Paris for ten days? Sign me up…
That was my initial reaction when I was asked to teach Honors 4260 for the Winter 2019 semester. I honestly had no idea what to expect….
Over Spring Break 2019, eighteen students and a few faculty and staff members from Wayne State University embarked on a 10-day trip to Paris, France, or as some students put it, the best vacation ever. This amazing experience was part of an Honors study abroad class entitled "Today’s Paris" (HON 4260), which teaches students about aspects of French culture, such as language, food, architecture, art, history, and fashion both in the classroom and “sur place” in France.
At the beginning of the semester, everyone was anxious about traveling to a foreign country with people they had never met before, and for many students, the trip involved their first flight overseas. After several team building activities, going over travel tips, Skyping a few times throughout the semester with a French-American exchange student in Paris, and discussing some of the cultural differences and norms, students started to feel more comfortable about things.
While we were in Paris, “[we] did it all” (as noted by the song choice in one of the student videos below). The itinerary was packed with scheduled visits and tours, but there was also plenty of free time, which allowed students to discover Paris on their own based on their specific interests. In particular, we went to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Catacombs, Notre Dame, Sacré-Coeur, la Sainte-Chapelle, Versailles, le Musée d’Orsay, l’Orangerie, le Palais de Tokyo, le Louvre, le Centre Pompidou, les Galeries Lafayette, Montmartre, and Disneyland Paris.
The students really impressed me with their ability to work together and push themselves outside of their comfort zones to grow as individuals and learn about their own culture by studying another. Although most of the students didn’t have any previous knowledge of French, I was so proud of them for being able to get by and interact with Parisians with the limited French they had learned in class. No one even got lost on the metro system; they were pros within the first two days! The trip worked so well because the students were such an inclusive group. There were a lot of laughter and smiles, which translated into friendships that will last a lifetime.
I can’t even begin to explain how impactful this course was for students, so here are a few of their comments about the trip/class in their words:
“I made a whole new group of friends and had a life-changing experience that I will never forget. This class was one of the best decisions that I have made because I was able to push myself out of my comfort zone as well as meet people that I probably would not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.” Natalie Kelly
“Everything that I was scared of ended up being a non-issue, literally every single street was beautiful, and the food was some of the best I have ever had.” Emily Tujaka
“If I were able to go back to Paris for just one day, I would want to go back with the entire group. I would want to take in the city again for one day altogether.” Karrie Burnett
“My expectations were fully realized the second I took the first bite of my first French meal: a croque madame. It was everything I had hoped it to be. It was a true out-of-body experience.” Alexander Hill
“There is no doubt in my mind that this trip abroad was my favorite vacation that I have ever taken.” Luke Hodgson
“I felt proud of myself that I was able to shop and buy products in French, and more than five times I convinced a cashier that I speak fluent French.” Naqia Stephens
“I was in awe when I got to the top of the numerous steps to climb up [the Arc de Triomphe] and view the city from a point of view I had not yet experienced. This experience was powerful for me because I got to see the entire city, with all the roads diverging out like a star from where I was standing, like I learned in class.” Samantha Lacross
“Each day was never-ending –in the best way possible.” Fareeha Khan
Students completed research projects about their areas of interest and presented them before leaving for Paris, and they also had to do a reflective video project after the trip. Here are a few of their videos to give you a better idea about what the trip was like for them.
Hannah Jackson submitted this video: Hannah – Paris video.
Madison Cabanaw submitted this video: Madison – Paris Trip.
Teaching this class was beyond an unforgettable experience! It was especially great when students were excited to point out something they saw in Paris that we had specifically covered in class. For many of them, little aspects of their lives have changed because of the trip, including how Starbucks croissants will never be the same. 😃
Their reactions to the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night and to the views at the top of the Arc de Triomphe were priceless. My reaction after the trip was more like… No matter how tired I was when we got back… Paris for ten days? Sign me up again. This post-trip reflection video I made for the students with modified song lyrics and a few inside jokes summarizes the experience for me.
Merci pour cette expérience inoubliable!
By Christine Knapp, lecturer and director of basic French