Brenda with SMU-in-Paris

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

An American in Paris

As a journalism student studying here in Paris, I will admit to myself and anyone else reading this blog that I have been absolutely horrible at keeping up with the news, not only from back home, but from around the world.

CNN.com is my homepage, and I am ashamed to say that I have barely glanced at the top news (or any news, FYI), since I’ve been here. Last week marked the 6-year anniversary of September 11 and I barely saw an article, and I heard nothing about it on the French news. But as American students, we remembered. We all recalled where we were and what we did that day, as vividly as it if had just taken place yesterday.

But yesterday, I happened to be paying attention to CNN when I saw the words “France” and “war” and I immediately perked up. Yesterday, the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, announced that we should prepare for war if Iran does not stop its uranium enrichment program. OOO la la la la la la! Here I am, in PARIS (granted, an American student who has heard about war, Iraq, Iran, Osama, etc for the past six years)…preparing for what could possibly be the next step in international “relations.” Threats against Iran and its uranium enrichment program are not new, and neither are UN sanctions against the country, but for some reason this time it actually hit home. Well, rather, I’m not at home, and I think that’s my main point…I am so far from home, and yet I am closer to the problem. I am not in MY HOME (USA)…I am in France (which is very beautiful, I might add), but all of a sudden I do not feel the comfort and protection that I do at home. I am no longer surrounded by vast oceans, Canada, and Mexico, but rather by dozens of other countries with foreign laws that probably dont apply to me anyway.

So today, jokingly, we all talked about “we’re going to get nuked,” but the reality is this: Mom and dad are not here anymore, I am not on my own soil, and frankly, well, I think it’s time I started paying attention to what’s going on around me. All of a sudden, the problem doesnt seem so distant…in a country far, far away. I cannot crawl back into the bubble around me, and pretend like the world’s problems are far bigger than me, because sooner, rather than later, they could be on my doorstep.

So thank you, CNN.com, because I have finally heard you and I have finally seen you.

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A French Connection

It has been almost two weeks since I left behind my family and friends in Texas and embarked on the adventure that is a semester abroad. There have been good and bad, but so far, Paris is one of the most amazing places I have ever lived.

Everyday is a new adventure. Getting on the metro in the morning, afternoon, and night, are three completely different experiences. One afternoon there were five of us girls riding the metro, with our friend, Federico. All of a sudden this young boy (age estimate: 12/13) gets on the metro with his boombox and starts aggressively and quite frankly, in a very vulgar manner, dancing and thrusting in front of us. He starts swinging from the poles on the metro. I could not have been more shocked. I never expected it. Then he goes around the metro with his little cup and asks for money. I felt embarassed, not only for him, but for the five of us sitting there with jaws dropped. Not something that happens on a day to day basis…for us.

But the other people on the metro just completely ignored him, looked the other way, and some even got up and moved…and honestly, I dont blame them. The same thing happened to me the other day with two other boys and I had to get up to move. It is a huge invasion of privacy.

Welcome to culture shock…

But besides the uncomfortable and sometimes sketchy occurences on the metro …life in Paris is moving along as if I’ve been here for more than a week and a half.

The sites are magnificent, and there is never a lack of something to do. Just this morning we got up at 8 (quite unenthusiastically) to go to the government buildings in the Jardin du Luxembourg that are only open once a year to the public. We saw where the senate meets, and where the president works and lives.

But for now… dinner and wine with friends is a must.
More on French culture shock to come.

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Tacos and Ritas

After three full days in Paris, I am finally starting to get the hang of things.

The mornings start a bit earlier for me, as I usually have to average 2 hours in the morning to get ready and get to where I need to be. Public transportation is extremely easy to use and very efficient (and user friendly), but I did not realize how time consuming it is. The metro is a great way to get around the city, and with a carte orange costing only 55 euro a month, it is definitely worth every cent. The carte orange allows for unlimited usage of the metro, bus, and RER regional train. What a great deal!

So far I cannot say anything but great things about living in this wonderful city. My family has been extremely helpful and welcoming, and I am already beginning to feel like I am a part of the city, and not just a mere guest.

I will say, however, that there have been times when I have truly experienced what it is like to be not only a foreigner, but an American. There are no lack of stares on the subway, nor snickers from people on the street. Eyes on the metro are piercing, as if just by looking at any one of us, they know. But for the most part, all of my experiences have been pleasant, and besides a few creepy people on the subway…everything is going just fine.

As Americans, we celebrated our first weekend in Paris, Texas style. We ate dinner at a restaurant called Indiana, which serves typically American food, but more importantly, Tex Mex. We welcomed ourselves into Paris with tacos and margaritas, and enjoyed the atmosphere at a bar with an Amstel Light.

After only just three days and four nights, Paris is beginning to feel like home.

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Compiegne

What a weekend in Paris!

The weather was lovely; a slight breeze in the mid 70s with sunny skies all weekend. The Eiffel Tower was crowded with tourists and locals alike, and the Tuileries Gardens teemed with excitement.

But tonight, however, I am in Compiegne with the group from SMU-In-Paris, and all of us are absolutely thrilled to be here. All 18 of us girls, and about 3 guys. What a ratio…and what a day.

After spending almost half of the morning at the airport, we rode the bus an hour to a small historic town called Compiegne. We took an afternoon stroll (along with a history lesson) with Isabelle, our program director, and we brushed up on our French skills with a lesson from a visiting professor from Switzerland.

We ate our dinner accompanied with a bottle of wine, and chatted about the day’s activities and the few days up ahead. I have never seen so many excited students ready to get out into the world.

But for tonight- the consensus was this: get a good night’s rest and be up and awake early tomorrow for a visit to the famous chateau of Compiegne and enjoy our next few days in this quaint little town.

Bonjour France!

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Au Revoir, Texas

Paris: the city of lights. Home to the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and in 24 hours, myself.

In just a few hours, I will board a flight to Paris that should last approximately 9 hours and 25 minutes and there is no turning back. For the next three and a half months, Paris will be my home.

Nine and a half hours seems like an eternity, especially when one is sitting in the same place the whole time, but luckily long flights don’t bother me. Since I was one month old I have been taveling by airplane. From my birthplace in Knoxville, Tennessee, to the glamour of Hollywood, to the historic grounds of Philadelphia, and now to the hot, hot, heat of Houston, traveling has been a signature of my childhood.

But right now I’m sitting on the couch, my laptop resting on my lap, with two huge suitcases nicely packed, and the TV glaring in front of me. But tomorrow, from this very same laptop, the view will be slightly different. Maybe I will be sitting in a cafe enjoying a nice cafe au lait, or maybe from the view out of my hotel window I will be able to see the Eiffel Tower in all of its beauty. Either way, tomorrow, Paris is my home.

Au revoir Houston.

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