Two flights, eight hours of flying, jet-lag and a five-hour time difference from the United States did little to dampen the spirits of the students who eagerly embraced the city of Paris over their spring break as a part of their French Visual Culture class.
Whether it was climbing all 387 steps in the Notre-Dame Cathedral, touring the tunnel of human bones and skulls in the Catacombs, attempting to communicate with locals in French or trying frog legs for the very first time, students welcomed all aspects of the French culture full-heartedly and with excitement.
This is the second year that Don Dempsey, associate professor of graphic design, and Jeanne Komp, assistant professor of graphic design, organized a one-week study abroad trip over spring break.
Last year they took students to London to view the different art and architecture of the European society; but the plethora of artistic sites like the Eiffel tower, Arc de Triumphe, Louvre and Sacre-Coeur made Paris a natural choice for the course’s second year.
“Once we had that first sunny day, everything was how I expected it. It was almost more charming than I pictured it,” Komp said.
A regulated itinerary was provided each morning for the sites that the class would visit together. The Louvre, Musee d’Orsay and Pompidou Centre were just a few of the museums where students had the opportunity to see artworks like the Mona Lisa and The Raft of Medusa and pieces from world-renowned artists such as Monet, Van Gogh and Degas.
After the students saw these sites and the pieces of artwork up close for the first time as a class, they were able to tour the city in groups and visit any spots that sparked their interest.
“I thought the students were really engaged and glad to be there. During our free time, we would run into students at the sites and it really showed they were working on their projects,” Dempsey said.
One of the more surreal moments of the trip included a boat ride that glided along the illuminated city at night, with the Eiffel tower lingering over the riders. The 10 students of varying ages, grades and majors all huddled together, took pictures and laughed as if they have been old friends with each other for years.
“I could not have been more fortunate to have a group of students look after each other. The girls became a little family,” Komp said.
Careful planning and preparation by Dempsey and Komp allowed the students to experience the most amount of Paris possible in seven days.
Seeing first hand the glistening crystal chandeliers hanging down from the chamber of mirrors in Versailles, getting original portraits drawn by French artists in Montmarte and overlooking the entire city of Paris on top of the Eiffel Tower gave both the students and teachers a once in a lifetime experience that they will never forget.
“It’s really hard to pick a favorite part. I loved all of it! Although I’d have to say, I loved just walking down the street and exploring the city with new friends,” Lindsey Hall, senior history and political science major, said.
Although there are no current plans in the works for a visual culture trip next spring break, Dempsey and Komp expressed that they could be persuaded to plan another one, much to the delight of their students.
“You’re part of a much larger community. When you go away you’re in a much bigger area then what you’re used to. It’s ok to be uncomfortable, because within a few days you won’t be uncomfortable anymore and you’ll come back changed from what you’ve learned, but changed for the positive,” Komp said.