What Have I Learnt About Paris as a Study Abroad Student?

Cheese, wine and bread
Photo taken by Joe deSousa

Bread, wine, and cheese = Life

You might have heard how the French diet consists mainly of bread, cheese and wine.  I can almost guarantee that you’ve underestimated how true this is. The combination is enjoyed religiously with the average French family investing over 10 euros per week on baguettes alone. Understandably, this heavily influences the French hang out culture.

To illustrate this, I want to talk about a residency I did in Paris last summer. On the first night, at around 10pm, I decided to take a stroll around Canal St Martin to check out the area. I had no idea how incredibly packed the streets would be!

The Canal itself was overflowing. Hundreds of people were hanging out, laughing, singing, dancing, listening to music and most of all; eating and drinking. Both sides of the canal were lined with groups of picnickers. I was enthralled. The scene surpassed the Parisian dream I had built up for myself. People were free to enjoy life together, in a public space, and not in claustrophobic apartments or bars. Similarly to Canal St Martin, Parisians use the banks of the Seine to picnic and party. Over the summer months, the river regularly hosts public dance lessons ranging from salsa to la bachata and all are free to join.

Having lived in Paris for over 6 months, I can happily conclude that the concoction of bread, cheese and wine does indeed equal life and life to the fullest.

The French know the meaning of camaraderie

It was a huge deal to be in Paris during the 2016 European Championship Cup finals (France had made the cut). France was due to face Portugal and the night was destined to either be great or heartbreaking. The game was held in Marseille but the biggest spectating arena was at the foot of the Eiffel tower. As the sun started to set, the tower lit up and the giant court sized screen turned on. The entire crowd gathered; a rising sense of unity as the opening ceremonies began. Needless to say, the game was intense. There were controversial calls, injuries, substitutions and no goals. The longer the game went on the more dramatic it became. Half an hour into overtime, Portugal scored and silence reigned.

After France’s defeat, we all funneled out of the arena, heads hung low, into the nearest metro station. I happened to be in a carriage with a few Portugal fans. A few French guys started a conversation with them, and what I thought would turn into a bloodbath actually resulted in handshakes, head nods and some laughing. They were having a friendly conversation! It was incredible to see the two groups, who just hours before had been adversaries, come together and exchange pleasantries. This was one of the most genuine and respectful interactions I have ever seen post sporting event.

I guess camaraderie really is a French word.

An Art History student can curate a gallery show

Study Abroad students at PCA are given the opportunity to organise a gallery show in a professional gallery located in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. Honestly, you can’t get any swankier than that.

To be fair, I did find it difficult to curate the work of a group of 15 students because everyone had their own idea of what they wanted the show to look like, however we pulled it together in the end. The show was outstanding. The whole experience was thoroughly immersive, from welcoming the crowd and hosting a vernissage to opening the gallery doors the next morning and sitting with my coffee and laptop, listening to smooth jazz whilst early morning art enthusiasts perused our work. This may sound cliché but I loved it! I also love the fact that I can talk about curating a gallery show in future interviews. It’s really brought me a step ahead of the game.

Paris: It’s more than meets the eye

Paris is more than just the Eiffel Tower. It’s more than the Louvre and pretty architecture. Having become a full-fledged Parisian (not really), one of my favourite times of the year is when galleries open their doors to the public on the annual gallery hopping vernissage night. On this night, one can roam the streets of Paris and enjoy free aperitifs whilst admiring the exhibited art.

The city also has an unrequited love for underground street art. Galleries in Republique almost only exhibit work created by new street artists. The Palais de Tokyo puts on an annual street art exhibition called the LASCO project. Over the summer I was given a personal guided tour of the exhibition by one of the organisers. It was held in the museums basement, away from the gaze of idle tourists. Dozens of artists are allowed to use the basement of the museum to express and explore their art freely, without public or political intervention. On top of that, once the gallery closes, the nightclub YOYO comes to life.  A nightclub located in the basement of a museum? What more could you ask for? Gotta love this city!

 Interested in studying abroad at PCA? Click here to find out how!

The PCA Study Abroad Exhibition will be taking place on the 6th April 2017. We look forward to seeing you there!