Archive for the ‘SU Sponsored: French-in France’ Category

Can you name the First Lady of the United States who both was renowned for her fashion sense and studied at the University of Grenoble? Read on to find out.

The Musee de Grenoble recently celebrated its 20th birthday, and my host mom and I went to celebrate. As we were meandering through the modern art collection, swerving the masses of elated cultured French people, we happened on the Andy Warhol portrait of Jackie O. My host mom stopped in front of it and asked me if I knew who it was. Being American and having been a fashion obsessed 16-year-old girl once upon a time, I said yes. “She lived on our street!” she told me. I have to admit… I was starstruck.
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Andy Warhol’s portrait of Jackie O housed at the Musee de Grenoble

So, I did a little research.

Turns out, not only did Jackie O live on my street (near the Musee de la Resistance et de la deportation – the French Resistance museum, a block from my apartment building), she also took a 6-week intensive French language program at the University of Grenoble. The similarities were incredible. I too was doing an intensive French-language program at the University of Genoble!

More than just being outright cool though, the story was comforting. I have to admit I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic, and without my even knowing, a little part of the United States history was situated comfortably on my street. C’est vachement cool!

Amanda

A brief lesson in French history

Posted: January 27, 2014 by snailtin in SU Sponsored: French-in France

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This the Château de Bouquéron. I can see it from my front door and cannot help but stare at it every time I walk to my bus stop, morning and evening. I find it fascinating and I am compelled to get as close to it as I can. I’m not superstitious, but I am certain that this place has a certain character of its own, and it has certainly seen a lot in its time. Legend has it that it was built in the 770s, commissioned by Charlemagne’s nephew Roland, but the first mention of it did not appear until 1100. A house as old as this is bound to house some grand stories within its walls, and another local legend claims that in the late 13th century it was bore witness to a murder most foul, involving two men and their struggle to obtain the rights to the property. The daughter of the proprietor, Elmengarde, was forced by her father to marry the tyrannical Bertrand de Theys, also known as the black night while her brother was away fighting in the crusades. When he came back and demanded that Bouquéron be handed over to him, Bertrand brutally murdered him by stabbing him in the back with a dagger, thus becoming the new owner of the place. Supposedly Elmengarde’s brother brought back with him a treasure of the knight’s templar, but even when confronted with death she refused to tell her husband where it was hidden.

The manor also served as a hiding place for the Dauphin Louis II (who eventually became King Louis XI) when his father, Charles VII, sent a troop of men to try and kill him in 1456. At that time the proprietor was an textile merchant named Claude Coct. Louis appeared at his door in the middle of the night seeking refuge, and seeing as he was the son of the king Claude could not exactly refuse him. So he let him in and when the archers eventually came to the door, Monsieur Coct managed to save the Dauphin’s life by exclaiming that the room in which he was hiding was “la chambre du diable (the devil’s room).” Being the God-fearing Catholics that they were, these men quickly hurried away and Claude thus saved the future king of France’s life. Of course, he was rewarded amply once Louis ascended to the throne. He was allowed to make use of the nearby forges at the foot of the Belledonne mountains for the next 15 years, which he gladly accepted and used to restore the château.

The next big chapter for the Bouquéron was during the Belle Époque when it was converted into a bathhouse by the mayor, who happened to be a doctor and believe in the healing powers of the Isère region’s heavily mineralized water. However, the project fell through once he died and the house closed its doors to the public in 1905. In 1908 was purchased by a Parisian named Giraud and since then I imagine it has remained within his family. The building is not what you would call “homey”, and to my knowledge there is no longer anyone living within its walls. Just secrets, memories, and maybe the holy grail.

Kaitlin

Listening More, Talking a Little Less

Posted: January 22, 2014 by rodgersa2013 in SU Sponsored: French-in France

Grenoble is undoubtedly the most beautiful place I have ever lived at this point. It’s surrounded on three sides by some of France’s most well-known and most-skied mountains: the Belledonne’s to the east (bordering Italy), the Vercours to the West, and Chartreuse (like the monks and the liquor) to the north. It’s actually fairly impossible to get lost in Grenoble, even though I’ve done it now 4 times, because the mountains are all very distinct, and anywhere you are you can still see them. But they’re also a constant reminder of something much more literally foreign: my global placement.

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(Grenoble from the Bastille)

I’ve been becoming increasingly aware of my place in the world, and when your window looks out onto the most French-looking street this side of the Champs-Elysees, it’s rather inevitable. But aesthetics aside, the other non-ignorable constant is the culture shock I’ve been going through for the last two weeks since I was woken up from a nap on an airplane and realized I’d landed in this country.  Since then I’ve been hit over and over again with strange differences that I thought I’d be perfectly able to adapt to: no one smiling on the tram, kissing everyone’s cheeks, a constant stream of “bonjour,” “merci,” “bon journee,” and “au revoir” so the French don’t still not smile at you. And luckily, through all of that, I manage to clam up and squeak out a few “mercis’”.

