I know. There are four months of countless memories with new friends, visits to some of the most beautiful cities in the world, and experiencing what it truly to means to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Brenda-1rugbyeiffel.jpgLooking back, Paris will be a memory that will forever be carried with me wherever I go. Paris is certainly the city of lights, and in my mind, the lights will never fade or dim. After calling Paris my home for four months, the adventure is coming to a close and I could not have asked for anything more.

Change can be difficult, but living in a foreign city is the amazing kind of change … the kind of change that will affect your life forever.

“But here’s the truth: the more things change, the more they stay the same. And sometimes, oh, sometimes change is good. Oh, sometimes, change is … everything.”

And it certainly has been.

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The Road Goes Ever On

After nine chaotic days filled with mayhem, violence and disruptions, the strike finally ended (for good) on Monday.

Negotiations between Sarkozy and the labor unions have started and are scheduled to continue for the next three weeks. If, however, the labor unions are unsatisfied with the result of the negotiations, they have announced a possible “follow-up” strike on December 23. Luckily, I leave the 22nd, and I am hoping that the metro workers won’t decide to skip out a day early.

The next few weeks are mostly filled with schoolwork, gift and souvenir shopping, and trying to make the most of the little time I have left in this vibrant city. I am still amazed at how quickly this semester has flown by and how many things I’ve had the opportunity to see and experience.

I am looking forward to spending the next few weeks with friends and last-minute travels, but I will honestly say that I am most anxiously awaiting my return home. I have missed all of the little mundane things that I rarely ever give a second thought: running errands to the grocery store, driving in the car listening to music, and having the space to do anything and everything. I have missed my family and friends, my cat, and the comfortable feeling of home. Paris is a wonderful city, especially to visit, but living here has changed my perspective. I was not used to living in a big city with public transportation, and even less so with a language that I call myself “proficient at most” in. But now that I’ve been here and done it all – I wouldn’t change it for the world.

This has been quite an interesting semester with two different strikes, visits to over five countries, and countless memories and experiences with people I had never met before this trip. But now, I am going home with friends who have shared the same laughs, the same frustrations, and the same awkward moments. After a semester abroad, I feel blessed for everything that I’ve learned and everything I’ve experienced, and even more so appreciative of the things I had before.

Even after I leave, Paris will remain the same, with its vibrant lights, quick pace, and countless boutiques and cafes … but in my mind, Paris will be totally different. It will have been my home, my life, and my own adventure, for four amazing months.

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The French Version of Personal Space

The following is a true story. No details have been exaggerated and all events depicted really happened. If you don’t believe me, then I invite you to come to Paris when the metro workers “faire la greve” (go on strike) … and experience a “day in the life of a real Parisian.”

I have to backtrack a bit and explain my first strike experience here in France. It started the day before we were left for our trip to the south of France, and since I so conveniently had a midterm scheduled that day, it was out of the question for me to miss class. Well, the metros were not even worth bothering with, so I trekked the 2 hours to class and 2 hours home that night. Luckily it wasn’t 30 degrees at that point, so as horrible as it was getting home at 10 pm after walking for two hours, it could have been a lot worse.

Now I think I understand what “worse” means. Late this Tuesday night, seven labor unions went on strike, including the RATP and SNCF. The RATP includes the metro, bus, and tramway, and the SNCF includes all trains going out and coming into Paris. Here, all of the strikes are announced, so I knew it was coming (not like this made any difference, in any way). See BBC photos here.

The trip to school
The strike started affecting me yesterday morning, as I prepared to take the metro to school. I got to the stop 3 hours before my class, and there weren’t as many people as I expected. The metro cars were packed full when it pulled up, but there wasn’t a massive crowd of people waiting to get on. I tried getting on to no avail – no spots were open and the people in the cars weren’t letting others on. Right as the bell was ringing to announce the closing doors, I spotted a 2-inch opening on a car, and jumped on. I was completely squished up against the door and I almost didn’t make it on. People were pushing and shoving, and my face was touching the door, and my arms were flailed up against the door and other people. It must have been an interesting sight.

It gets worse: the next day
Since yesterday’s metro experience wasn’t that bad, I thought today would be the same way. Could I have been any more wrong? As I am nearing the platform this morning, I see hundreds of people on the first set of stairs (there are 2) on the way to the platform. I push my way through this mass crowd of people, and the platform is barely visible. All I see is a sea of people waiting to get on. I get up to the edge of the platform and a metro comes, but I couldn’t get on. I decide to wait, since the next one was due to arrive in 8 minutes. Well, 8 minutes turned into 25 minutes, in which more people came to the platform and were trying to push and shove their way through.

