Blog Post 6 CSLC – Running to Notre Dame

Bouqinistes of Paris with Notre Dame de Paris and Pont de la Tournelle with the statue of ​​Sainte Geneviève

I like to run. I throw on my headphones, put on some punk rock, and clear my mind. When I was in Paris last summer, I was never able to establish a running routine, but this year, I created a habit of running before dinner. I would walk down Rue de Pontoise onto Quai de la Tournelle and then down onto the banks of the Seine. The run east was always interesting. I would run past people dancing by the banks, and people meeting up for picnics with their friends. I would run under bridges that always smelled bad. I would see restaurants and boats with houses, restaurants, and even a boat converted into a swimming pool, Piscine Joséphine Baker. All of these were true in Paris. I would see other people out for a run, all going about their day-to-day life. I was not an American Tourist when I would go for a run. I was just another weirdo trying out this new trend called jogging!

The return trip, however, was the best part of the day. I would be exhausted from running, and pain in my ankles thanks to the uneven cobblestone of the banks, but then I would see Notre Dame de Paris on the horizon. It was my beacon home. Once I saw the cathedral, I knew my run was almost over. It was one of the coolest feelings I experienced in Paris. I had gone beyond just being a tourist, but that cathedral would consistently take my breath away. To be able to enter into the routineness of a daily jog, but allow it to be highlighted by the beauty of Paris, this showed me I had made it. 

These runs were my victory lap. They proved that I could belong in Paris, and as of today, a week since my return, I miss those runs the most. They were nothing special but showed me that I could be a normal Parisian. Running is not always easy, but every time I saw Notre Dame in view, I would start to smile. Suddenly, I was not just running to stay in shape, I was running to be a part of the city. On the last run I took, I could not help to think how reflective each run was of my own Parisian experience. It was all just one big journey away from Notre Dame, and in a few short days, I will be back under the Golden Dome.

Blog Post #5 – La Crême de Paris

Une Crêpe Sucrée

“Une crêpe sucrée avec une boule de vanille si vous plait!” This is the opener at my favorite Creperie in Paris. Adorned with white tile and pink neon, La Crême de Paris might not be a staple of the Parisian diet, but it absolutely is a favorite of mine! 

Why do I mention this creperie? This restaurant has been a reflection of the cultural growth I have sustained as a Parisian. I first visited this mythical restaurant at midnight on Fête de la Musique in 2022. I was still studying as a part of the Paris Program, and my friends and I were looking for a sweet treat after a long night of music and dancing. We walked into the warm lights of the beautiful creperie and were immediately stunned. The food was delicious and the service was good, yet I was still nervous to have these French interactions. I could not speak French as well as I can now, and I was surrounded by this assumption that all Parisians must think I am dumb. With this came a need to prove I belong. I held on to the belief that Paris was a rude city. I felt I did not belong and that I had to adopt an abrasiveness to fit in. I left Paris that summer believing it had toughened me. I had to constantly be aware of pickpockets, who are everywhere. Nobody wants to speak to me in French because my French was not worthy. I left loving the city, but only in the times, I felt I belonged.

Fast forward one year exactly. I am in the exact same place, it is midnight on Fête de la Musique in 2023. “Une crêpe sucrée avec une boule de vanille si vous plait!” The whole scene is the same, but I am not. I took this internship worrying that I would be walking in circles. Why would I go to the same place to do the same things two years in a row? Writing this in my last few days has made me realize why. I needed to understand that French rudeness is not all that rude, it is direct. I needed to understand that if I put the effort into speaking French, it will leave a positive impression nonetheless. I had to grow to understand that not everybody is a pickpocket. I grew to know that I do belong. I am never going to be center stage in Paris, but I play a role here too. Maybe it was the change in the neighborhood I had this year or the improvement in my ability with the language, but I know for certain I had set a goal to control only what I can, which is me. It did not always work. There were days that I did not understand why I could not fit in more or why I could not understand better, but by controlling what I could, I felt I belonged. Tonight I had one of my last desserts in Paris at La Crême de Paris. There I was, at the same table as the first time I was there a year ago. How far I have come. Paris can not always be sweet like a crêpe, but by worrying just about my actions, I treated every moment like the crême de la crême!

Blog Post #4 – Jambon-Beurre

Jambon Beurre

Today has been a great day. I slept in late, and I walked to a boulangerie that was recently recommended to me. To describe the situation, I arrive and in flawless (almost) French I order a ham sandwich and a Coke. I ask, lacking confidence, if this was included on the discount menu for 7,50 euros? They look at me blankly, a moment of loss in translation, but then suddenly it clicks and I pay my 7,50 for my lunch. As I walk out I think to myself, did I get ripped off? How on earth could a 5 euro sandwich and a Coke be 7,50? I did ask to be on the discount menu, but could the combo menu have been more expensive? I am fuming! This sandwich is the sun to my morning, but suddenly clouds have appeared on the horizon. This is my negative cultural evaluation. I think that I must have been taken advantage of. The silly American paid a Euro extra! “Hoh Hoh (French Laugh), we got him good!” My two-minute walk to my apartment was filled with, not joyful hunger, but a full stomach of contempt! 

