Pour Conclure

Bonne année, dear readers!  I hope you are continuing to enjoy the holiday season.

It may seem odd that I am writing yet another post, particularly this late in the game.  But I’m actually not late at all.  As of today, my study abroad experience is officially complete.  I handed in my last paper to the Sorbonne yesterday evening.

You’re probably thinking Quoi ?? C’est si tard !  And you’re right, it is fairly late.  I’ll explain why in a bit, but first let me tell you about my last wintry trip that I promised I’d recount on the blog.

Copenhagen. Stockholm. Harbors. Colorful houses. World-ranked hot chocolate. Christmas markets. Glogg. Cinnamon buns. Lights. Cold. These two cities had it all!  In fact, each had everything I just mentioned.  Yet they were by no means similar.  How can I compare the reflection of sails and pulleys on the water of Nyhavn with the glow of lamps that shimmered on the cobble-stone streets of Gamla Stan?  Or Ma Poule’s duck sandwich at Torvehallerne versus the swedish meatballs at Ardbeg Embassy?  It simply can’t be done.  If I had to link Copenhagen and Stockholm together, however, it would be for their near-perfect English (my goodness we Americans should feel useless!) and friendly, welcoming attitude towards visitors.  Emi and Jordan, my fellow travel buddies, and I learned a lovely word in Danish that described our four-day adventure perfectly: hygge.  Shout out to Jordan for finding a description of the word:

“A love of or need for hygge is an important part of the Danish psyche. Hygge is usually translated as ‘coziness.’ This is too simplistic: coziness relates to physical surroundings – a jersey can be cozy, or a warm bed – whereas hygge has more to do with people’s behavior towards each other. It is the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality, and contentment rolled into one.”

I’ve attached a couple slideshows of our wanderings through each city.  Take a look, and you’ll see what made my experience in Copenhagen and Stockholm a very hygge one.


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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The remaining two weeks in Paris were a whirlwind of final papers, conversations on the Seine, browsing for Christmas presents at Les Mots à la Bouche, eating falafel on Rue des Rosiers, drinking my last one-euro bottle of wine from Monoprix, wandering the streets of Montmartre by night, and enjoying the company of those around me.  My host family prepared a lovely holiday meal for our last dinner together: foie gras to start, followed by steak and mashed potatoes, and ending with bûche de Noël for dessert. I gave them the Charlie Brown Christmas album by Vince Guaraldi, a Grace family staple for the holiday season.  The semester was wrapping up quite nicely, but the end of my time in Paris was anything but conventional.

With four days remaining until my plane would take off for Philadelphia, I learned that my grandmother had passed away. I have always had trouble comprehending the death of a loved one, but this was different. I felt stuck, unable to physically reach out to my family, unable to receive their love in person. Sitting alone with the news, waiting, that was the hardest part. But I had help. I got an extension on my final two assignments (hence my being finished now), and the support from my friends, host family, and Reid Hall administration was invaluable.  In those last few days, I really experienced the meaning of hygge.  Thus, I left Paris with a mix of emotions: anxious to be home with my family, crestfallen to be leaving such an incredible city, mournful for the loss of my grandmother, grateful and awestruck looking back on what an amazing adventure the past four months had been, hopeful to return to Paris in the future…

Et voilà. There you have it, dear readers.  My semester abroad has finally come to a close.  Despite the rocky end to it all, I still look back on those fourth months as some of the best of my life.  The food, the drinks, the art, the music, the fashion, the metro rides, the side streets, the gardens, the nightly strolls, the morning landscapes, the flashy clubs, the subdued bars, the breathtaking churches, the bustling cafés…but most of all the people, in Paris and beyond.  It’s that art of creating intimacy, through language, culture, and the exchange of the two, that keeps us going.  I hope to hold on to this lesson, along with the other lessons I re-learned, as I return to dear old Penn next semester.

À la prochaine, chère Paris !  And merci, dear readers, for coming along for the ride 🙂


Brotherly Love

I never thought I’d dedicate an entire post to this, dear readers, but I just can’t help myself.  Today, pour quelque raison, I am feeling particularly sentimental towards the good ol’ City of Brotherly Love.  I stumbled upon a Huffington Post article today on the 31 reasons why Philadelphia is the most underrated city in America, and I have to admit I felt a slight twinge of homesickness while reading it.  You can read the article for yourself here!