When the metro finally arrived, the cars were completely full to the brim, and barely anyone got out. I had to get on. I pushed and pushed, and I was barely standing on the edge. My feet were right where the door closes, and my bag wasn’t making it in. A man on the platform offered to push me and he tried pushing me so that the doors could at least close, but it did not help. Then people started yelling, screaming, saying that the doors weren’t closing because of me, and that I am crazy, and that I needed to get off and wait for the next metro.

No way, buddy. I had an in-class essay in French, my first class, and seeing as how this was going, I was already late. I stayed on, with people’s arms flailing, people trying to push me off, and incessant cursing in French. C’est la vie, non? (That’s life, right?) Yes, it is. I stayed on and dropped my bag to the floor of the car, put my arms on the top of the car and just lunged my body backward. Luckily the doors started to close, and I was in! People on the platform were just looking at me like I was completely nuts. It was every man for himself out there.

After an almost 45-minute metro ride, which is usually about 20 minutes, I made it off, gasping for air. There were times when I thought, “I am going to run out of air and pass out.” I had to keep getting on my tiptoes and pulling my head upward to get in fresh air. Nevertheless, I was fine, and I made it to class (late) but able to write my essay.

And worse: the trip home
I knew getting home would be a problem. Our cultural formations class doesn’t end until 6, and that usually means I’m hitting rush hour. Well, rush hour on strike is more like rush hour times 5. When I got to the metro stop, I waited and waited, and when the metro finally arrived it was, again, packed to the brim. I had to pull the same maneuvers as this morning. I was on the edge, the doors needed to close, so I put my hands on the ceiling, flung my body back, and made it.

The part I have forgotten to mention is that not only is getting on the hard part, but staying on is almost more difficult. With each stop, people from the back of the car would have to make their way forward, causing those of us at the front of the car to have to get off to let them off. Then the people who had been waiting on the platform would try to push their way through, which resulted in screaming, pushing, punching, and cursing. Luckily, I never got left behind, and I was able to really push my way through.

After an HOUR-long metro ride back home, I nearly didn’t make it off. During the course of the trip, I ended up in the back of the car squished up against three guys about a foot taller than me. I could feel myself short of breath the entire trip, but I kept perking my head up and getting on my tiptoes to try to get air. When my stop finally came, I had to start yelling, “Je descends, je descends!!” (I’m getting off) and “la porte, la porte!” (the door). People didn’t want to let others off for fear of losing their space, and my arm got trapped between three people. I could feel it bending and twisting, and for a moment I thought, “Great, if I didn’t suffocate myself to death on the metro, then I’m getting home with a broken limb. Superb.”

Luckily other people were pushing me through, and I was able to get off (having to shove about 5 people and screaming at them to get out of my way in the process).

I wish I could have gotten photographic evidence of the chaos that ensued this morning and afternoon. Even after a detailed description, I don’t think I have adequately explained the situation well enough, or rendered it justice. But, I keep telling myself, what did I come to Paris for?

The experience. And surely this was an experience I’ll never forget.

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All Around the World

I have been horrible at updating. Yes, I admit, it’s been almost a month since I even wrote one scrap of a word, but I have been traveling, and now that I am back in Paris for a good while, I will have more time.

brenda07-tropez.jpgFor the last three weeks everything has been almost non-stop. On October 19 I left early in the morning to meet the SMU group at the train station to go to Marseilles. We spent five days touring the south of France, which included visits to Marseilles, Hyeres, Giens, St. Tropez, Nice, and Antibes. All of these cities sit just along the Mediterranean, and the weather was beautiful the entire trip. I even managed to get some color on my already pasty skin (Paris is beautiful, but I am starting to wonder if I’ll ever see the sun again).

brenda07-prague2.jpgAfter returning from the south of France, I spent two days in Paris going to class and hastily preparing everything for fall break. Along with four friends, I left on Friday, October 26 for Prague in the Czech Republic. We arrived in Prague, and it was colder than Paris, but it is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. Prague looked like a picture out of a fairy tale, especially at night with lights lit up around the river. The buildings are castle-like, and there are towers and bridges all over the city.