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(The view from my French room)

It sounds a little stressful, but it’s not! It’s the most wonderful, cultural experience I’ve ever had. I’d been trying to put my finger on the exact language barrier when, in VERY RAPID French, my new grammar teacher put it perfectly. English allows you to say a lot of things in very few words, and even basic French requires a high level of sentence intricacy, the kind that I’m learning it takes years to master. But then I focused in on the coolest part of her having said that: I understood it all perfectly. Every single word. And maybe I couldn’t quite form the same sentiment in a perfectly grammatically correct way, but I understood it. Which honestly made me less embarrassed that I couldn’t quite say it yet. So I decided: I’ve only been here for two weeks, and I figure if I listen more and talk a little less, I could probably learn a thing or two. Au revoir! 

Amanda

Je m’habitue

Posted: January 14, 2014 by snailtin in SU Sponsored: French-in France

Today marks the end of my first week in France. I have partaken in much awkward French small talk with my host family and spent around 35 hours studying the nuances of French grammar and I am greatly appreciating that I have a weekend off to rest. My host parents, Dominique and Oliver, have a fairly busy social schedule so they are gone not only this weekend but also the next several. They are very kind and accommodating but I am nevertheless enjoying having some time to myself and my little kitty companion Schoumi.

My placement test is in a couple days and I’m trying not to sweat it but I will be very disappointed if I don’t make it into the high B2 level. I feel like I have learned just about as much as I can in terms of French grammar after studying the language for so long (7 years now!) and I’m anxious to improve my ability to articulate myself and understand the French language on a deeper level—I want to read more contemporary French literature and philosophy rather than grammar exercises about what Marc and Pierre did and did not buy at the store. (I don’t care about your groceries, Marc and Pierre.)

I’m a decent speaker at this point but it’s a very frustrating feeling to not be able to describe something or engage in conversation with someone the way that I can in English without thinking twice about how I construct my sentences and place my pronouns. But again, it’s only been a week and considering that I am doing pretty well for myself. It will get easier. I will (hopefully) stop getting butterflies before ordering a drink at a restaurant for fear of making a mistake.

I’ve come to accept that I’m always going to look somewhat foreign here and that people are going to look at me strangely as I struggle through my everyday tasks of taking the bus, walking to class, etc., but I know that things will get easier and will pretty soon become second nature to me. I also have come to the realization that even if I do get judgy stares from old ladies on the bus and even if my dancing at the discothèque is a bit too crazy for some it’s okay—of course I want to adjust to life here as much as I can but there’s no reason that I should feel self conscious about not yet having reached that point. I want to be sensitive to the cultural differences but even though I would love to have been born in France, sadly I was not and I am an American. If anything, I would like my actions to challenge the general stereotype of Americans and help people realize that yes, despite what reality television and rampant consumerism suggest, my country does have its own unique culture (actually quite a few that are very diverse) and not everyone who comes from it can be reduced into one hyperbolic stereotype, just like not all French people are baguette-wielding beret wearing snobs. So ends my rant (don’t worry, there will be plenty more to come). But until then, à bientôt!

 

-Kaitlin

Godt nytår!

Posted: January 3, 2014 by snailtin in SU Sponsored: French-in France

I have finally reached my last night in Copenhagen and even though I’m very much looking forward to my time in France I will be sad to leave this lovely city. I came here to meet up with my friend Dominique, who has family here and has been studying in Istanbul for the past semester. Despite only being here for a few days I was able to see quite a few sites, including the little mermaid statue and Tivoli, the world’s second oldest theme park that inspired Walt Disney to make Disneyland. My mom studied abroad here when she was my age but if it weren’t for Dom being here I never really would have considered coming to Copenhagen to visit. It seems that Denmark tends to get overlooked by American tourists in lieu of more famous cities like Paris and London, or warmer climates like Italy and Spain. In that regard Copenhagen seems like a sort of hidden gem. People here are incredibly friendly and very lively (as attested to during the New Year’s celebrations last night that took place outdoors despite frigid temperatures) and despite that I know little to no Danish they are not quick to assume that I am an ignorant foreigner. Denmark reminds me of Portland in a lot of ways with its kind but not really ethnically diverse, its crafty yet stylish (and ridiculously expensive) wool goods, and its general coziness (hygge!) that reminds me of home. I can see why my mom loved it here so much, and now that I’ve seen a little bit of the city I am already thinking about coming back again in the summer. I was a very godt nytår (happy new year), and tomorrow I am off to Paris! Here’s to a wonderful 2014. 

