UNESCO in Paris

Last week, I visited United Nations Day at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris thanks to some networking suggestions from family friends!

I reached out to the Assistant Director of the Division for Gender Equality to ask for an informational interview, and she quickly responded with another suggestion – an invitation to UN Day and lunch with previous UNESCO interns. Luckily, my IES professors and administrators were more than willing to accommodate this opportunity and helped me reschedule my last mid-term exam so I could go.

On Tuesday morning I arrived at UNESCO, made it through security, and met with the Assistant Director. She showed me around the UN Day activities, which included an interest fair for the various UN departments/goals/projects, and some speakers. After exploring for a while, we went to lunch with two of her former interns. This was a great chance for me to ask questions about UNESCO and the experience of interning with an IGO!

Visiting UNESCO was awesome and incredibly educational – I learned more about the organisation and had the opportunity to network with professionals in fields that interest me. It was also useful for practicing my French in a professional/work-based environment.

If you have the chance, attend a career fair, interest fair, or a company’s open day for a unique and very different experience abroad!

The office view of my dreams!

The networking never stops! (shoutout to The Space!)

Morning at UNESCO

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A day in the life

Now that I’m comfortably situated in a new homestay, I’ve been able to get into the swing of things and find a daily routine! Below is a description of a typical weekday for me.

7:00am (or 7h00 as the French say) : I get up, get dressed, and pack my bags.

7h30 : Breakfast (le petit-déjeuner). My host family provides breakfast every day.

At my first homestay, breakfast looked like this

 

Now my breakfast is brioche toast with homemade jam and a yogurt and whatever fruit I buy for myself that week

8h00 : I leave for class. I now live on the west side of Paris, and my commute is about 45 minutes long on the metro.

9h00 : First class of the day! In the mornings, I have French or History of Francophone Africa.

“Midi” : For lunch, I either bring something or pick something up from one of the many fantastic cafés and restaurants on Rue Daguerre.

A student favorite is a boulangerie on the corner with fresh sandwiches and pastries!

A student favorite is a boulangerie on the corner with fresh sandwiches and pastries!

 

Afternoon class : In the afternoons, I have Poetics and Politics of Gender in France or Immigration and Diversity in Paris.

Afternoon pick me up : sometimes I desperately need coffee in the afternoon, so I’ll stop by somewhere for an espresso or café crème and a viennoiserie (pastry) if I’m feeling indulgent!

Cafe crème

Espresso with viennoiserie (roule aux raisins)

Ballet : Twice a week, I take evening ballet classes in the Marais for course credit!

19h45 : Dinner. My host family provides dinner three nights a week – usually Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

29h30 : sleep! After a long day of commuting and speaking, listening, and thinking in French, I’m always exhausted.

 

Other aspects of daily life in Paris:

Weekly groceries for lunches and dinners!

I love walking around the fresh market every Saturday in my quartier.

The view from my living room

 

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Living in Paris

This week, Kyle asked us to reflect on our living situations and aspects of our everyday lives, which was perfect – I had already started writing about this!

In general, there are two housing options for students study abroad: homestays and apartments. I chose a homestay for many reasons, including the prospect of improving my French, interacting with real life French people, and learning more about cultural customs. Based on a recommendation from another Wofford student, I requested a specific family and, luckily, was placed with them! From what I’ve seen, there are many traditional and non-traditional families that choose to host international students. The family I selected is composed of a retired mother, her adopted 20-ish year old son, a 30-ish year old family friend, and her niece.

For the first couple of weeks, another international student and I got used to a breakfast of fresh baguettes with butter and jam, heightened awareness of the length of our showers, and not eating too much at dinner (because it’s always followed by a cheese course and a dessert!). All of this was a little new and a little weird, but fun nonetheless! However, I’m here to update you on the nitty gritty as well as the fun and games…

During my second week in Paris, I woke up with bug bites all over my body. When they became too numerous to dismiss, I notified the housing director, who placed me in a hotel, organized dry cleaning, and booked me a doctor’s appointment. Since then, I’ve been living out of my suitcase in various hotels while a new housing option is arranged for me, wearing the same clothes for a week and a half and backpacking across the city with my belongings every day. This is my not-so-glamorous real life in Paris – very different to what I’ve chosen to showcase on my social media sites.