After spending two nights in Prague, we left on Sunday for Rome. I’ve traveled all over Italy before, but I had never been to Rome. Rome was exactly what I expected it to be: classical and modern; upbeat and fun. I saw everything there was to see, including the Colosseum, the Roman ruins, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican/Vatican museum, and the Sistine Chapel. I got a crash course in Italian, and I spent the three days trying to communicate with the Italians via a mix of English, Spanish, and a few Italian words. Needless to say, Rome was beautiful and somewhere I want to return.

brenda07-athens.jpgAt the beginning of our fourth day in Rome, we headed to the airport for our final destination: Athens. I have been anxious to go to Greece since as long as I remember, and I cannot wait to return again. We spent three days in Athens, visiting the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena, and various other ruins. We took a day trip to Delphi, which is situated near the Corinthian Gulf and is surrounded by Mount Parnassus. We saw the museum in Delphi, the Temple of Apollo, some other ruins, and the famous “Oracle” from Delphi. Although the weather was rainy and a bit chilly, the mountains and the three-hour bus ride (each way) were a nice way to explore a less “touristic” part of Greece.

Returning back to Paris I found myself swamped with essays, papers, and assignments all due within the next week. I can’t believe that it is already mid-November, and that I only have a month and a half left to explore the rest of Paris and Europe. The semester flew by, and before I know it I will be boarding a plane back to Houston. But like I said in August, there is no turning back, there is no looking back, and for this I am eternally grateful. From here, there is only looking forward.

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Have a Little Faith

So far I’ve been trying to post mainly when something interesting happens, or when I have something to say. Well, it turns out that today I have something to say.

Arriving in Paris a month and a half ago was a relief after spending a few days living out of a suitcase, and coming “home” to a family that seemed so welcoming and accommodating was a great way to start the semester. I must say, that if there is ever a question of “most awkward moment in the history of the world” it would be living with a host family, in a different country, with a different language. Customs, traditions, and celebrations are all different.

I assume each family has their own expectations of the student they’re about to receive for the semester, just like us, as students, have our own expectations and worries about living with a complete set of strangers for four months. I won’t lie, it’s intimidating, it’s scary, and sometimes I wonder “what the heck was I thinking…” but I keep telling myself that it’s all well worth it. The experiences I have gained here in Paris and living abroad have not only opened up my eyes to my immediate world, but also to the world so far beyond me; the world I don’t see every day.

But going back to expectations, I wonder what my French host family envisioned when they received my papers from SMU. Did they expect a student that would spend all of their time studying, all of their time partying, all of their time becoming a part of the family, or a combination of all three? I don’t exactly fit into any one of those three categories, but I feel like the expectations my family had of me might not exactly fit with my personality. I do spend a lot of my time here studying (I actually feel like school is taking over too much of my time here in Paris, but that’s a whole other topic), but my motto is: “work hard, play hard.” After all, I didn’t come to Paris to stay locked up in a 5 x 10 foot bedroom staring at the apartments across the street.

I think because I’ve never been in a situation like this one, living with a set of strangers, it is still taking some getting used to. I feel a bit trapped. I am used to the freedom and liberty that I am offered by going to college 250 miles away from home. I feel as though each and every one of my moves is being monitored, and that I have to check “in” and “out” with my family when I am leaving. After almost three years of living on my own, it is hard answering the demands of people I hardly know, and adapting to life with five others around me.

Living with strangers, (while the term “host family” sounds less austere, at the moment you meet them, they really are nothing more than strangers) and becoming more than just a guest in their house takes work and a tough outer core. I have noticed that my French family is very outright and forthcoming, even when it creates excruciatingly awkward situations.

It seems I still have some things to get used to, but I know that when I look back in 6 months, 2 years, 10 years, etc, my experiences will have made an important contribution in helping me grow into the person I want to become. After all, it’s about having a little faith.

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A Few Words of Advice

I’ve been here for about a month and a half now, and I’ve learned a few things about French culture and French people that seem important enough to pass along.

1). Personal space. There is none. And by none, I mean, personal space is limited to your person (and even that is sometimes questionable). Everything else is fair game. The metro is an excuse to get awkwardly close to people you’ve never seen, and will never see again.

2). Smoking is not an option, it’s a way of life. Don’t be surprised if someone lights up in the middle of their meal (and yours as well). Nowhere and nothing will stop a Frenchman from smoking a cigarette (not even in the rather confined quarters of the metro).