Kaitlin

I don’t know why, I just like all things French. Striped boat-neck shirts, pistachio macarons, overly decorative century architecture, existential New Wave films, that dance Audrey Hepburn does in Funny Face, all nineteen Louis’s, half-pronunciation of words… the list could go on forever. To me, France is a dream.  It’s like a little heaven full of wheels of cheese, green river-banked hamlets, and the best bread you’ve ever put in your mouth. Seriously, ever. And for a long time I didn’t think I was going to really like any other places. I went to France in the summer of 2009 – Paris, and this little region in the south called Languedoc-Roussillon – and my preconceived, probably far too idyllic image of France was (somehow?!) real. There was actually a place that wasn’t abandoned suburban real estate as far as the eye could see, and to me, that was incredible.

And from then on, that was it. I was going to be fluent in this perplexing language, no matter how long it took.

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But to a certain extent I was also proved wrong. There was another place I liked. It was where I had decided to root myself at least for the first part of my adult life: Seattle. Seattle was like a constant music-festival in the mountains. And next to the ocean. While getting to read awesome books in fantastic classes taught by the most interesting people I’d ever met and discussing anything with the best friends I had ever made. Seattle was a weird beanie-clad pretentious fairytale about indie rock musicians and getting to take film classes and watch movies for homework, or… something. And having grown up in that aforementioned abandoned suburban real estate wasteland, Seattle was my cultural American Mecca. I mean it was really cool.

So rewind to February of last year, when I was accepted into the study abroad program. I guess the fact that I loved Seattle hadn’t really sunk in yet, because I began to have similar feelings about leaving Seattle for France that I had felt about leaving my hometown for Seattle. In fact that same day, I went out and bought a new striped boat-neck shirt. Oh yeah, I can totally be just that cliché. And then About A Month Ago rolled around, and this almighty tidal wave of sadness washed over me. I mean, it was a slow-motion tidal wave at first, and then someone pressed play and all I could say when people asked me if I was getting excited to leave was something like “Yeah except no because it’s so scary, dude.”

Luckily, though, like I said, I know the best people in the entire world. They reminded me that French was my passion, and that they would continue to love me besides all that continent and Atlantic Ocean in the way. And then when people asked if I was getting excited it was more like “Yeah, now I can swallow this, I’m super psyched to wear all those boat-necked shirts and eat all that bread!”

I keep thinking now that France is going to be the best 6 months of my life; I can’t really help it. Anyone is going to tell you to not have any expectations, to just let things come to you as it will – but who actually does that? Yeah, exactly: no one. But I’m mostly hoping that France can help me realize more about the world. Because all those things that I semi-jokingly listed that I love about France in the beginning aren’t even a French identity, they’re someone’s (okay, my) quasi-impressions of a place based on stereotypes. It’s not totally my fault, I haven’t seen a lot of the world, and so I have to rely on what I’ve heard. But in France, I’m going to try to broaden my horizons. I don’t want to self-reflect, or get a new haircut, or be okay with my body, or come back a whole new person. And I know that to a certain extent we all will, but I would rather learn more about what’s around me than what’s inside me, because I’ve done enough of the latter already. France isn’t really an opportunity for me to become more self-aware (or even to just eat a lot of pistachio macarons and look at an incomprehensible amount of decorative 18-century architecture), it’s an opportunity to understand the world and a culture outside of my own – something that is beyond my own little universe. And while I don’t want to leave everyone here that I love, I know that I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. Mostly because of the bread.

-Amanda Rodgers

Getting the Study Abroad Jitters

Posted: December 12, 2013 by snailtin in SU Sponsored: French-in France

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This is a picture of me from five years ago, when I went to France for the first time (and had to do the obligatory jumping pose as an obnoxious tourist, of course). I suppose a lot has happened since then, but I feel the same sense of giddiness now as I do then when I think about what’s in store for me when I get to France. My name is Kaitlin and I am junior at Seattle U studying French and English Literature. Starting in January I will be studying in Grenoble for 5 months with the SU sponsored French-in-France Program (in coordination with the CUEF program at the University of Grenoble) and then jetting off to Morocco with my class for the last half of May and puttering around Europe for the rest of June, maybe working on organic farm or something. 

Having finished all of my finals today and just beginning to pack up my very messy room I feel the same way I did when I prepared myself to move to Seattle for college. I’m simultaneously ridiculously excited and preoccupied with the thought of how much I’m leaving behind. I’ve settled into a beautiful home with some very close friends here at Seattle U and now that I’ve reached my third year I finally feel like I’m a part of a community. It’s hard to think that I’m going to be so disconnected from what happens with my friends for the rest of the year (not that I won’t do my best to keep in touch). However, I’m really looking forward to seeing how my friends have grown and hearing about all of their experiences here in Seattle once I get back.

Kaitlin