The Intouchables

A few months ago I went with a friend to see Les Intouchables. Another bonus in France, it’s relatively inexpensive to go to the movies! It was 5,50 euros for each of us, with the student discount. And the theater was right on the Champs-Elysées! In brief, I have never laughed so hard at a movie that I only understood 65% of the dialogue 🙂 French, no subtitles. Moreover, not only was it a hilarious movie, but also a fantastic social commentary on Paris and the surrounding suburbs.

The population of Paris (the “arrondissements” or districts) is quite segregated by socio-economic factors; the left bank tends to be extremely wealthy (and white), the right bank a tad less so, and the Northern arrondissements (the 19th and 20th) are the poorest, and mostly comprised of foreigners and immigrants — typically of African or Arab descent. The same goes for the suburbs or the “banlieue” of Paris, which in general is significantly more impoverished and has a high immigrant population.

While I say that I live in Paris, it isn’t totally accurate; I live in the Northern suburbs, the banlieue of Paris. However, the school at which I am studying is located in the center of Paris, in the most expensive, most chic area — Saint Germain des Prés (the 7th arrondissement). As I go to school, from the suburbs to the 7th, from the train to the metro, the people change, the clothes change, the races change. While often France doesn’t like to admit it (they refrain from publishing a lot of statistics that have to do with race), I have found there to be quite a few racist elements in Paris, that often go undiscussed. A lot of this has to do with the history, the crime, the immigration policies, the social services, etc. but, when going between the suburbs and through Paris, it is impossible not to notice the divide between people and areas.

While Intouchables is a comedy (and I guarantee you’ll be laughing!), it also touches on a lot of interesting and important factors that characterize elements of Paris, those which often aren’t spoken of. In addition, it’s based on a true-story, making it all the more real and intriguing.

I loved a Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, but Intouchables shows another important side of Paris, too.

Viewing information:

Intouchables is playing at the Sundance Cinema in Seattle (4500 9th Avenue North East)

Finding a Job (in a Foreign Country) !

Now that school here has ended, finding a job for the summer has consumed most of my time. The job quest has been fun and interesting – but also challenging. The task: find a job for two months, July and August. Where to look? English teaching, babysitting, tourism related jobs, restaurants, bars, and the like. These places have proved the most likely to hire an English speaking foreign student, on a part-time basis for the summer.

What to know? Know the websites! In France, there are several sites dedicated to Anglophones in Paris/France; most are for families seeking English tutors or babysitters for their children. Ask around, everyone you know — natives, expats, other students, etc — for websites. By asking around I’ve found two of the most helpful sites yet: fusac.fr (a site with job and housing announcements for Anglophones living in Paris) and cherche-cours.com (a site where you can post free ads for English tutoring, etc.). By responding to announcements, and postings announcements, I’ve had four interviews for summer jobs! While going to interview after interview, isn’t the most exciting — it has been great practice for my French! Bars and restaurants: go in, ask if they are looking for any new staff, have your CV ready — some of my study abroad friends were hired on the spot!

Part two: During my job hunt, I’ve found one thing, as a native English speaker, there will always be a nanny job in Europe, particularly in France. Why is this important? Well, if you want to travel, see new places, experience different cultures there is one (inexpensive!) sure way to do that: be an Au Pair. Tons of families in France have almost all of July and August off for summer vacation and many are seeking summer Au Pairs to accompany them on vacation- how does the South of France — the beaches of Nice and Cannes — or, Spain sound? I’ve found over thirty positings on au pair websites (i.e, abc-familes.com, aupair-world.net) and other sites, such as Fusac.fr, with families seeking English speaking au pairs to come from anywhere between two weeks and two months on vacation to look after the children. What is typically included? Free housing, food, and a stipend around 70-150 euros a week.

Part three: Woofing! (wwooff.org) World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Sounds a bit North-westy Birkenstock, veggie doesn’t it 🙂 ? While I have never “woofed,” I have heard wonderful things about it. Essentially, you select a region to go (I’ve known people who have gone to Italy and France), and you work five hours a day on a farm. I think the stays can be as short as one week, but check the website to confirm! In exchange for working on the farm, you receive housing and food. But what’s more, you have the opportunity to immerse yourself into a foreign family to see how they live their daily lives. And if you go to Italy or France, I’m betting that the food and wine won’t be too bad, either. I think I might have to try this ‘woofing’ out…

Moral of the story: always know that there is work available in foreign countries, but finding where to look is the tricky part! 748 Google searches later and you’ll be ready to fund (or prevent from diving into too big of debt) your study/travels abroad.

À la prochaine!