Let me be clear, though: there has never been a point during my time abroad when I have wished that I was home instead of in Paris.  Perhaps “homesickness” isn’t the best word to describe my feelings, then.  I don’t feel homesick.  Rather, I am excited by the idea of going home.  I am looking forward to seeing the Philly skyline, to walking down Locust Walk at Penn, to going into Center City for a BYO, to rounding the corner of Kenilworth Street, to watching Boathouse Row pass me by in my car.  Most of all, I am looking forward to reuniting with my friends and family, the ones who cultivate the brotherly love that my city is most known for.

Ne vous inquiétez pas, dear readers; I haven’t forgotten that I still need to tell you about my “vacation getaway” to Copenhagen and Stockholm!  That story is for another post.  For now, just know that with a little under two weeks to go, I will be ready to enter Philadelphia again with open arms.


I never thought this time would come, dear readers, but it finally has.  I now only have weeks left in my program, in Paris, in my experience abroad.  I can no longer pull the “four weeks is technically a month” trick.  No, I have exactly three weeks until I take off from this adventure across Atlantic and touch back down in the good ol’ U.S. of A.  Trois semainesComment le temps a-t-il passé si rapidement ??

However, despite feeling like I have a ticking clock above my head, I believe I can and will make the most of these last few weeks.  This weekend, for example, was full of fun activities!  I finally visited the Musée Rodin with my friend Ellie.  We spent an hour and a half admiring Rodin’s beautiful sculptures, after which we bought green-tea flavored religieuses from a bakery near our school.  Quite possibly the best pastry I’ve tried in Paris so far.

Later that evening, I went to the Centre Georges Pompidou with my German-French friend Anne, an Erasmus student whom I met through the Sorbonne.  We saw the Jeff Koons and Marcel Duchamp exhibits, each artwork puzzling us more than the next.  I cannot figure out whether Paris is making me a better appreciator of contemporary art, or whether it’s simply building up my tolerance for contemporary art.  Regardless, I really enjoyed spending time there with Anne 🙂

Saturday, I visited the brand-new (seriously, it’s only a month old) Louis Vitton Foundation, designed by the renowned architect Frank Ghery.  It was a perfect morning to see the building, which is so open and airy.  There are many areas where one is both inside and outside at the same time, and the natural light that floods in only enhances the overall beauty.  It didn’t think I’d ever be so captivated by a building, but then again, Frank Ghery doesn’t design any old kind of building!

I closed off this weekend with a trip to the Manufacture des Gobelins this afternoon.  The manufactory was best known as a royal tapestry factory supplying the court of Louis XIV.  M. de Varax (my host dad) had recommended it to me, so naturally I had to go!  And what luck that I learned one can enter into the Galerie des Gobelins for free on the last Sunday of each month.

One of the many tapestries in the Galerie at the Manufacture des Gobelins

One of the many tapestries in the Galerie at the Manufacture des Gobelins 

Oui, all in all un bon week-end, and there’s still more to do!  I have an exposé to present for my cinema studies class on Wednesday, after which I fly out to Copenhagen for then days and then finish the coming weekend in Stockholm!  That will be my last trip outside of France, and despite the stark difference in temperature, I’m really looking forward to finally experiencing a European winter wonderland.  My last three weeks begins now, dear readers.  Let’s see what happens!


Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers!

Hélas, it’s been a while since I’ve posted on the blog.  But I have good reasoning.  The past six weeks (ouisix semaines !) were filled with presentations, papers, and exams.  Despite what people may think, my study abroad experience has, in fact, included actual studying.  And quite a bit of it.

But these six weeks have been filled with incredible moments as well.  So in the spirit of the holiday, and to catch you up on what exactly I’ve been doing, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to the things I’ve been thankful for recently while studying abroad.

Je suis reconnaissante pour…

– Macarons: learning how to make them, and of course eating them!

Made these babies at the Ecole Nationale de Boulangerie

Made these babies at the Ecole Nationale de Boulangerie

– The sight of Sacré Coeur on a sunny afternoon


– Getting to explore London for the first time with Lilly and Jordan as my guides 🙂

St. James Park at sunset

St. James Park at sunset

Afternoon cream tea!

Afternoon cream tea!

– The serenity I found while strolling through Monet’s garden and water lily pond at Giverny



– Still finding a way to celebrate Halloween, sans costume

Visiting the depths of Paris by exploring the Catacombs!

Visiting the depths of Paris by exploring the Catacombs!

– The best study break I’ve ever had: traveling to Amsterdam for the weekend with Rebecca, Terrill, and Morgan



Obligatory canal shot

– The patience those three had (and still have) with me taking photos almost everywhere

(You'll thank me later!)

(You’ll thank me later!)