As I have been going through the D.I.V.E. (Describe, Interpret, Verify, Evaluate) method we practiced in this week’s module, I had done the first two steps but not the last two. I hopped on Google found the menu, and saw that Coca-Cola was 3,50. I saved 1 Euro. Looking over this incident, I think that as my comfort has grown in France, my atena of being the silly American has grown more and more. I am not just a run-of-the-mill tourist ready to fall for silly tricks of the trade. I believe this sandwich can be less of a meal and more of a peace offering between me and France. I need to trust that what I get in this country, will likely be tasty and good! The D.I.V.E method helped me think critically and get over my own mental hurdles, which allowed me to enjoy my sandwich. It was a culinary treat!

Blog Post #3 – Striped Shirts and Baguettes

Paris Skyline

Tonight, over the finest of French cuisine, pizza, I discussed with my host father American stereotypes. He started by stating the belief that everything was truly bigger in America: the buildings, the food, and the people. He noted, while he was growing up, that France looked at the USA with all of its innovation at the time and he noted the impression that American advancement had on Europe. He said back then it was a different feeling than today, now that Europe is on even footing technologically. He added another stereotype mentioning that the American perspective is often too introspective and not global-minded.

When reflecting on his comments, I saw the merit of the examples he gave. They are neither good nor bad, in my opinion, just differences. These stereotypes highlight cultural change. Things being bigger in America can absolutely be a negative thing, but. admittedly, while abroad, I wish I was getting those American-size portions for meals and endless refills of water. For my own auto stereotypes, I have been coming to grips with the lack of a global perspective that comes with being American. When I speak French, it often surprises me because many Americans do not take the time to learn the language. I have had to dissect that often  US mentality. I believe it can be both good and bad. We live in a big enough country, where travel is often national, and not international, which is an incredible blessing. That said, there is a deprivation in world studies that would greatly stimulate and improve the American intellect.

In Conclusion, I was so thankful for this conversation because it was an exchange. We ended with a laugh about how I do not fit the stereotypes of many Americans. I do not look like the square-jawed classic American, and I am globally minded. However, I do eat a lot, we concluded this after I polished off the second pizza.

Blog Post #2 – Paris has no A/C

Parisian Pond

I am awake, under what must be a weighted blanket, sweating my soul away on a humid Parisian night. I finally decide to open the window but the bugs are easier to catch than the breeze. Why can’t there be air conditioning in Paris? Why can’t I sleep in hot weather? And why, if they do not have air conditioning, did my homestay give me the thickest comforter I have ever used? To be frank, at the moment I was frustrated! The phrase “l’enfer, c’est l’autre” is classic Jean-Paul Sartre, the French Existentialist. I think he must have written this on one of the hottest nights in Paris because not only was I hot, I was in a terrible mood! Now, I am feeling much better about the lack of air conditioning, but that might also be due to the weather cooling off in Paris.

Air conditioning, at this moment, is a part of the cultural onion of Paris! Where does this first layer start? Well, it begins with the cafes! Everybody is sitting outside, even though it is super hot out! This is of course due to the lack of air conditioning inside! Why be crammed in a hot room when one can be outside? This carries through all Parisian life! Being outside in the summer is just the thing to do. Picnics or reading in the park are the true Parisian experience. And that’s the cultural norm! If we peel back the layers, we can understand, lots of that comes from the lack of air conditioning! This continues to remind me that though an experience is different, it is not worse! Frankly, I would gladly give up the air conditioning to know that all my meetings and hangouts would be outside! However,  I write that on a cool Parisian night! 

Blog Post #1: Pre-Departure

Bonjour mes amis! My name is Sean and I am going back to Paris for a fourth time! At this point, I should be a pro, but there is so much to learn and only 6 weeks to do it. I have highlighted in my discussion groups for the CSLC Internship that communication is one of the most important values in my family. Going from America where it is easy to communicate because of my English background to France where, even as a French major, I need to focus on communication. The last time I was there, because of being able to speak the language, I was able to reach the IDC Mindset of acceptance, but this time around, I would love to reach adaptation. I know that Paris has an effect on me but if I can reach the level where I affect Paris, that would be amazing. To reach that comfort level and acceptance in a city that listens to me would be amazing. There are of course goals and barriers to pass. I would love to become more competent in my language comprehension. My steps to reach that is to be more comfortable being uncomfortable. Being able to ask people to repeat themselves so that I can grow in comprehension is not always my favorite thing to do, but I know it will improve my French. Secondly, I want to become more comfortable with the uncontrollable. That is a big statement, but cities are a perfect place to practice. I can often find one negative interaction that I could not control can ruin my day, so by being able to take a deep breath and allowing for the uncontrollable to be ok, I can improve my city living!

As a sendoff for this internship, I would like to remind myself of why I am doing this. Yes, I studied abroad in Paris last summer and grew to understand the city, but this year, I will go beyond the postcard Paris. I am going back to a place with such beloved memories and asking the city for more. That’s a tall task. I have gone to the Eiffel Tower, seen the pretty Paintings, and traversed the catacombs, but yet I am returning to find more of Paris. This is much more of a challenge, but I know to reach the pulp which is beyond just the tourist books will truly invite me into a Paris that is mine. As I help with the study abroad program I did last year, I can reflect on my Paris of then and my Paris of now. I will be attempting to read great American Novels (The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, and Tender is the Night). I am excited to learn of American peripheries in Paris and vice versa. This summer will not be the same as last, and that is something to be so excited about. This internship has allowed me to go above and beyond, and through these blog posts, I am thrilled to have a written reminder of all of my Parisian growth.