Amid a nearly consistent existential crisis regarding my future, my employment prospects, and all the looming grad school applications, there is one thing I know for certain: I want to live near a body of water (the Hudson river does not count). So, despite the prospect of spending 45 minutes trapped in a car with small, whining children, I couldn’t decline my host family’s invitation to see the Atlantic coastline.
Locations: Cap Blanc-Nez, Cap Gris-Nez, Bologne-sur-Mer. The one place we didn’t make it to, regrettably, is the infamous (thanks Christopher Nolan!) Dunkirk. But worry not, you can see England from other points along the coast as well. Except on days where it’s too overcast to see. Like this Sunday.
All I can say is, you can’t leave France without seeing the beaches.
It truly amazes me just how subtle manifestations of sexism in allegedly progressive societies can be. We may not even notice them unless someone points it out to us. Although as women we experience subtle and not-so-subtle sexism on a daily basis, we often take societal norms for granted without pausing to think about their frequently problematic origins.
Take France for example. 96th percentile in women’s financial inclusion. 223 female lawmakers out of the 577 new deputies elected into the French Parliament in 2017, pushing the country from 64th to 17th place in female parliamentary representation globally.
Then, there’s the ever-present stereotype of the French woman, embracing her sensuality and demanding respect. French women themselves certainly find their brand of feminism to be as (if not more) successful than the American version, less aggressive yet effective.
In 1947, describing her visit to the United States, Simone de Beauvoir wrote: “Relations between men and women in America are one of permanent war.” That perception holds true today as the French, even in casual conversations, approach American feminist initiatives such as #MeToo cautiously, wary of potential excesses.
I first arrived to France with the image of French society as somehow freer, but also better-mannered and more refined. I assumed men here would respect me, as a woman, and I found the idea charming. And for the most part, they have. Alas, the devil is in the details.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of my second week as an editorial intern at L’Indépendant, a local newspaper in Saint-Omer, France. Since my abrupt exit from the worlds of Instagram and Snapchat, there has been some confusion about where I’m currently located and what exactly I’m doing, so I invite you to read on to find out.
This summer, I am spending six weeks in the north of France, in a small town near the Belgian border (and I mean, small, total population about 15,000). I’m here as part of the John Carroll Summer Internship Program hosted by the Georgetown University French Department and the government of Saint-Omer every summer since 2016. The program brings interested Georgetown students to Saint-Omer and places them in local organizations that volunteer to take on American interns. The entire program is completely free, except for the round-trip ticket to/from Saint-Omer. We are all placed with host families, who also volunteer to welcome complete strangers into their homes for six weeks and receive nothing in return, which is perhaps the most incredible and generous thing I’ve ever encountered. Why Saint-Omer? As it turns out, Georgetown University’s founder John Carroll attended the Jesuit College here in the 1740s thanks to British prosecution of Jesuits on their territory, the American colonies included. A local history enthusiast rediscovered this unlikely connection between her town and Washington, D.C., and soon the program was born. How do I know all of this? The first article I wrote for L’Indépendant was about our program, so I am armed with fun facts about John Carroll.
This article was originally written for the Caravel, a student-run international affairs newspaper affiliated with Georgetown University. With permission from the Caravel’s Publisher, I am reposting my article here to share with all of you.
I had the amazing opportunity to sit down a professor at Sciences Po Bordeaux to discuss the recent changes to French higher education and their impact on students. If you’re interested in exploring the differences between US and French higher education, I highly encourage you to give this a read!
After a week of procrastinating (and talking about fashion instead), I have finally decided to write about my trip to Toulouse, Albi, and Cordes-sur-Ciel and share some amazing photos. OK, full disclosure, the WiFi at my host family’s decided to stop working so I have no access to procrastination-enabling materials at the moment.
I initially wanted to write a mini-guide to the three locations, but seeing as we made the trip in the dead of January and our visit to Cordes-sur-Ciel fell on a Sunday, virtually everything was closed. [As a side note, nothing is ever open on Sundays in this country except cafés where you can brunch strictly between 11am and 4pm and where you absolutely cannot use your laptop—trust me, I tried this Sunday and was reprimanded by a waitress.] So, instead, I will just share the marvelous views and some cool facts about each place.
Toulouse Toulouse AKA la Ville Rose (“Pink City”) is the capital of the Occitanie region of France—map below for the geographically challenged, myself included—and the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country after Paris, Lyon, and Marseille.
It earns its nickname from the color of the terracotta bricks used to construct the majority of the buildings. To be quite honest, the bricks aren’t really rose-colored at all, they’re more of a reddish-brown with a sliiiiight pink hue. The material differs notably from the white stone we typically imagine when we think of old French buildings. Such stone was used in Paris and Bordeaux, but it was too expensive to import all the way from the Pyrénées to use for the construction of Toulouse. Thanks to such geographical constraints, you can easily spot the former residencies of incredibly wealthy merchants because they are constructed at least in part using the overpriced white stone. If there’s one thing you need to understand about French history, it’s that the bourgeois class loved to show off. Continue reading →