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Cheers and Au Revoir

The view from top of the hill in Monmartre, a district in northern Paris. Sacre Cour - a white chapel at the top looks down into the city of Paris.

Overall every single one of us learned more about European cultures – both in a communication and social aspect. We also learned more about ourselves, gaining perspectives about our relationships with others. We saw the world – outside our own home of America – and realized just how big it really is. The same sun that shone in London and Paris shines on us here in Connecticut. It’s those little things that really make you think about life, as cliche or silly as it may sound. I would say that good majority of us came back slightly different, in a promising way.

It was hard to write about this trip and give it the justice is deserves, since at times words were just not enough. I will leave you all with a suggestion from me: go to Europe…heck, go to Asia or Australia. Go somewhere other than America and experience the world on a larger scale. You’ll see for yourselves how traveling abroad is a hard concept to put into paragraphs.



Back to the States

We were able to enjoy a traditional breakfast at the Ibis hotel before we boarded the coach bus that brought us to the airport.  The breakfast consisted of fresh croissants, meats, cheeses, bread, and fruit.  There was also a coffee machine that could create almost any drink under the sun.  It was delicious and a nice way to begin our mornings in Paris.

Once we all were on the bus with our luggage we headed to the airport.  We had a 2:30pm flight out and were expected to arrive at JFK around 5:30pm.  The flight went well and even though it was hours long.  Most of us used this opportunity to catch up on our sleep.

After making it though security we had our passports stamped and grabbed our luggage.  Then it was greeting families and saying our goodbyes to the group.

Josh in action

Overall, I had a fantastic time on this trip.  It broadened my knowledge of communications and gave me a global experience that will last a lifetime.  I look forward to spending time with my classmates reflecting on our trip this summer!

– Jen

Our last full day abroad

Time went too fast while studying abroad.  Before I knew it I found myself forced with the reality that we would be heading back home the next day.  We didn’t let this stop us from enjoying the city though!

Traveling on the RER to Versailles

A smaller group of us decided to go see the Palace of Versailles.  It was about a 30 minute train ride on the RER.  We had a little trouble figuring out which train would bring us to Versailles, but jumped on the right one and made it there no problem.  The Palace of Versailles was beautiful and huge!  The Palace itself was guarded by tall gates painted in black and gold.  Behind the Palace were extremely well manicured gardens that stretched for acres in back of Versailles. 

The symmetrical gardens of Versailles

We all opted out of going inside and part of the group walked around in the gardens instead.  The other half of the group left to get something to eat.  We ate outside at a restaurant that had a menu full of crepes and salads with a large section of desserts.  I’ll just say the coffee, caramel ice cream was a delicious treat that I won’t forget anytime soon!

Coffee and caramel ice cream...yum!

Unfortunately, on our way home we were delayed on the RER because of an issue with the track.  It was an extremely hot day to begin with and there wasn’t any air conditioning on the train.  You can only imagine how hot we all were as the full train waited to move again.  Not to worry though, we made it back to our stop and proceeded with our day.

The gates of Versailles


Boat tour on the Siene River

Our next adventure consisted of a boat tour on the Seine river.  Our group sat on the upper deck of the boat and enjoyed listening to the guided tour as we made our way up and down the river.  There was a nice breeze on the water which was welcomed after our hot ride on the RER.  While on the boat we passed many famous landmarks in Paris including Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Musee d’Orsay(museum).  It was interesting to listen to the history that accompanies these famous landmarks.  In many places along the river locals sat on the edge relaxing and soaking in the sun.

Locals sit on the edge of the river

After our boat ride we all made our way back to the hotel to change and get ready to go out to dinner.  We walked to a restaurant not far from our hotel to grab a bite.  Good thing we were close to our hotel because by the time we left it was pouring rain!

The rest of the night consisted of packing our luggage to be ready to head back to the states in the morning.

– Jen

Friday in Paris

On our second day in Paris I started the day early with a visit to the Notre Dame Cathedral.  The long lines that form outside the cathedral appear daunting, but they move quickly.  The cathedral is still fully functional, and masses and prayers are held even while tourists mill around the perimeter of the sanctuary.

Just across from the cathedral is the archaeological crypt.  It is a subterranean excavation site featuring the remnants of old Parisian landmarks going back to the time of the Roman occupation.  Visitors can see tiles from the Roman baths, a medieval well, the old docks, and the foundation of a cathedral that was dismantled so the stones could be used to build Notre Dame. 


Underground waiting for the Metro

After seeing the crypt it was time to get on the Metro again and head off to the 2:00 visit at the International Film School of Paris, also known as the Ecole Internationale de Creation Audiovisuelle et de Realisation (EICAR).  Our contact at the school sent directions for the 15 minute walk from the metro station to the campus.  It all went well until I misinterpreted one of the instructions and ended up walking for over 15 minutes in the wrong direction, looking for a traffic circle until I figured out there wasn’t going to be a traffic circle.  Thanks to a bus stop map, I found where the school was without any more trouble.  Though I didn’t get to the school until around 2:20, one good thing that came of getting lost was having the opportunity to see what I like to call the exotic suburbs of Paris.  Okay, they weren’t exactly exotic and they were a bit more urban than suburban, but there were people driving motorcycles on the sidewalks, which was something different.