– Reuniting in Paris for the evening with Pat

Dinner at Les Deux Magots

Dinner at Les Deux Magots

– Quiet walks through Père-Lachaise


– Brunch at Le Café des Chats with Gina


– Cappuccinos at Coutume Instituti


And of course, I’m thankful for my loved ones who have continued to support me throughout this semester abroad. I’ve been thinking a lot about my family and friends back home in the good ol’ U.S. of A. this past week, and I have a message for all of them:  Whether we’ve talked frequently or not, I want you to know that in spite of my immense happiness to be in Paris and beyond, I miss you dearly.  I can’t believe the semester is starting to come to a close, but I’m looking forward to reuniting with each and every one of you when I return.  Until then, enjoy your parades, football games, and turkey dinners!

Merci, dear readers.  Enjoy the holiday 🙂

Waffle Fries

Hope Fall is treating you well, dear readers!  It doesn’t feel like Fall over here.  In fact, it’s currently 71 degrees and sunny in Paris.  Not what you’d expect for mid-October, but I’m not complaining!

The weather was a little colder in Belgium last week.  I spent the weekend in Bruges and Brussels with a group of students from my program.  A beautiful trip, and an incredibly interesting one at that from a French perspective.  Belgium is a francophone country, but it is by no means anything like France.  From what I observed in those two days, the Belgian architecture, fashion, and general way of life bears stronger resemblances to countries in northern Europe.

I’m trying to profitez bien this lovely day in Paris, so instead of recounting word for word my brief experience in this country I’m going to leave you with a visual account of the 48 hours. The slideshow below covers a good part of my trip, though I’ll mention a few highlights that didn’t make the album: basking in the sun at the Markt Square in Bruges, jamming to Beyoncé with Rebecca on the bus ride in between cities, and visiting the Musée de Magritte in Brussels.  The rest is for your viewing pleasure 🙂  Hope you like it!

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Fêtes et Félicitations

A quick post before I go exploring in Le Marais!

Wishing a belated bon anniversaire to the founder of my new school, Robert de Sorbon!  He turned 813 yesterday.  Not too shabby.  A brief history on Sorbon: he began teaching around 1253, and in 1257 he founded the Maison de Sorbonne, which was initially a theological college for poor students.  The Sorbonne received official sanction from the pope in 1259 and rapidly became a major European center of learning and the core of the University of Paris.

Also, a huge félicitations to my cousin Megan for getting engaged on Wednesday!  The whole fam got an e-mail with the wonderful news (and pictures of the happy couple and the ring of course) yesterday.  Megan, I am so happy for you and Jason, and I can’t wait to congratulate you both in person when I come home.

Munich & Musings

Guten Tag, Liebe Leserinnen und Leser!  Ok, I admit it – I used Google Translate for most of that sentence.  After my weekend in Munich, I know exactly five words/phrases in German:  guten tag, guten nacht, bittedanke schön, and bier.  That last one was super helpful 🙂

Munich is an incredible city.  I’m so glad I got to explore it with some fellow Quakers, a couple of whom I had not yet met at Penn, in fact.  That’s the magic of Oktoberfest:  you make Oktoberfriends!  (You can stop rolling your eyes now.  The pun is over.)

My friend Emma and I traveled from Paris.  The others – Halie, Matt, Spencer, and Audrey – came from Scotland, Switzerland, and England.  Our first night in Munich, we enjoyed a delicious and authentic German dinner at a restaurant called Weinbauer.  Props to Matt for that awesome find on Yelp!  If you ever make it to this place, dear readers, get the Fleischpflanzer’l.  You won’t be able to pronounce it, but you will love it.

We arrived at the ‘fest at 7:00 AM the following morning.  After a two-hour wait (where I almost got trampled by the crowd), the doors of the Hofbräu tent finally opened.  We were served our first steins at 9:15, as a band played German drinking songs and the beer maids carried drinks to the hundreds of tables.


Anyone and everyone was at this tent.  Throughout the day, we saw not only tons of fellow Penn students, but people from our high schools and even middle schools.  Shout out to my OPC’s Phil and Dani!  I can’t believe I ran into you two at Hofbräu, and I’m glad we got pictures.  I’ll spare you all the crazy details, dear readers, but just know that Oktoberfest was an experience I will (surprisingly) never forget.

But my first time in Germany was not only spent inside a beer tent.  Emma, Halie, Matt, Spencer, Audrey, and I did quite a bit of sightseeing the next day, before going our ways.  We saw the famous Munich Glockenspiel in Marienplatz, and we also visited Sankt Peterskirche (St. Peter’s Church) and the Heiliggeistkirche (or Church of the Holy Ghost).  The churches were absolutely gorgeous inside.  If only my camera hadn’t died!  I would have taken pictures.  At least Halie got a great shot of us by the Glockenspiel.  Danke schön, Halie!