Un petit week-end en Normandie

Notoriously French, and ever so accurate: holidays and vacations in excess (although, I can’t say I’m complaining). Particularly in May, but starting in April, there are a total of 7 national holidays, days on which schools and offices are closed. Over these weekends, it is common for the French to take an extended weekend, or sometimes even an extended week off. For the Parisians, a common weekend destination is to the Normandy region–just a couple hours by train or car from Paris. Normandy, famous for the camembert cheese, is part of the beautiful French countryside, and also has a lovely coastline bordering the English Channel.

 

 

 

One of the many wonders of France is the huge diversity in land/areas/cities/countryside/seaside/mountains, concentrated in a relatively small area. After just 2 hours in a train, I had left the busy subways of Paris to arrive in a small village in Northern Normandy.


 

First, we stopped at the market to pick out some fresh seafood.

Here are some of the scallops we choose from- and then took home to crack open!

The meal was accompanied by fresh oysters, herring, warm bread, fresh melted butter, tart and salty lemon sauce, and of course– a sweet, crisp, sugary white wine. Mhmm.

Taking in the fresh air, eating the delicious food, and, working on the farm. We played with the goats, built a fence for the horses, and, took in the countryside.

It was a wonderful weekend– an escape from the stresses and realities of everyday life, to step back, reflect, and slow down.

Inside the cottage- Normandy, France

 

 

 

Oh, the Smells that You’ll Smell!

A little about one of my favorite things in France: the food.

Before coming, I knew that I would love the cheese, bread, meat, sauces, etc…What I wasn’t as prepared for: the incredible desserts. While it is a bit torturous walking by all the amazing “Patisseries,” looking in and seeing the colorful creations, the smell is equally irresistible.

Without exaggerating, windows like these follow you around Paris:

From top to bottom: A bakery near where I live in the suburbs of Paris, the center two are from bakeries in “Le Marais,” a nice district in Paris, and the last (mhmm Nutella…) from a crêpes stand on Boulevard Saint Germain, near my school.

I travel Paris like a dog, by scent.

Who needs a map? 🙂

The Only Constant is Change…

As college students, we can often fall into routines with work, school, friends…with our lives. While routines can be comfortable in their familiarity and organization, a change can often bring much needed awaking, excitement, and challenge. Studying abroad in France shook up my life in a way I would have never imagined.

Everything is different here: the lifestyle, the food, the people, and definitely the school. As far as school goes, while the content of the courses is very similar to that which I studied at UWB, almost everything else is different. The structure of the schedule is as follows: five 4-credit courses, meeting two hours per week, and one 10-credit course, meeting four hours per week. Rather than lectures or seminars, the 4-credit courses tend to be largely consumed by student presentations, or “exposés” as they are called. The attendance policy is a bit strict: miss two classes (for any reason, even medical) and you automatically receive a zero in the course! However, a huge benefit of study abroad is the chance to become quite proficient in a foreign language by studying in that language, with native speakers. Plus, my classes here are filled with foreign students from all over the world, giving me the chance to not just learn about France, but also Germany, China, Switzerland, and many others.  I’ve even picked up a few German words since arriving—yaw, oops I mean “Ja!” Ich liebe spätzle.

Studying abroad allows for a state of constant learning and adaptation. That’s maybe what I notice most here in France; just going into the post office is sometimes a challenge, and a learning experience – figuring out how the system works and trying to do it in a different language. In the beginning I was frustrated at how long little tasks would take – like mailing a postcard – but in the end, after miscommunications, and some difficulties, eventually I got the stamp. Sometimes it’s in the grocery store, sometimes it’s at La Poste, and sometimes it’s in the classroom, but when in Paris, new experiences follow almost as closely as the smell of fresh baguette.

Quasi-Touring

One of the amazing things about study abroad is that it offers the opportunity to not just travel, visit, or tour a foreign country, but, to live in a foreign country. When I first arrived in France, I felt in a weird position; I didn’t feel quite like a tourist — I was running around trying to find my classes and way around a new city, getting lost, becoming acquainted with a new university, doing schoolwork, figuring out where to buy socks…and the like. These “tasks” were not like those in Seattle, in that, in Seattle I could go to Target to buy socks (and everything else I needed), and I knew how to get there. However, these “tasks” that I experienced during my first month or so here in Paris, were combined with a sort of quasi-Touring.

Occasionally, being lost would brighten my day. During my first week in Paris, I was frustrated and angry when I couldn’t find my way to the metro station — but where did I end up? Right along the Seine, staring across to see a giant building: The Louvre. Another day, I had a break during class so decided to take a walk down Boulevard Saint-Germain, a famous street just next to Sciences Po. Walking along, enjoying the sun, I came upon a park. It looked nice, so I entered and took a walk around. Later, I discovered that it was The Luxembourg Gardens; blissfully ignorant, I had walked around enjoying the flowers, ponds, and statues without a clue that I was in the famous gardens, with the French Senate building just next door. Not realizing where I was made the experience different in a way. I have been back to “Les Jardins du Luxembourg,” but will always remember that first time I walked through what to me was just a beautiful park.