Final reflection: we all know that studying abroad is difficult because of language barriers, new experiences, and cultural differences every day. However, studying abroad can sometimes become infinitely more difficult than expected! For me, these past two weeks have been a lesson in discovering differences between French and American standards of hostel/hotel cleanliness, adapting to new situations, and expressing frustration and anger in a different language.

À bientôt!

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Belleville, Street Art, and Coexistence

Living in the 1st arrondissement, I’ve had a privileged experience of Paris so far. My house overlooks the Seine, backs onto Rue Rivoli, and is within walking distance of the Louvre, Saint Chapelle, and Notre Dame. Because of this, my daily commute and neighborhood exploration rarely features decaying buildings, graffiti, or social housing. This is one of the many reasons I was interested in going on a walking street art tour around Belleville, an area that covers parts of the 11th, 12th, 19th, and 20th arrondissements.

Belleville has a distinct history of revolution and has long been a multi-ethnic and working class neighborhood – evident immediately after I exited the metro. Before meeting the rest of the group, I accidentally walked through the Saturday morning marché en plein air, situated between Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, and Pakistani restaurants and featuring Antillean, Lebanese, and North African vendors. The combination of different smells, products, and languages was incredible – and so different to my “historic heart” of Paris! Belleville hosts an incredible number of different cultures, which is something that began in the 1920s with Armenians, Greeks, and Jews, and has since been inhabited by many North Africans, Sub-Saharan Africans, and Chinese immigrants.

The first stop of the walking tour was a statue of Albert Camus. This unassuming sculpture turned out to be the perfect way to contextualize the area’s street art. Situated opposite the French Communist Party’s headquarters and made from metal and stone (earthy materials), it embodies the area’s working class population. Scrawled on the statue’s pedestal is the phrase “je t’aime, Clémentine,” which appears often throughout Belleville. This first stop was the perfect introduction to the area’s history and character and it also perfectly juxtaposed commissioned public art (of a famous French philosopher, no less) with new, illegal street art.

Since visiting museums with my parents as a young child, I’ve loved art and art history. However, I recognize that some of the fields’ many shortcomings are the cost of materials and visiting museums, as well as the education needed to analyze and produce art. Street art and graffiti, however, are perhaps the most accessible types of art out there, which is why they’re so prevalent in areas such as Belleville. Such art is accessible in terms of the materials needed, but it’s also accessible for anyone who wants to create it. Our guide mentioned male and female artists from France, USA, Turkey, and Portugal, as young as teenagers and as old as mid-sixties.

As we continued the tour, our guide emphasized the link between art and resistance. Street art is intrinsically subversive, due to its illegal and destructive nature, challenging the idea of public spaces and encouraging viewers to reconsider how they view their surroundings. Is creating art on an abandoned building morally wrong? Can street art be educational? Does street art help beautify an area? Can street art be more than graffiti tags? If the public likes the art, should the city leave it there?

I loved seeing pieces of art in unexpected places, then hearing about their context and background from our guide. Some were commentaries on consumerism, some on sexism or politics or culture. However, my favorite stories were those about Paris’s attitude towards street art. For an immensely beautiful, historic, and picturesque city, Paris loves to preserve street art and support artists. From prosecuting an artist and only charging one euro in damages to donating walls for more art to erasing tags but keeping larger murals intact, local government actively supports the city’s legacy of resistance and incredibly talented artists.

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Bonjour!

Bonjour!

My name is Meghan Curran and I’m a junior at Wofford. I’m majoring in French and Intercultural Studies and I recently completed the Middle Eastern and North African Studies program as well.

This fall, I’ll be studying with IES in Paris, France. While there, I’ll be taking classes about French culture, immigration and diversity, and gender studies. Stay tuned to hear more about my experience!

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