Yvonne in Paris

Yvonne is a senior majoring in psychology and sociology in Dedman College. During summer 2011, she is studying Parisian culture and monarchy, as well as European relations with the Middle East, as part of SMU-in-Paris.

Fun weekend in Paris

This past weekend was so much fun!  Thursday evening, a group of us went to dinner at a wonderful café in Saint Michel (a popular shopping and restaurant area in Paris), where we had some of the best pizza I’ve ever had! The French do Italian food quite well!

Afterward, we went on a boat cruise tour on the Seine River, we passed by all the famous monuments in Paris. We went right around dusk, so we were able to see the beautiful evening sky while cruising down the river.

On Saturday, a bunch of us got in touch with our inner-child and went to Disneyland Paris! Although it started raining while we were there, we had a great time! While a lot of us went on almost every ride there, I’m deathly scared of rollercoasters, so I was more than happy to ride the teacups and the other “kiddie rides”!

On Saturday, our graduate assistant (at the request of one of the students) created a scavenger hunt for some of us. We broke into two groups of four and traveled the entire city of Paris finding famous monuments and completing various tasks. Each task was worth a certain amount of points, and we had to take pictures of us completing the task.

For example, we got 60 points if we were able to get a picture of the group with the Mona Lisa. Mind you, this is on a Saturday afternoon when The Louvre is crowded beyond imagination, so it’s a bit more difficult than one may think! And while my team didn’t win, everybody really enjoyed the scavenger hunt.

We all spent Sunday recuperating from our weekend and preparing for the upcoming week. It’s hard to believe we have less than two weeks left, but I’m happy that we’ve all really taken advantage of being here and haven’t put a moment to waste.

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Bringing history to life

I wanted to discuss the academic side of my study abroad program at a greater length. It is not wise to go into any SMU summer study abroad program with the expectation of taking “blow-off” courses. The courses are definitely challenging; the rigor is equivalent to that of courses taken during a regular semester. We still have reading assignments, quizzes, essays, and finals just as we would during the school year.

Because we have Fridays off (yay for three-day weekends!), there’s a bit more material and assignments compacted within our four-day week. This is not to imply or suggest that our classes are unbearably difficult, but you do have to put in work and effort.

With that being said, the classes are incredibly interesting and our professors are wonderful! I am not a history buff by any means, but somehow our professors have found a way to make history interesting and engaging. What I most appreciate about our classes is that we are not always stuck in a classroom every day; we’re able to visit the places which we’re discussing.

For instance, this morning we had one of our classes in The Louvre. We learned about European impressions of Eastern civilizations by studying Orientalist paintings and artwork in the Louvre. It was much more meaningful to actually see the paintings in person, rather than looking at them in a textbook. The professors almost literally bring history to life, and we are really able to personally engage in everything that we’re learning.

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Four chateaus in the Loire Valley

DSCF9535.jpg Last weekend, we traveled to the Loire Valley to see four chateaus. The chateaus were amazing!

On Friday we went to Amboise, a small market town in central France. It really looked like an old town from centuries ago. You could see the chateau in Amboise from miles away; it was huge! From the top of the castle, you could see the entire town of Amboise and beyond.

DSCF9656.jpg After Amboise, we traveled to Blois, another small town in the Loire Valley, to visit the chateaus Blois and Chambord. Catherine de Medici and Napoleon’s wife, Marie Louise, both lived in Blois. It was very cool seeing all the rooms and areas in which all the kings, queens, and noblemen lived. These chateaus were built in the 1100s, so it’s quite surreal to imagine walking in the same place as others from 900 years ago!

DSCF9571.jpg The chateau at Chambord was one of my favorite castles! Francis I built it to be a show castle to display the wealth of the French monarch, so it was definitely exactly what you would picture when thinking of a magnificent castle.

DSCF9753.jpg The Chateau de Chenonceau was my absolute favorite! This was a chateau that was beautifully decorated on the inside and out. Everything about the chateau was so intricate and detailed, from the staircases to the tiles on the floor; it was wonderfully constructed. I loved visiting the chateaus because they have such a rich history that dates back hundreds and hundreds of years.

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Sight-seeing in Paris

The past two weeks I’ve been in Paris have been absolutely amazing! There’s so much to see in Paris, you can never run out things to do!

DSCF0142.jpg Today, a group of us went to the Catacombs of Paris. The Catacombs of Paris, or Catacombes de Paris, is an underground burial site that holds the remains of 6 million people. We had to walk about 60 feet below ground before we got to the burial site.

The catacombs are filled with caves, tunnels and old prison cells. It’s very spooky and creepy! Bones and skulls were stacked and lined all around tunnels of bodies from the 17th century. It was very morbid, but also incredibly fascinating.

There were old quotes in French around the tunnels from various philosophers of that time reminding us how short life is, as well as various passages throughout the catacombs (thank goodness our graduate advisor was there to translate for us). We weren’t allowed to use the flash on our cameras, so unfortunately we weren’t able to get the best of pictures.

DSCF0211.jpg We had to perk ourselves up after such a chilling experience, so we found this amazing gelato place and headed to the Luxembourg gardens and the St. Sulpice Church.

The Luxembourg gardens were breathtaking! The flowers, trees, and statues were absolutely beautiful. To our good fortune, an orchestra was playing in the park while we were there, so we stopped for a while to listen before heading on to Saint-Sulpice; the entire scene of the park was very picturesque.

DSCF0221.jpg The Saint-Sulpice Church is referenced in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code. The church was enormous! It’s also placed on what the world originally used as the prime meridian, before relocating it to Greenwich. Shortly after entering the church, we realized that we were in the middle of a wedding! So of course, we stayed for the wedding and a little afterward. As the newlyweds left the church, everyone outside was clapping and throwing rose petals; what a wonderful way to get married!

We ended our day with nutella crepes from a wonderful small creperie off Saint-Michel. The entire group had a full weekend, from shopping at the Champs-Elysees, to hanging out by the Eiffel Tour and the River Seine, to bar hopping at Saint Germain-de-Pres. I’m sure our Sunday will be spent studying for the upcoming week. One thing we learned quickly here, studying abroad isn’t just sight-seeing; you definitely have to study!

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