2013 Spring External Programs France Timothy Knapp

Paris, I like you as a friend. We’ll see where it goes.

It’s felt like one surreal, year-long day,  but it’s been three. I boarded the plane to Paris from JFK airport at 4:30pm and got to Paris and 6:10am local time (12:10pm EST), and prepared myself for the inevitable jet lag. Waiting for hours in the airport with a few students from my program, we were all deliriously tired and impatient to be picked up. This delirium caused us to choose the wrong rendez-vous point, and our program director couldn’t find us — Très stressant!

After finally meeting up with the program director, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, we took a van to our respective living arrangements, me to my host family, Les Fraisses. I ate lunch with Madame Fraisse, my host mother, after she showed me around the house, speaking English to me after realizing I have a small working knowledge of French thus far. It’s a distinct and uncomfortable feeling when someone speaks to you expecting you to understand, and you can only make out a couple words. It feels like I know enough French to realize how little I actually know. But I will improve, and that’s why I’m here. Madame Fraisse is incredibly nice and made me feel right at home.


I took a much needed nap, and when I woke up, I met Monsieur Fraisse (also incredibly nice). He showed me around their neighborhood, and the ins and outs of the public transit that I will need to get to my school. He assured me that although he is speaking English now, he will stop after I get settled or else I will never learn French.

In a strange coincidental piece of trivia, I learned that Monsieur Fraisse worked at IBM, and attended several international conferences in Poughkeepsie, New York, my home town. C’est un petit monde!

I was exhausted and hungry so I walked to the to corner boulangerie and bought one of the best loaves of bread I’ve ever eaten. There’s actually a lot of truth to the reputation of bread in France.


The next day, we had an orientation/French review class, and I got to meet everyone from the program. It’s a long walk to the metro from my house, and from the first train to the one I transfer to, and then an even longer walk from the stop to my school. I’m going to be walking a lot, mais j’adore marcher!

We took a boat ride on the Seine and saw several historic historic Paris landmarks. It was a gloomy, rainy day, but Paris still figured out how to make that beautiful. Way to go, Paris.


A bunch of us went out that night as a “bienvenue à Paris,” and sang Britney Spears karaoke like the obnoxious American college kids that we are. C’était très amusant!

Things I’ve learned so far:

1. Bread and cheese are, in fact, really great here.

2. Cities arranged in a grid are incredibly helpful, i.e., I get lost a lot here.

3. French people are super friendly, généralement.

4. French people drive on the right side of the road; it’s basically America up in here.

5.  I look very American.

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