3). Even though the little green man says it’s okay to cross the street, it really means beware. Crossing the street is like survival of the fittest. Cars will run you over, even if you have “the right of way.” Oh, and if you get hit, it’s your fault. No questions asked.

4). Smiling. What’s that? Don’t smile at a French person, especially on the metro. And especially if they are of the opposite sex (this goes mainly for girls). That is an open invitation for undesired attention and possibly harassment.

5). Walk like you know where you’re going, even if your surroundings look as familiar as Mars. People will run you over if you’re too slow, and you will get yelled at for being in the way (in French, which adds even more drama to the situation).

6). The street is the world’s largest toilet. Don’t be surprised if you walk by someone who decided to take a “restroom break” on the corner. This goes for dogs, birds, and yes, even humans.

7). Coffee is never served before or during dinner. Do not ask for that espresso that you’ve been craving all day to be served with your meal. You will get funny looks, the waiter will mutter something under his breath, and even when you’ve insisted that you’re not crazy and want it with your meal, he still won’t bring you your coffee until after dinner.

8). It’s still mooing. Meat is served and eaten raw. That nice filet mignon you ordered for 30 Euros might as well still be alive, and if you ask for it “bien cuit” (well cooked), you might as well whip out your passport and proclaim: “I’m American!”

9). Where’s the ketchup? Because apparently Americans love ketchup with everything, it will be brought out to your table, no matter what you’re eating. And if you happen to be living with an 18-year-old French boy, he’ll show you how much he loves ketchup by pouring it all over his spaghetti.

10). Don’t wash all of your jeans at the same time. If you happen to be doing laundry and need clean jeans, don’t put them all in the same load. Space out laundry over a few days, because dryers don’t exist. Au natural air drying is the only way, and nothing is more uncomfortable than walking around in 40 degree weather with wet jeans. Trust me on this one.

…a few things I’d wish I’d known … mainly to reduce culture shock.

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We adapt – or get left behind

There’s an old saying that goes something along these lines: “Too often we don’t realize what we had until it’s gone.” So true…or so I’ve come to realize since I’ve been here.

Now, I don’t want to give off the wrong impression, because I am having the time of my life here in Paris. I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to study here for four months and to be able to see everything that I have seen. But there are a few things about living here that I have not gotten used to (and I’m not sure that I ever will).

1. Nothing is open on Sunday. And I mean, absolutely nothing (sometimes Monday, as well … )
Going to the supermarket for the week’s groceries, going shopping (any kind of shopping) are necessities that I mistakenly took for granted back home. It is almost impossible to find an open market on Sunday. It is a sort of “dead” day.

2. Technology seems 5 years behind.
This is a sore subject for me. I have had some serious issues with the level of technology that I have encountered not only in France, but in Reid Hall (where we take class). The SMU student room has four computers, one of which will not even turn on (for the 22 students in the program). The computers are ancient and run the strangest operating system I have ever encountered, called Ubunto. The printer does not even print in color, and each copy from the SMU copy machine is 25 centimes, or 35 American cents (!!!!). I had an art history midterm on Monday, for which I prepared 60 paintings to print out to put on notecards, and if it wasn’t for my family’s printer, I would not have been able to study the way I wanted to. The computers in the student room lose the internet from time to time and will freeze up a document in the middle of working on it.

3. The metro closes at 12:30 am on the weekdays and 1:30 am on the weekend.
Don’t read into that statement too much; I don’t think I can adequately explain how easy and (sometimes) efficient public transportation is, but I feel like I am back in high school with a curfew. There are three options for getting home on the weekends: 1) leave before 1 to catch the last metro back home, 2) stay out until the metro reopens at 5:30 am, or 3) take a taxi, which can cost anywhere between 10 to 20 Euros ($14 to $28). So far I have managed to make it home when the metro closes, but I don’t feel like I have REALLY experienced Parisian nightlife.

Contrary to what it may sound like, this post wasn’t created so that I could complain or vent about the few frustrations I have encountered while living here, but to make light of some of the most noticeable differences between the US and France. The two countries seem so far apart, and not just distance wise. Life is different here, and that’s OK, because change is good, but it takes a while to get used to change, and some change I would rather not encounter. The amenities that we are given here in Paris (and that we are paying for in our tuition) do not even compare to what we have access to in Dallas. Granted, this is Paris, we don’t have a huge campus with WIFI everywhere, but there are necessities for school and our studies that we just don’t have access to, and that makes it even harder to get acclimated to our classes.