Rock out with your Glock out:  the Munich Glockenspiel in Marienplatz

Rock out with your Glock out: the Munich Glockenspiel in Marienplatz

All in all, a very successful first trip while abroad.  It was fascinating to experience and observe a culture that is so close to France geographically, yet so far behaviorally.  I enjoyed meeting Germans, but I admit that it was quite relieving to return to a country where I know the language.  Which brings me to the next part of my post…

Things I Have Noticed about Life in Paris:

– Scooters are huge here, and they know no age limit.  I should have packed my Razor.

– The métro is SO MUCH BETTER THAN SEPTA OH MY GOODNESS.  With the exception that it is not open 24/7.

– The majority of Parisian women do not wear a lot of makeup.  A little mascara and that’s about it.  Perhaps they find beauty in simplicity?  Subtlety?  I’m not sure what to call it, but it’s changed the way I look at myself in the mirror each day.  For the better, I think.

– There is no stigma around PDA.  Parisians are very comfortable with openly expressing their affection for one another.  But they don’t do it obnoxiously.  Rather, they do it…impulsively is the only word I can think of right now.  They want to kiss their significant other?  Allez-y.  They’re not worried about who else is around.  So what if people judge?

– Sorry to disappoint you, Woody Allen fans, but Paris is no more beautiful in the rain than any other city.  Not to say that it’s ugly in the rain.  It’s just…well it’s just a city in the rain.  I get wet when it rains in Philly, and I get wet here, too.

I’ll close my post with a quote I learned last Thursday in my Academic Writing course.  It has resonated with me a lot this past week, and I think it will continue to resonate with me during my stay:

Il n’y a pas de vie sans dialogue.  Et sur la plus grande partie du monde, le dialogue est remplacé aujourd’hui par la polémique…Mais quel est le mécanisme de la polémique ?  Elle consiste à considérer l’adversaire en ennemi, à le simplifier par conséquent à refuser de le voir.  Celui qui j’insulte, je ne connais plus la couleur de son regard, ni s’il lui arrive de sourire et de quelle manière. — Albert Camus


Quarter Back

It’s been a hectic past two weeks, dear readers, but I finally have my fall schedule in order!  After visiting several classes at both the Université Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne) and the Université Paris IV (La Sorbonne) as well as browsing the syllabi for Reid Hall’s electives, I have decided to take the following:

– HISTOIRE – Etudes et itinéraires parisiens: une lecture de l’histoire urbaine, culturelle et politique de la capitale (Reid Hall)

– HISTOIRE – Médias, information, et télécommunications en France et aux États-Unis (Paris IV, La Sorbonne)

– CINÉMA – Paris en contexte: The Lights of a City (Reid Hall)

For those of you who think Advanced Registration for classes is a pain, you have not experienced the french university system.  It’s an entirely different – and bureaucratic – ballgame.  But with academic logistics aside, I am super excited to start my classes.  La Sorbonne has been noted as one of the first universities to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid-12th century in Paris, officially recognized between 1160 and 1250.  So yeah, 1740 doesn’t cut it for me anymore, Penn.


La Sorbonne – my new school!

I have already attended the cours magistral and travaux dirigés for my class at La Sorbonne, and while it’s certainly going to be a lot of work, I find the subject fascinating.  It’s a study of the development of technological and social communication in France and the U.S. between 1880 and the 1960s.  I’m going to be learning about cultural American History from a French perspective.  How cool is that?  This is going to give me a much more holistic understanding of my major, and it helps that I already know some of the history!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been exactly one month ago today that I left for Paris.  A full quarter of my abroad experience is already over!  Time is going by far too quickly for my taste. There is still so much of the city I have to explore!  So much French I have to practice!  But I’m trying to avoid feeling panicked or pressured.  That’s not part of the Parisian lifestyle. The way people live their lives here is so frank and honest, which, for me, is incredibly refreshing.  I’m learning that, as amazing of an experience this is, not every day is going to be perfectly picturesque.  Paris is not a Woody Allen movie (sorry cinephiles).  It’s ok to feel angry or frustrated or sad or lonely in this city, and it’s even better to actually express these feelings in the moment instead of hiding them.

I’ll save my other musings and observations for a future post.  For now, I have to finish studying for my first final exam and finish packing for my weekend trip to Munich!  I heard Oktober’s coming a little early this year 😉


I’m back, dear readers!  You thought the blog was over for good, but no.  It took une petite sieste while I visited a basilica that’s over 1000 years old (la basilique Saint-Remis) and tasted champagne that is worth up to 600 euro (Pommery).  Life as a Parisian is hard, n’est-ce pas?

