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   Date: 2/10/11 Bookmark and Share

Notes From Abroad

Read other Notes From Abroad:

Laura Itzkowitz ’09

Emily Brown ’11 in England

Despite the culture shock, the relentless and frequent strikes, the inconvenience of dealing with uncharacteristic snow in Paris, Christianne Beasley ’12 has become enamored of France, where she is spending her Junior Year Abroad. She recently wrote from Paris about her experience.

Vive la différence

By Christianne Beasley ’12

Culture shock—everyone’s worst fear when moving abroad. Getting immersed in another language and having to wade through countless cultural differences is, without a doubt, a nightmare. And yet, some of the things that shocked me all the way back in August have now become completely normal.

Christianne Beasley ’12 makes a tourist stop at the Châteaux de la Loire in France.

Beasley (fourth from the left) takes an afternoon at the French café with fellow Smith juniors (left to right): Clare Landefeld, Miah Williamsen, Simone Budzyn, Cara Gubbins, Anais-Lugo Guercio and Ali Ankudowich.

Take, for example, strikes. A common French sport, one might say, otherwise known as a good reason to take the day--or multiple days--off and parade for an important cause.

This year, when the government proposed to raise the retirement age to 62 (if only!), everything shut down. Last semester, one of my Sorbonne classes met a total of eight times. Call it standing up for a cause or being lazy, but one thing is certain: the French believe in their right to question everything and aren’t afraid to voice their opinions.

Smithies, does this sound familiar?

Come winter, I experienced my personal favorite French crisis: their reaction to snow (a total of two inches)—or, shall we say, lack thereof. As a native Mainer, the fact that no one even owns a shovel astounded me. Last time I checked, pushing snow with a broom won’t help much. And that applies only to the people who even bothered to do something about it. Most of the French looked out their windows, strapped on their heels, shrugged and trudged out the door. After all, it wasn’t their fault that Paris iced over. Why should they have to deal with it?

There’s the frowning, horrible driving, and the general lack of courtesy to others. That two inches of space in the Métro? Watch out, because someone is going to squeeze themselves into it. The Musée de la Mode, one of the reasons why I came to study here, is completely closed until next year. Surely, France has taught me to take everything with a huge grain of salt, literally: the beurre salé (salted butter) that they slather on their bread is delicious and far from nutritious.

But it wouldn’t be fair to be so pessimistic. France has taught me many other, more positive things: how to make a tiny cup of coffee last hours at a café, how to appreciate a good baguette, how to charm the vendor at the marché, among others. I certainly feel more cultured and knowledgeable, my life here in Paris being more interesting and busy than I had ever imagined. Who gets to say that they go to the Louvre as much as they want? Or see the Eiffel Tower every morning on the way to class?

Come May, leaving will surely be bittersweet. But I know that once I set foot back in my hometown of Dawes, a little part of Paris will return with me. My time in France may be winding down, but for the moment, I’ll take a cue from les Français and savor it as much possible.

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