While not quite a tourist, but not quite a resident, the first few days, weeks, sometimes even months in a foreign country are often comprised of a bizarre mix of “normal,” daily tasks, with that of your average tourist activities. What’s different is that you might find yourself stumbling upon the Eiffel Tower on your way to meet a friend, rather than seeking it out in a guide book.

 

UW Bothell Voices from Around the World

Blog by Chelsea Boren, UW Bothell Global Studies Major, Study Abroad–France

      

Bonjour à tous! Welcome to the UWB study abroad blog. My name is Chelsea and I’m spending the year in Paris. After never having travelled outside of the country (other than Vancouver), I found myself as a sixteen year-old going to France. It was whirl wind trip – nine days, including travel. As a small group of six from the Lake Stevens High School French class, plus a rather large group of 20 or so Texan high school students, we took the North of France by storm: cheese, wine, monuments, museums, the countryside and the city.

 Being in a truly foreign country for the first time was an experience like never before, and really, something I struggle to put into words. If you have had the experience of travelling outside of the country, remember that time when you first arrived on truly foreign ground. If not, imagine yourself in a place where all around you things sound different, look different, and often even taste different. The mind and body don’t know what to do! It’s like being a child, experiencing things from the first time, through all of the senses. I remember being in France for the first time – everything seemed amazing: the tiny cars, the people speaking French in the metro, the metro for that matter, the smell (ick!) of the cheese, the taste (yum!) of the cheese, and churches significantly older than our country. I can’t say I have ever lived as much in nine days as I did on that trip.

The end of August was the first time that I had travelled back to France, but the planning began two Novembers ago, at the beginning of my sophomore year. Wanting to travel again, especially to France, I saw study abroad as the perfect time to do so. I met with the UW International Programs and Exchanges office in Seattle to discuss possible study abroad opportunities. Ultimately, I narrowed my first choice to the direct-exchange program to Sciences Po in Paris for two reasons: the location and the program. The school, Sciences Po, is not only located in the heart of France, but the courses offered are perfectly aligned with my line of study: the social sciences. Further, the direct-exchange program means that tuition is paid directly to the UW, and remains the same (if you receive financial aid, it also applies). After being accepted to the program, one large challenge arose: how to finance studying in Paris. While tuition remains the same, Paris is among one of the most expensive cities in the world to live. After some thought, I had an idea: I knew of some friends who had “au paired” before – essentially, being a live-in nanny in a foreign country. Typically, Au Pairs receive full room and board, and often a small stipend. I posted my profile on aupair-world.net and took it from there. After interviewing with several families via Skype, I came upon the perfect situation: a family looking for a part-time, live-in au pair who would also be studying (most au pairs typically only au pair, and most families typically look for an au pair who can work full-time). 

I was thrilled at the opportunity because I now had a way to finance studying abroad. At the same time, I was extremely nervous. What if the family is crazy? What if they don’t like me? What if the decide they don’t want me at the last minute? Questions and fears buzzed in my head. I had Skyped, e-mailed, seen photos, and had a contract so I was nearly positive it would be a safe, good situation; but of course, until I was there in person, everything was a little bizarre.

However, upon arriving in France, my initial fears were gone. Amazing food, incredible wine, and a sunny, beautiful Paris have a way of putting one at ease. The family was warm, kind, and welcoming. At Sciences Po, I participated in a welcome program that helped to orientate me to the University. Not only did I learn about the University, take tours, etc., but more importantly, I met a ton of other exchange students. The welcome group organized nights out; with beers in hands, as excited and nervous exchange students we talked amongst ourselves, becoming fast friends in the city of light. I started each day and ended each night not quite sure of what would come next.

I have now been in Paris for just over seven months, and still, each day is different. While the initial challenges have been overcome (setting up a bank account, a cell phone plan, registering for classes, etc), new and exciting things seem to take place all the time. I should note, upon coming to France, I hardly spoke any French. Still, my French is nowhere near fantastic, but after a while your brain becomes a bit like a sponge – soaking up vocab, verbs, and the like. Foreign language adds to the craziness and amazement of being in another country. And I wouldn’t have it any other way – it’s the new and challenging which makes study abroad an experience unlike any other.

On paper, I’m a Global Studies major from UWB studying topics ranging from political science, history, media studies, to international relations at Sciences Po Paris, but in reality, that doesn’t even begin to explain what it means to be an exchange student. Sure, I go to class, write papers, take tests, just like I would at UWB, but more than that, each day is a chance to interact with someone from a totally different culture, eat new food, go to a new museum, walk down a different street – see, hear, feel, smell, taste things new. I hope that through this blog, I can let you all in on some of the magic of this experience! À la prochaine!

– Chelsea