I’m lucky enough to be spending the spring semester of my junior year in Paris, France as part of Notre Dame’s new study abroad program at the University of Paris Diderot. I’ve been here for four weeks now and despite the initial setbacks of a terrorist attack and malfunctioning bankcard, Paris has been amazing. Between some of the world’s greatest museums and some of the world’s greatest pastries, life in Paris never fails to be exciting. I’ve recently been doing some thinking about the way my life at Notre Dame differs a lot from my life in Paris. In many ways, it has a lot of the same elements just a different way of living them out.
My program is a direct enrollment program, which means I am in classes alongside students from France and around the world. This also means getting used to a whole different style of education. At Notre Dame, I would normally take 5 classes a week, each class normally meeting twice a week for an hour and fifteen minutes each. The European system is very different. Here, I am taking 9 classes, each meeting for between 1.5 to 3 hours but only once a week. It’s definitely a very different experience than classes at Notre Dame. On the plus side, the amount of reading and assignments for each class is pretty minimal compared to ND, so in the end, it should balance out.
My normal day at Notre Dame involved stopping at Grab N Go around 11 a.m. to grab some yogurt and a bagel to munch on while I catch up on readings and stopping at South Dining Hall with friends in the evening for dinner. Here in France, my breakfast consists of warm, fresh baked pain au chocolat and expresso from the local backery. My lunch is a delicious large meal at the restaurant at my university (only 3.50 euro which is equivalent to $3.95 in U.S. dollars - what a deal!). And dinner is a homecooked meal that I make each night with the other ND students living in Paris with me. When I want to change things up, I’ll stop off at the crepe stand outside our dorm or a falafel stand in the Marais.
Though there is always something going on at ND on the weekend- whether it is a sporting event or a play to go see, nothing compares to living in a big city where something is constantly happening. Some of my favorite things I’ve done so far: taking free tours led by locals around different parts of the city, taking an evening dinner and dancing cruise around the Seine, and taking a day trip to Reims in the Champagne region of France. There are also tons of events put on for foreign students to discover both Paris and Europe, and to make new friends. There are still other things I look forward to doing on the weekends- such as going to open air markets and taking in a ballet at the Palais Garnier.
School is school, so no matter where you go, you have to study. It is the hardest to study when a huge beautiful city is right outside though! Luckily, Paris does have some good study options. The library at my university looks out over the Seine, making it the perfect place to both daydream and study. I also love to get some reading done in the upper room of Shakespeare and Company, which is basically the most glorious bookstore in all of Paris, and probably the world for that matter. It was also the home to many lost generation writers during the 1920’s. There is no better place to do my readings for my Modernisms class than in the very bookstore that they were written in. If I’m looking for some expresso, there are tons cafés across the city to do work in - from places Hemingway used to write in near St. Germain-de-Pres to little hipster coffeeshops in the Villette. I also don’t mind studying at the desk in my dorm room at the Fondation Des Etats-Unis. When it gets dark, I can see the top of the Eiffel Tower and the Tour Montparnasse peaking out from the top of the trees. What better inspiration is there than that?