From Paris, with love

Story by Lainie Tuitman, Reporter
Image courtesy of CVC

I am ultimately here to study, to do my homework everyday, and expand my language skills. However, in my mind, the adventure is half the education. Thus far, I’ve managed to dive right in. Getting lost, having adventures, joining in local life, that’s the stuff that an education is built on. I’m going to guess by the end, I will be very well educated indeed.

Sometimes France is funny. It is a Western European culture, with similar qualities to our own in the United States, yet it is a world away. It has a slightly worn and hard won sense of dignity about it that the United States may not be old enough to have yet. The French possess an almost shaggy-dog approach to the little things, yet much of life is layered with the pomp and circumstance of tradition. The French seem to know when to fight their cultural battles, and when to leave them alone. Protests do not often raise too many eyebrows, and social movements usually gain easy footing. It seems like everyone has a cause, even if it’s to sigh and say, “to be young and crazy again.”

I currently live in a country where I am surrounded by some of the most famous medieval architecture in the world, and many of the streets are cobblestone. Yet, everyday I take a year-old green and purple tram that is part of France’s initiative to get cars off the road and prevent pollution. France has done something truly amazing: they have managed to culturally ingrain being “green.” Honestly, my host mom’s day-to-day life makes my last three years at Aquinas trying to be “ecofriendly” look like a total flop. Many of the other students have said the same thing. Showers are cooler and shorter, dishwashers are not run until brimming, the compost is turned daily. Food is almost always carefully prepared with seasonal ingredients, which recently had my host mom proudly crowing about how her lifestyle since the 1940’s is now “trendy.”

If you ever have the opportunity to be in Paris, or France as a whole, I would recommend any of the medieval churches. I wish they had places where you could lay on the floor and look at the frescoed ceilings. If churches aren’t your thing, then there are a host of touristy things: there are small markets and hole-in-the-wall stores everywhere, with finds abounding. There’s of course the Eiffel Tower, and while it may make me nauseous because I’m afraid of heights, it provides a view of Paris that you have to see to believe. If you want the best versions of almost any dish, it is here (of course). My personal favorite is a simple, classic croissant…from the boulangerie, (like a bakery, but better… seriously) that my host mom has gone to for her entire life, that her mom went to as well. They know what they’re doing, if you get my gist.

I have been in France since February first; in that amount of time, I have seen, and done, more than I could have ever dreamed. I believe that everyone should have a chance to experience something similar. Let me put it very simply: everyone should study abroad, participate in a Dominican Exchange, or go volunteer with one of the Service Learning Trips at the very least.

At Aquinas we have so many opportunities, from going all out or having a little taste of the action. We are so fortunate that we have programs like we do: ones that remain intently involved in our progress, that celebrate our success, and that actively take part in achieving our goals. If you are at all interested in Study Abroad, a Dominican Exchange, or the Service Learning Trips, do not hesitate to ask someone about them, because you may just have the experience of a lifetime.

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