Every day I experience something different than I would back home, and I am enjoying it. Human interaction is different, as I have come to learn the hard way on the Metro. It’s a good change of pace, and I am going to make the most of it.

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Paris to BarTHElona

So I’ve been here in Paris, France, for over a month now, and I finally feel like the culture and experiences are starting to seep in. But more on that later, because it’s been a while since I’ve updated, and there has been a lot going on.

Last weekend, five friends and I took a trip to Barcelona. We left on Friday (VERY early in the morning, by the way) and got to Barcelona (or BarTHElona, as it’s pronounced by Spaniards) about mid-day. Let me sidetrack for a moment and talk solely about my experience with transportation.

We flew RyanAir (the low-cost airline), and the only airport that flies RyanAir near Paris is called Beauvais. Well, in order to get to Beauvais you have to take a bus. You meet the buses at a metro stop called “Porte Maillot,” and from there it is an hour ride to the airport (the buses coordinate with RyanAir flights, and they leave three hours in advance – so you can’t just show up and take the bus when you want).

brenda-memargebus.jpg Well, that may sound simple enough, but when it’s 5 a.m. and the metro isn’t open, options are somewhat limited. So the next best option was to a) take a taxi, or b) miss our flight. Naturally, we opted to take a taxi. My friend, Fed, picked me up at 5 with his taxi and our 15-minute taxi ride cost 25 Euro (i.e.: $35). When we were all finally at the bus, we got on and drove an hour to Beauvais. Here comes the really interesting part.

We check in for our flight, and waited at one of the three gates for our flight to arrive. We got on (with priority boarding, I might add) and we’re finally so excited to get to Barcelona. Then the plane takes off … making this excruciating buzzing noise that sounds like the whole contraption might just fall apart and send all of us flying into pieces to the ground below us. Once we reached “cruising altitude” the buzzing stopped. I think this is the moment when my stomach about dropped and I was pretty close to having a nervous breakdown, as were Brooke and Margaret, who happened to be sitting on each side of me. At that point I was thinking that the buzzing was normal and when it stops is when you have to worry…

But to make a long story short, we made it to Barcelona OK (the plane did not end up crashing, contrary to my beliefs the entire hour and a half trip…) and we had to take ANOTHER bus to get to central Barcelona. After another hour and some minutes on the bus, a metro ride, and a short walk, we finally arrived at our hostel. (Note: it was my first time in a hostel, ever).

Hostel life
Well, the hostel looked exactly like a dorm. You rent your towel and sheets for 3.50 Euro and you are given a “locker” with a “key” to put all of your stuff into (the door on my “locker” had fallen off so I had to cram all of my stuff into Brooke’s locker…) The room we were in slept 10, and there were six of us, so there were four random people we didn’t talk to that weekend. Talk about awkward. Oh, and the second night I came back and someone had stolen my pillow. But it’s all part of the experience (at least that is what I kept telling myself at 4 in the morning when I found out I didn’t have a pillow…)

brenda-gaudibuildings.jpgbrenda-groupGaudi.jpg My take on hostels is the following: if you’re a student traveling, experience it, it can be fun (and they’re not all completely sketchy – this one wasn’t) and have a true “hostel” experience. From the hostel we found fliers for a “Party bus” and we bought tickets and we spent our Friday night with 30 other students/young adults experiencing the city. I would recommend this to anyone traveling with friends who want to have a great time. You meet other students, it’s a great deal ($ wise), and you get to truly experience night life.

Saturday night was just as exciting and we went to a “hip” club called Razzmatazz, which has over five different rooms with different types of music, and TONS of people. The line to get into that place when we were leaving was longer than it was when we had come in!

Barcelona was a great place to visit and a very beautiful city. The beach was a great change from the rainy, cold streets of Paris, and all of the beautiful Gaudi architecture surrounding the city made the trip even better.

I’ll end this post and continue with my French adventures on another one, seeing as how this post could well be considered a short novel.

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This past weekend I spent three days in one of the most historical provinces known to France and the world: Normandy.

The history lesson started early Friday morning with a two-hour train ride to Le Havre from Paris. Once in Le Havre, we saw the main harbor built in the 1800s, and we learned about the main profession of the 19th century: ship making. From Le Havre we traveled to a tiny city called Bayeux, famous for its Notre Dame Cathedral, and a tapestry made in the 13th century.

