Faire la bise

In France when you see someone you know you go and kiss once on each of their cheeks.  This whole concept is super foreign to me.  I’ve been trying to become less and less awkward when I do it… but I still find it confusing.

What I’ve realized:  two women will always do the greeting, a man and a woman will always do the greeting, and two men… it gets complicated.  If the men don’t know each other well, they will shake hands. If they know each other well they will do the gesture… but where do you draw the line? I sure don’t know.

Now if you’re sitting down and someone comes to do the gesture, are you supposed to stand up, do it, and sit back down again? or stay sitting and have them bend down… I’ve seen both. I usually stand up.

If you’re having a conversation with someone, and they initiate the gesture, do you continue talking in between the two cheek kisses? or do you stop talking, do the gesture, then resume conversation?  I usually just keep talking, but I feel awkward doing that.

When I meet friends of my host family, I never know if they are going to shake my hand or do the gesture… While I technically don’t know them, they are close friends to my host family which I am effectively part of the family so often then end up doing the gesture with me even though I’m not expecting it.

If someone arrives to a circle of people, and they’re doing the gesture with one person in the circle, they will continue to do the gesture to everyone in the circle, because it would be rude to leave someone out. So even if I don’t know the person who shows up to my circle of friend… I’m now kissing their cheeks.

So why do the French do it? The gesture illustrates a kind way to appreciate someone’s presence.  They don’t like the idea of hugs because they are too intimate… you’re rubbing your body up in someone else’s space.  With this gesture you keep your body far away from one another (or if you have a close relationship they may but a hand on someone’s upper arm)  and just touch cheeks. From an american perspective it’s awkward to touch cheeks, but from a French perspective you are only touching cheeks and nothing else.

Examen Orale

Possibly the scariest thing I’ve ever heard, and I just survived it!!!

The professor emailed me on Tuesday night to tell me that I would have to do one on Thursday morning.  When he arrived on Thursday  morning, he walked me to a classroom and asked me a question…. Immediately I had to respond to the question… no time to think, no time to analyse… and my instant response is my entire grade for the entire course…. very very very stressful.  The professor is a very intimidating man… and he is a very bizarre man who is very theoretical.

So he asked his question: the role of transference for Freud when he did translations during the preanalytique before he created psychanalyse.  And so I talked… I rambled, I mentioned lots of things… repeated things he had said in class hoping it was relevant.  And then before I knew it, I was finishing up my thoughts and it was over…. I honestly can’t remember all of what I said, I was shaking with nervousness.  I held my hands tightly together so I wouldn’t fidget….

And now the waiting game…. I will wait a few months to see if I passed my hardest class…..

Résumé des Voyages

My trip to Belgium marks my last voyage outside of Paris before my time here is done.  I wanted to provide a summary of all the voyages so if you’re interested feel free to click on any of the town names and it will direct you to that blog post!

B. Giverny (Real-life impressionisme)

D. Loire Valley (Castles, Cheese and Wine)

F. Amiens ( Tallest and most asymmetrical Cathedral)

H. Versailles (Castle that led to French Revolution)

J. Berlin (Bread, Beer, and Bikes in Germany!!)

L. Chartres (Stained Glass isn’t just for cathedrals)

N. Reims (Champagne)

P. Prague (part 2, part 3) (Disneyland for Adults in the Czech Republic)

R. Metz (If France and Germany had a child)

T. Bruxelles (Waffles, Chocolate, and EU Parliament)




I went to Belgium on Friday!! This was an EDUCO semi-sponsored event.  We arrived took a short train right into the center of the city.  We started by walking through the Grand Square and cute passages (and it was snowing!).

Then we took a tour of a museum of  Comic Books.  Now this might sound crazy to American readers, because in America Comic books are mostly just superheros and kinda weird.  However, in Belgium (and France) comic books are considered an 8th type of art (to go along with sculpture, painting, singing, theater, etc) afterall it’s drawings WITH WORDS.  Needless to say they are a big part of the culture in belgium (and France too).  We learned all about TinTin and Smurfs (both of which originated from Belgium!).  We also learned about the cartoon Natacha which started as just a comic about a woman (a new idea) but eventually turned into an “erotic” comic after a few years.  The museum had a special room for adults only that our guide took us to.  There was a funny “no children” sign outside.

For lunch I tried a sandwich made with brie and sirop de liège.  Liège is a town in Belgium, and the “sirop” is sort of a mixture between jam and syrop and it is pear flavored.  There also were some chunks of pear.  The sandwich was delicious!!  I also tried a brownie, which looked like a muffin, but was super tasty.

