September 26, 2019
by Nakeshia Diop
Walking Through History
On Wednesday, we had a night tour of the Louvre. The tour was supposed to start at 6:45pm but because of miscommunication, we all arrived late and had to essentially run through the museum to see all the exhibits that our tour guide wanted to show us. Even though the tour was rushed, it was still absolutely amazing. We started with the history of the Louvre itself and had the chance to see parts of the original castle. Some other noteworthy things that we saw included the Mona Lisa (of course), Charlemagne’s sword, Napoleon’s throne, and mummified fish (which is so bizarre to me). It was the fastest and most fascinating walk through world history, and seeing the different artistic expressions and displays of political power only ignited my love for the past. APA gave us student passes to the Louvre, so I definitely plan to go back and explore some more. The amount of museums in Paris is overwhelming, and the fact that we only have 5 weeks in the country makes it hard to prioritize things to do. I feel guilty whenever I have free time and am not making my way to some museum.
The other blast to the past was our weekend trip to Bourgogne. FMS and the students from APA Paris left Paris early Friday morning and we did not get home until late Sunday night. The weekend was jam-packed with activities, starting with a tour of Dijon. We learned how to identify when buildings were constructed by the shape of their windows. It was also amazing to see houses from the middle ages and imagine how life must have been like back then. Our group dinner was delicious, as was every meal over the weekend.
On Saturday, we visited the Hotel Dieu de Beaune, which used to be a hospital. The building itself was gorgeous and the surrounding jardin was very cute, but I couldn’t help but feel just a little creeped out when I was touring the inside of the museum. There were hospital beds, medical equipment, and several wax figures of nuns scattered around the premise to help visitors visualize the reality of life in the 15th century. While historically accurate, for me the set-up resembled scenes from modern day horror films.
In the afternoon, we visited a vineyard and saw the process of wine-making. On Sunday, we visited Vezelay and our guide told us about life in the Middle Ages. Both the town and the tour were great, but at this point in the weekend, we were all tired and all of us were starting to get sick, so it ended up being a low-energy visit. We got back to Paris late at night, and the FMS group went out to Thai food.
Contemporary Dance and Jazz
In addition to all the history-related activities, this week we also had a chance to see a contemporary dance piece. Judging from the contemporary dances I’ve seen at school, I honestly had low expectations. Despite the fact that I had no idea what was going on stage most of the time (the plot was extremely intricate), the dancing was objectively amazing. It was crazy to see the dancers move their bodies in ways I didn’t think was possible, and if anything the dance made me appreciate the human body more. After the dance, the FMS group decided to check out a jazz bar. I was unaware of how far away this bar was, it was in the 19th arrondissement, which is super north. Once we got there, the music seemed like an extension of the contemporary dance–to avant garde for me to understand. The worst part of it was that because the bar was so far away, the metro closed as I was on my way home, and I was still 1 hour away. My phone was also on the brink of death, so I could not use it to navigate. Thankfully I found a taxi and made it home safe.
My classes this Monday went much better than my classes last Monday, and the improvement can wholly be attributed to my discovery of the gourmet coffee vending machine above our classroom. With my mind and body fully functioning with the help of caffeine, I was able to better appreciate the actual content of the courses. I initially was very worried that our professors would make their curriculums easy so that non-natives could better understand the material. While it is true that our French level is not the same as natives, the reality is that we are all intelligent college students that want to be challenged. Thankfully, our classes try not to be survey courses and the professors really put an effort into exploring more nuanced subjects. Overall, the academic side of things has been going pretty well.
Becoming Obsessed with France
My reasons for studying French were initially very cut and dry: I wanted to be able to communicate with my family on my dad’s side and understand Senegalse culture better. France was a country that I was vaguely interested in, because I was more intrigued by other francophone countries. I never had an opportunity to take classes on French history or literature, so I came to the country knowing just the essentials. However, the more time I spent in Paris, the more I want to know everything about France. Everyday is like a little adventure, and there are endless things to learn, whether it’s art, history, architecture, or politics. I am genuinely excited about going to classes, talking to my host family, watching French TV, and visiting museums. I already know that I will be devastated when it comes time to leave. I’ve unsuccessful in my attempts to avoid the plague (of colds), so I am signing off to rest! Until next week!