In the suburbs of Paris visiting EICAR, the film school

I arrived in time to catch the end of a lecture about EICAR and its degree programs.  The school attracts students from around the world, though classes for international students are taught in English.  All non-French speaking students are, however, required to take French classes while they are at EICAR.  One unique thing about the school is that students are taught every part of the filmmaking process and take turns working different crew positions.  The second part of our visit consisted of a tour of the school.  We got to see the equipment rooms, studios, classrooms, and computer labs where the students work and edit their films.

On a tour at EICAR

I split from the group again when we returned to the downtown area of Paris.  There was just enough time for a short visit to the Conciergerie.  The Conciergerie is a part of the Palais de Justice and was at one time a royal palace and a prison.   Most of the Palais de Justice is still used for judicial purposes.  A notable feature of the prison is the memorial on the site where Marie Antoinette was held before her execution.

In the evening a group of us left the hotel and returned to the Ile de la Cite.  We stopped for dinner at a small restaurant just across the river and had possibly the best meal of the entire trip.  Some of us even tried the escargots, which are prepared with a kind of garlic-basil marinade.  We walked over to Notre Dame and discovered that the square, which is packed with tourists during the day, is even livelier at night.  There were people doing stunts with roller blades and a man doing a comedy/mime act, but a troupe of fire dancers drew the largest number of spectators.  The cathedral provided a stunning backdrop for the performance.  We walked along the river for a little way, enjoying the view of the cathedral and seeing the lights of the city.  It was the ideal end to a day in Paris.



Aside from a scheduled trip to EICAR, a film school in the suburbs of Paris, we all were left to travel around and see Paris on our own. After a lot of structured visits to media outlets in London, this was a relief to almost all of us. We were in Europe – we had to be touristy, and we had a solid three days to do so.

Outside of Notre Dame

Again, we had split into smaller groups. My group traveled to Notre Dame on Thursday, June 2nd. We had taken the Metro, and then walked across a bridge over the Seine river. There were gardening shops along the way, which made for a pretty walk. There were tons of people around the exterior of the cathedral, and even more once we made it inside.

The inside of Notre Dame during Mass

Mass was going on – and it so happened that on that day, June 2nd, was Ascension Day, a catholic holiday symbolizing 40 days since Easter. The interior of the cathedral was just as beautiful as the exterior – where gargoyles were jutting out from the two main pillars and sides. The architectural detail, the stained glass windows, the pillars and designs on the walls was beautiful. Just knowing that I was inside such a momentous place was an incredible feeling. Hearing the service in French, although I could not understand it very well, was also beautiful. And the organ! Even more so.

Beautiful stained glass was wherever you looked in Notre Dame

After the cathedral we ate at an Italian restaurant, sitting outside at their tables on the sidewalk. Notre Dame was still in our view of site, with the Seine river just a block away. All of the restaurants and cafes in Paris have seating on the sidewalks, so it was neat to be able to say we got to dine outside with the passersby.

Outside at the Louvre

We then walked to the Louvre – the museum and palace just to see the sites, not to go in (although, I did this on the following day). The palace almost made my mouth drop. It stretched almost out of my vision, and again, is a larger than life landmark. It is in the shape of a giant horseshoe, with statues of different persons lining the upper levels. Of course, the infamous and transparent triangle in the middle serves as the ceiling of the lobby of the Louvre museum, which is underground. From here we walked almost FOUR MILES to the arc de Triumphe – the monument dedicated to the French in World War I.

After a long walk we finally made it to the arc de Triumphe

Here also lies the tomb of the unknown soldier from this war, lasting from 1914-1918. We somehow survived this walk – through gardens and also the Avenue de Champs Elysees, Paris’ Rodeo Drive, and made it back to our hotel where we freshened up and headed out to dinner – a ‘French’ Hard Rock Cafe. After waiting two hours to eat and getting served around 10:00 p.m., we enjoyed a good meal and then headed back to the hotel where we could re-fuel before the next full day of sight-seeing.


A Real-Life Fairytale

On the Eurostar traveling from London to Paris

We traveled under the English Channel to get to Paris via the Eurostar – a high speed train that connects the UK to France. We departed from Kings Cross Station (on the 1st of June), and waited a tad over an hour before arriving in France. The ride itself was cozy – and we almost had the entire compartment to ourselves. The majority of us were occupied by our iPods, card games and naps and in a couple of hours we reached our destination. It took us a little while to collect ourselves, and our suitcases, before purchasing three-day Metro tickets – almost the right amount for our stay. We trekked down into the Metro station, and multiple stops until the one closest to our hotel room, then lugged our suitcases up to the streets. Our hotel – Hotel Ibis, was only a couple of blocks away from the station, but it felt like miles since we had our luggage with us.