Well, it did get a little harder today, as my classes are finally beginning.  Today was my first day of the required French Language Practicum, an intensive course on both oral and written expression and comprehension of the French language.  My enseignante, Madame Sansone-Bares, is quite a character!  One of the first things she told us is that sarcasm is her favorite pastime.  I hope can keep up.  The class meets for three hours a day from either 4:30-7:30 or 3:00-6:00.  Homework each night takes about two to three hours.  As someone who normally finishes all of her classes at Penn before 3:00, this schedule is a little whacky for me.  

But that doesn’t mean I can’t be productive beforehand!  This morning, I took my first run through Paris.  The lovely Parc Monceau is about 20 minutes away from my house.  I ran there, did a couple laps around the park, and ran back, all in a little over an hour.  (Aren’t you proud Mom??)

The early-morning endorphins made a big difference.  As much as I love the oh-so popular ham and cheese on a baguette for lunch, I instead picked up a mix of fruits and veggies.  The beautiful weather also inspired me to take my lunch outside, so I met up with my friends Katherine and Caitlin at the Jardin de Tuileries for a little picnic!  

A beautiful day at Le Jardin des Tuileries!

A beautiful day at Le Jardin des Tuileries!

I confess, though, that endorphins had a little sugar boost at the end.  My Aunt Maureen, who studied abroad in France when she was in college, told me this summer to get ice cream from Maison Berthillon when I arrive in Paris.  Malheureusement, after searching for the iconic ice cream shop and finally finding it, we discovered that it was closed!  Turns out it closes on Mondays and Tuesdays.  But n’inquiétez pas, dear readers!  A few ice cream shops across the street carry Berthillon’s scrumptious flavors.  And I tasted the greatest vanilla ice cream ever 🙂  Peut-être I will return to have it at the actual Maison Berthillon for the full experience!

Maison Berthillon:  the greatest ice cream you could ever have. EVER.

Maison Berthillon: the greatest ice cream you could ever have. EVER.

But alas, I must sign off for now.  Mes devoirs m’appellent.  

Le Jardin des Tuileries, located next to the Louvre

Le Jardin des Tuileries, located next to the Louvre

Tidbits and 30 Minutes

You’re probably all anxious, dear readers, about what exactly I’ve been doing since Friday.  I’m sorry for the suspense!  Since meeting my host family Saturday and beginning orientation today, I’ve barely had a moment to dedicate myself to the blog.  For future reference, I will post only once or twice a week.  This post is an exception, as I received a message from my mom this morning asking for “a tidbit, a dangling participle, a prepositional phrase, bullet points, ANYTHING!” as to what the hell is going on.  This one’s for you, Mom!

My host family:  is wonderful so far!  There are six people in the de Varax family. (I know, six.  Literally trading my real family for a Parisian one).  Madame and Monsieur de Varax, and their four sons:  Matthieu and Guillaume, who are twins, Pierre, and Timothée.  They have been incredibly welcoming so far.  We all played soccer together on Sunday afternoon!  I biked two kilometers to the park with Matthieu and Guillaume, played for about an hour, and then biked back.  Mom, you’d be so proud of me, getting more than 30 minutes of exercise a day in Paris!

My courses:  don’t start until September 8th.  Today was the first day of orientation.  I learned the basic ins and outs of Reid Hall and the directors of the program.  I’ve also been placed in my first two classes, a French language course and an Academic Writing course, both of which will meet in the afternoon at Reid Hall.  Those courses are required of all students in the program, and they help us adapt to life at a French university.  Speaking of which, classes there won’t start until at least late September, seeing as almost all of France got back from vacation yesterday.  More to come when I get my full schedule.
My commute to class:  beats yours. Don’t believe me?  How does passing over the Seine by metro and getting a full-on view of the Eiffel Tower in the morning sun sound?  Yup.  My commute is better than yours.
My fellow students:  are an eclectic bunch, and I can’t wait to get to know them better!  Besides Penn and Columbia students, there are people from Barnard, Hamilton, Harvard, Swarthmore, even the University of Arizona.  There’s well over 40 of us, way more than I thought, so I haven’t met everyone just yet.  But we bonded on our boat tour along the Seine this afternoon after orientation, which is definitely a sign of good vibrations.  (That was for you Dad.  I just finished reading your “parable” a few minutes ago.)
I’ll leave you, dear readers, with a few shots I’ve taken in the past 48 hours. (Click on them to enlarge them!) During that time, I strolled through the Luxembourg Gardens and ascended the top of the Arc de Triomphe at night.  There’s really not much to do here…