But the focus of our trip was not just for pleasure, but for for an in-depth and personal study of France and America during and after the World Wars.

brenda-statue.jpg We awoke early Saturday morning and ventured to the World War II Memorial in Caen. The memorial chronicles French history from the beginning of WWI through the end of WWII, with many pictures, videos, and visualizations that appeal to your emotions.

Brenda-ceme.jpg Ending our visit to the Memorial with a video made from real WWII footage, we then traveled by bus to Colleville-Sur-Mer, home to the American Cemetery from WWII and the beaches of D-Day. The cemetery was built in 1944, after which France gave the land to the United States, and the land was granted special permissions to be recognized as American soil. 9,386 American military men are buried here, and there is a wall devoted to 1,557 soldiers whose bodies could not be identified or located.

After an emotional afternoon at the Memorial, the cemetery, and the debarkation beaches, we ended the day with a visit to the La Cambe German WWII Cemetery where 21,222 German military men are buried, of which 207 are unknown.

After two exhausting days, Sunday was a day for relaxation, and in the morning we spent our time at the Notre Dame Cathedral of Bayeux, and ended our trip with a visit to the famous Bayeux Tapestry. The tapestry is an embroidered work of art which chronicles the events leading up to the 1066 Battle of Hastings and the Norman invasion of England.

After eating lunch and making our way back the train station, we boarded our train back to Paris, and I took the two-hour train ride to reflect on everything I saw during the weekend.

Brenda-beach.jpg Since I can remember in history class, we’ve talked about World War II, the Holocaust, D-Day, and what the war meant not only for the United States, but for France, England, Germany, Russia, Japan and every other country that played a role in the war. Hearing about the beaches of Normandy and the moment when the Americans arrived ready for battle does not even begin to compare to what it felt like to see all of this in person. Just standing on the sand at Omaha Beach it was as if you could feel the history passing before you, and you could see the events that took place not so long ago.

Experiencing what the war meant not for you own country, but for a country that suffered so much devastation after the War is a moment in time which is inexplicable, and to do so would not render it the justice it deserves.

I’ll end this post with a quotation by Cicero:

“History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity.”

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Life Outside the Bubble

Sometimes I get really frustrated because in my head I have this clear picture of what it is I want to communicate through words, but when I sit down to write it down, it doesn’t exactly come out the way I want it to, or it doesn’t sound as articulate as I would like it to.

But recently, I have been doing a lot of thinking (that will hopefully translate into the written word) about my experiences here in France and about my time abroad. I have realized in the short amount of time that I have been here that there is a life outside of our bubble. Well, obviously, everyone know that. But do they understand it? Because I didn’t.

I will be the first to admit that I live in a bubble. I live in Dallas, TX, in the bubble that is SMU where approximately 11,000 students go about their daily work on the beautiful campus that we find in Highland Park.

I attended a Catholic Sacred Heart school in Houston (all girls, I might add) for six years, and if anything, my education taught me to look beyond myself and my world and to realize what else is out there. Well…that’s easier said than done. Since being abroad, I have come not only to realize life outside the bubble, but to experience it, and to try to understand it. Sure, life is full of days when you get up and you don’t feel like going to class, or you are really excited about that upcoming frat party this weekend, but I have recently learned that it is so much more than that.

I think this realization was brought on by the events of last week and this week in the area of international relations. After hearing almost nothing about September 11, I tried to think about what French people must have felt when they heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center. I put myself in their position. Did they feel that the problem was so far removed from them that it barely even made a dent in their day? Or did they feel that the problem was closer to home, and that if it hadn’t been in the U.S,. that it could have been here? Could it have happened to them?

I’m a little ashamed to say that if I were back in Dallas right now, Kouchner’s announcement on Monday about preparing for war with Iran would not have made me rethink the past six years and the problems facing the world today. I would have sat and read about it, even talked about the news in a few of my journalism classes, but I would not have been worried about what could happen a week from now. I would continue to live in my comfort zone where I am convinced that the world’s problems are far bigger than me, and that things like war don.t come close to affecting me and the life that I live.

So all of a sudden the bubble is starting to get smaller and smaller. and I realized that just because a problem seems far away and isn’t necessarily affecting us, doesn.t mean that it isn.t our problem to deal with.

So what do we do when the bubble finally breaks? Do we continue in another bubble and go on with our life as we have only ever known it, or do we take that step outside and experience change?

I’d like to know.

Posted in Brenda with SMU-in-Paris | Comments Off on Life Outside the Bubble