2013 Spring External Programs France Timothy Knapp

Taking Classes and Eating Ice Cream

After two weeks of orientation (i.e., being a tourist and having no responsibility), I had my first official day of class on Thursday. My “Elementary Grammaire” professor , Madame François France Lanord (which is actually her name) is very French and very intimidating. The class is for international students studying French as a second language, which creates an interesting melting pot of students, some of whom can only communicate through their elementary knowledge of French. It’s a small class with a variety of nationalities and native languages, but I managed to communicate in English to some classmates from Australia and South Africa.

The French school system is very different than the American school system. French students typically don’t have an advisor, there is zero campus life, and it’s typical for students to have two classes back to back in different parts of the city and no time in between. While entitled to certain luxuries offered by my American program, I was still unfortunate enough to study at the Sorbonne during the tail end of its construction, which means classes are now more geographically spread out than usual. The program director has assured us that it isn’t unusual to see French students run or jog from one class to the next. Anything to burn off those extra baguette calories, am I right?


(Beautiful Sorbonne building that I don’t have classes in)

It’s overwhelming and a little daunting to be taking courses in French in a system with such little hand-holding, but I’m sure that I will learn a lot. In only two grammar classes, I could already feel gears turning and my French improving. I had another host family dinner, and felt slightly less overwhelmed by my lack of comprehension. It was a “raclette” style meal, which is essentially melting cheese and meat together on a miniature stove appliance that we had in the middle of the table. C’était délicieux. We had two other French guests, friends of the family, one of whom spoke English and was relating with me his knowledge of American culture. He invited me to listen to AC/DC and watch Clerks with him some time, because what else do us Americans do? He had just gotten a new job, and we were celebrating with what I was assured was one of the best champagnes in the world. It was pretty alright.

Although I’ve been busy with classes and scheduling classes and buying books for classes, I’ve still managed to do some more touristy activities. I paid my first visit to the Louvre, of many to come. It is such a huge museum that in the three hours I was there, I saw less than a quarter of it. I did manage to see the Mona Lisa, but couldn’t find the motivation to push through the crowds to get a close look, or a picture with her. It’s a beautiful painting, sure, but I saw dozens that I found more impressive in that one room alone.


I also got ice cream at Berthillon, which is considered by many to be the best ice cream in the world. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree; it was amazing. I would have to try other flavors before I made any sweeping claims, but I was pretty satisfied. The weather was warmer this weekend than it has been, and it made me realize how excited I am for  Spring. Warm, Paris weather will bring lots of picnics, aimless walking, and frequent trips to Berthillon.

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