Hotel Ibis - very nice accommodation and delicious continental breakfast

Right away we received our room assignments and headed up to unpack. The plan was to meet in a couple of hours in the hotel lobby, after finding food on our own, so we could all travel to the Eiffel Tower together. Back in the United States, Professor Matthews had purchased 22 tickets for sunset (around 9:00 p.m.) to travel to the top of the tower. It was probably the smartest idea for the trip, since the line to get up would have been extremely long. And of course, we all owed Professor Matthews about $18.00 each.

Our first meal in Paris

The group I was with dined at a small restaurant. Some of us ordered the safe choice of ‘chicken,’ while others ordered meat and cheese platters, and crepes. All in all, the food was delicious. Even after one meal, we all knew that the French do live up to their claims to making some of the best food in the world.

Outside, the weather was beautiful – already many degrees warmer than it was in London. The sun was out and shining, and now starting its early stages of setting by the time we were done eating. The atmosphere was indescribable – we were all about to see the Eiffel Tower after years and years of seeing pictures and film of the landmark.

One of many Metro stops

We took the Metro of course to the closest stop and could already catch small glimpses of the structure as we got closer. It was a good chunk of blocks once we got off until we reached the opening for where the tower stood. And I will not attempt to write in too much detail about the tower itself, or the feelings we all must have experienced when seeing it for the first time. It seemed to tower all over Paris, right then and there, and with the sun now setting in the sky seemingly behind it, it illuminated the black making it pop even more. In front of the Eiffel Tower is a large and narrow lawn, lined on either side by trees which are hedged to look square at the top. We had to walk the entire duration of the lawn to get directly under the tower, where the line formed to get to the top. It was magic, getting to that point.

Arriving at the Eiffel Tower

There are a couple of different levels to the tower, and all of them are accessible from the old fashionedelevator within the tower. We got off at each one, snapping photographs of the city of Paris. The line was much longer to get to the highest level – almost the tip of the tower. We finally got there when the sun was gone, and the sky was black. Paris was lit and illuminated, and the view was so beautiful, and so rare. How alive the city must have been below us. I, with about five others, ended up staying at the top for over an hour, and eventually made our way back down and out to the hotel.

Skyline at night from the top of the Eiffel Tower

We were all exhausted when we got back, and hit our pillows hard, remembering thoughts from the Eiffel.


London’s End

Tour of the BBC

Tuesday, May 31 was our last full day in London. Wow – it went by so, so fast. But we still had one of the most exciting media tours planned for this day – the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and also later in the day, a trip to The Guardian, one of London’s largest print newspaper publications.

Practicing reading a script at the BBC

At 10:15 a.m., we arrived at the BBC where everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming. We all received visitors badges and had to enter through security before being shown around the premises. We were taken around by two tour guides, and learned right from the start that the BBC is owned by the public, and that they also pay a licensing fee. It is the biggest news operation in the world, and they employ people from all around the globe. The tour was both educational and interactive. We also learned that the structure of the BBC building is in the shape of a question mark. We were taken to see the studios – some of them the largest in Europe. We were also able to practice reading the news like a true anchor would. Being able to see the news rooms was also really eye-opening, and I think caught the attention of many of us.

When we were done at the BBC it was time for lunch, and some of us headed over to Covent Garden Market for a nice meal and to wander around the shops. The coolest shop was in this market – a place called the ‘Tea Zone,’ that had many, many different flavors of teas and cocoas, and many of them had free samples.

The Guardian Newspaper in London

We arrived back to the hotel with only a couple of minutes to spare before having to head out to The Guardian, in the same area as Kings Cross station. The Guardian was not what I thought it was going to be at all – it was located in an extremely large building with futuristic characteristics and paintings all throughout the lobby and the conference room we were in. I imagined this newspaper ‘place,’ to be a small, hole in the wall building with journalists running around everywhere. Instead the atmosphere was quiet and calm. The Guardian strives for strength, depth, and success. The paper itself is over 100 years old. One of their editors, Chris Elliott came into talk to us about the structure of the paper, and answer any questions we had. He was extremely knowledgeable and definitely a great writer. Gaining insight from him as a journalist was really beneficial. Even though print media is slowly dying, Elliott stressed the fact that people enjoy The Guardian’s approach to news, and he doesn’t see it crumbling anytime soon.

After the Guardian myself and a couple of others wanted to go out to dinner one last time. We found a strip-mall just blocks away from our hotel, and dined at a place called ‘Giraffe’ which made organic food. We headed over to Piccadilly Circus for one last time for souvenirs, and then took our last tube stop back to the hotel.

London is getting ready to host the Olympics and we did experience some Tube closings as they prepare

London was truly incredible. I wish that I could do this city more justice in words, but it’s hard to when everything, and everyone there is larger than life. The entire atmosphere, for lack of a better word, was just FUN the entire time. There was no language barrier, which made it extremely easy to communicate with others and navigate around the city. We were able to pick up on the current events going on at the time, the aftermath of the Royal Wedding, preparation and construction throughout the entire city for the Summer 2012 Olympics, the UEFA football match, and even protests throughout the city. The high-paced and high-energy lifestyles that the British lead is great, and it’s so easy to get swept away into it. We all truly miss London already, and I know that I, for one, will without a doubt will be paying more visits.