The French and European Studies program that I’m in begins with what they call a “practicum.” It consists of being taught the first 3 1/2 or so chapters of the French language textbook (if you’re an absolute beginner like me) with a daily (Mon-Fri) 3-hour French class and 3 group outings a week to various parts of Paris (Mon, Wed, Fri) – without the added pressure of also taking the content courses (history, theater, etc.) . This practicum is a fabulous idea!
Before I came, I was nervous that the practicum would be too “intensive,” but it was actually a really balanced and supportive way to ease into the study abroad experience. A bit longer than I expected too. It was supposed to be an 11-day practicum, but it turns out that just refers to weekdays so it was actually 16 days long. We only had a few textbook exercises due each day for homework, plus some fairly short response papers due the day after each outing. The 2-weeks of language classes was useful because it gave me a head start on studying without having to split my attention with the other classes.
My favorite part of the practicum was going on the outings. This was partially because I liked being shown where some neat things are in an academic tour group setting, but it was mostly because I was really apprehensive about using the metro and after two or three outings I finally felt comfortable enough to use it on my own to get around (especially since I’ll have to do just that for my Histories of Paris class). Just to give you an idea. . .
Outing 1 – Belleville and Le Cimetiére du Pére-Lachaise:
For the first outing, we began by visiting Belleville to look at the graffiti and Asian businesses. Some of the graffiti was somewhat out of the ordinary.
Apparently, it’s one of those crummy areas that the government is currently attempting to clean up by providing low-income housing, etc. Most of the place looks like Oakland, CA – another place some people visit to look at graffiti.
After that, we walked to a lookout point to get a nice view of the city.
Then we went to see a truly humungous cemetery. I was impressed with some of the statues in the place, and somewhat amused by the unusual signage on the restroom stalls.
We walked all over the place and then went home. . . after a few people in my group hunted down the grave of Jim Morrison and stood around mooning over it for a while.