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Emily Handy

Plainwell, MI
Majors: French and International Studies

Triomphe in Paris

I always knew that I wanted to study in Paris, home to some of the most historic and famous monuments that represent European history. I relished being able to visit le Louvre, la Tour Eiffel, l'Arc de Triomphe, le Musée d'Orsay, la Place de la Concorde, and the renowned Château de Versailles. I loved living in the city of endless baguettes, Paris Fashion Week, and the pinnacle of French politics, being able to witness an exciting French Presidential election. The IES French Studies program allowed me to take part in cultural experiences and visit some of the most amazing landmarks in France while studying.

The IES program calmed my worries about the new city, language and culture. My political, history, film, literature, and grammar classes further helped me learn about the French culture, perspective and history. It was my first time living in a huge city, taking the métro, speaking French to natives, living with a different family, never wearing "sweats" in public, and experiencing a foreign presidential election. At first, I was nervous about beginning life in Paris, but the excitement of these first-time experiences made living in Paris that much better.

Upon my arrival in Paris, I first walked up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. I looked out over Paris and saw, for the first time, the Tour Eiffel, the Champs-Elysées, Notre Dame, the Seine, and the many streets that I would eventually stumble upon during my… time in Paris. The scene was not what I… expected; it made me nervous. I have never lived in a city with over two million inhabitants and many more tourists, but it was not until I started to trek the streets, walk along the Seine every day, and picnic in the many extravagant jardins that I truly made Paris my home.

Part of what helped me adjust to Paris and enriched my experience was the IES French Studies program through which I took my courses. The staff at IES informed us of many cultural events around the city as well as sponsoring excursions. My first weekend in France, the IES staff took us to the Loire Valley for our orientation weekend. The Loire Valley is known for its numerous châteaux (castles); we visited the Château de Chambord (the largest château in the valley) and the Château d'Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci lived and died. The staff also took us to the city of Reims, where French kings were crowned. In Reims we visited the unique Mme Pommery Champagne Cave and the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims.

The courses through IES Abroad were tailored to my interests and offered many practical courses to facilitate learning the language and the culture. For example, my stay in France coincided with the 2012 French Presidential elections. To better help students understand the election process, IES designed a unique new course devoted to the discussion of these upcoming elections. It was so fascinating to have a class that would help me converse with the locals about the "hot topics" and debates.

My semester in Paris was a life-changing opportunity that helped me grow and gain a more concrete perspective of life. I knew that studying abroad would be beneficial academically, psychologically, and socially, but in actuality, it gave me so much more to hope for in the future.