Next we went to the “Parlementarium” which was a super cool interactive museum explaining the history and functions of the EU Parliament. Unfortunately, our guide got lost on the way to the museum so we only got about 15-20 minutes in this huge museum so I was frustrated.  I actually was super interested in this museum (and political science is far from my normal interests).  There was a huge map of Europe on the floor of one of the rooms.  There were these little podiums on wheels and you’d take it and place it over a major city in one of the European Union countries and it would give a short historical/cultural message about it.  I learned quite a bit, I thought I’d include some random facts.  Croatia is anticipated to be added to the EU in about 6 months. Norway is the only Scandinavian country who is not part of the EU (I’m actually not sure why).  And, many of the EU countries have not switched over the euro (and likely won’t).  It verified what I learned in the Czech Republic: the Czech Republic is part of the EU but they refused to sign one of the financial measure of the EU so they remain on their own currency instead of the Euro.  There are also 14 vice presidents of the EU!

Next we had a meeting in the actual EU Parliament building!  Unfortunately we couldn’t go into famous room where all their meetings are held (something about construction and safety…I didn’t understand completely).  We had an employee give us an informative lecture about what the EU parliament does and the ways their meetings are held.  Each member always speaks in their native (first) language and then it is translated into 23 different languages instantly for everyone else!! They also allowed us to ask questions.  While this isn’t my domain, many of the students in my group are taking an EU class right now so they were very quick with lots of questions.

Lastly, we had some free time in the city.  Without a doubt I wanted to go to the famous Christmas Markets!!  I tasted so many great Belgian specialities. I tried waffles (of course).  I actually prefer Liège style belgian waffles over the Bruxelles style (which is more similar to what we eat in America).  The Liège style has almost a sugar coating on it, and they are smaller…. mmm so tasty!  I also tasted french fries which were originally made by a French man who lived in Belgium.  They had 15 different sauces we could put on our fries…. ketchup is the only one that sounded reasonable in my mind.  I also got some belgian chocolates to give as gifts to people who have been especially helpful for me in my time in Paris.


Premier examen final

My first final exam!!

I just got home from my first final exam and I’m in the post-exam rush so I thought I’d crank out a blog post!! My exam today was in History of Subsaharan Africa in the 19th century.  This class has only two notes: a paper and a final.  All I have to do is pass these classes.  In France all grades are out of 20.  And for me a 10 is passing.  In most classes the mean for the class is around an 11, or a 12 if the professor is generous. Also, scores between 18-20 are never handed out… they don’t exist.  So that being said, I need to be around the mean of the class (full of french students who are native speakers….)  While this may sound scary,  I actually beat the mean on my first assignment in that class getting a 14.5 on the paper (the highest score in the class was a 17 which was gotten by one of the americans from my program!).

Now for some context: this is the first final exam I’ve ever taken at a college level in a humanities class!!!  So I was pretty nervous.  Over the past weekend I summarized all my notes into a study guide and it was 30 PAGES!!  Nonetheless I worked hard and memorized most of it so I felt super prepared for the exam.  I go in and on the front page of the exam there is a box that says : check this if you’re not a native french speaker.  I chuckle and mark the box.  I’m super grateful because the exam grader will hopefully go easy on my multitude of grammar mistakes.  The first part of the test was to put things on a map of Africa.  It asked us to mark the Nile and the Niger, and then a few states that existed in the 19th century.  The next part of the exam was a question that said Tell me everything you know about the Boer War .  Now I studied the Boer war in high school and wrote a huge essay on it, so I barely even had to study this topic so I cranked out that essay first.  The next question was  Tell me everything you know about Sierra Leone.  Again this was relatively easy because it was one of the main British colonies that we had studied in class.  Finally we had a mini-dissertation that was on  The Blacks and Whites in Africa in the 19th Century .  I was shocked at how broad the topic was.  Literally I could write a French-style dissertation on practically anything I learned in the class.  I structured out the essay in the French style, and used my section stems that I’ve been using all semester.  The French style dictates what it’s going to tell you, then tells it to you. Then repeats what it is going to say, then explains it.  I find it rather repetitive and odd, but I’ve got this style down after writing a few papers. I do have to say that my essays were not super in depth… they should be enough to pass and prove that I know how to write a paper and I paid attention in class, but they weren’t magnificently profound essays.

So I definitely over-studied.  But to be honest, I loved the class.  This goes down as one of my all-time favorite classes in my college career.  I’m positive I passed this class (seeing as I only needed a 5.5 to average to a 10 out of 20).

What’s Left?

Well I still have a 15 page paper for my film class.  I have a 3 hour final for my sociology class.  I have a 10 minute oral exam (prof asks me questions, I (hopefully) answer them), and a 1.5 hour analysis of text for psychanalyse….

I’m pretty nervous for my psychanalyse class because my entire grade is based off 2 hours on my last day in Paris… and the class has been super all over the place without much cohesion… hopefully I can pass that class!!!