Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Author: Phil Schroeder

Paris- The City of Lights

So this past week has been an interesting week to say the very least. I started my third week of classes and again, I’m very blessed to have such wonderful teachers who are patient teaching classes that I want to take (minus grammar but that comes with the territory I suppose). One thing that was a little bit different from past weeks was that I started my service learning at a non-profit organisation. It’s very different from anything that we have in the United States, but I think it’s closest to an after-school program, that does a lot more. It was a different experience and I look forward to contributing more in the future.

Thursday night was an experience to say the least. We went to the Opera Bastille for my first ever professional opera experience! To see the Opera Aida by Verdi performed in one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world, is something that I’ll never forget. It was largely unforgettable because of the reaction of the audience.

Opera Bastille

Aida takes place in Ancient Egypt. One of the main arguments a director must make is about the costumes and the setting. Should they be dressed like in the story, the time period in which it was written, or in today’s time? The director chose the latter of these options… and was very political. I won’t go into much detail, but the worst of it was when one of the main characters was singing the KKK walked on stage. People were not happy. At curtain call, the audience couldn’t have cheered louder for the the performers. However they booed louder than the refs making a call in favor of the Packers at Soldier Field. It was bad. Good experience though.

Friday and Saturday I was blessed with some visitors from Valpo who are studying on the Cambridge program: Grant, Lisa, Rachel, and Cat. We had a wonderful time and I finally was able to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower! It was amazing to me that we were so high up, I could barely recognize Notre Dame from the top, yet from the ground in front of it, Notre Dame towers over you. It was indescribable. One reason I find the tourist attractions very easy to spot and beautiful is because at night, everything that is important to the French are lit up at night; even The Eiffel Tower sparkles at the top of the hour on top of being lit up after dark. I suppose that’s why they call Paris The City of Lights!

Valpo Crew at the Eiffel Tower

On Saturday night we went to the Fete des Vendages. Found at Montmarte, this is a wine festival and a festival of love. Every year they have a brilliant firework show on the steps leading up to the famous basilica, Sacre Coeur, and although crowded (it was so crowded at one point, I moved ten yards and my feet didn’t touch the ground. I was carried by everyone around me because it was so densely packed!) we (accidentally) got some of the best seats in the house. Unfortunately, my computer is being stupid, so I can’t upload a little video of the fireworks, so here’s the crowd behind me. Mind you, this is a small portion of the actual crowd and it took us 40 minutes to get from about 20 yards from the stairs to the bottom of the stairs.

Sacre Coeur

All-in-all it was a wonderful weekend, full of new adventures with some familiar Americans!

The Honeymoon is Over

The honeymoon is over. For that reason, I have found it difficult to write as often as I would’ve liked to since my courses have started. Although I am busy, I am truly enjoying my classes here! I’m of course taking six credits of French language and a phonetics class. My electives though, they’re pretty awesome. I’m taking a course on the History of France from the French Revolution to WWI. The other class that I’m taking is Tourism and Gastronomy; aka we eat food, talk about food, eat it, and discuss the implications of said food on culture and tourism (did I mention we eat food too?). So I am really enjoying these classes largely because the professors are extremely awesome. I like every one of them.
As for what I’ve been doing outside of classes, just adjusting to style of living… and doing some pretty awesome things as well!
First off, last time I posted I mentioned that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in my free time. What I decided to do on that particular day was to climb Notre Dame! It was very cool to see the city from a gargoyle’s eye view (see photo #1). The stone stairs actually have an indentation from all the footsteps of people walking up them over the last few centuries. It’s really cool to think that the church recently celebrated its 850th anniversary, or just under four times the number of years the United States has been a country. In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue… and the church was older than the United States currently is (by almost 100 years!) So it was extremely humbling to be at a place with such a rich history. Also, feel free to “like” the second photo, it is in a photo contest and the most “likes” win. Click here to vote (I could use all the help I can get!)


Gargoyle’s-eye view of Paris with the Eiffel Tower



Another place that I visited was the Catacombs. Now THAT was super cool. I went with a few friends and it was extremely fascinating. However, that is not a place that I would want to be stuck at by myself on Halloween. Six million dead people, no thank you.


This is me and the dead peeps.

On the 28th of September, The Central College program went and we toured the Palace of Versailles and the absolutely beautiful gardens. I’ve been telling people that the best way to describe it is grand and immense. We spent the whole day there and we saw the majority of the castle, yet in the hours we spent in the gardens, admiring the fountains (there are several hundred I believe) and the greenery, we only saw a portion of the gardens. It’s no wonder the French government went broke! In the first picture, that is me in the world famous “Hall of Mirrors,” and my favorite part of the whole day in Versailles! The second picture is of a fountain that I really admired in the Gardens. It is not the most celebrated and is actually one of the smaller fountains. If you want to see a fountain show, go to my facebook page and go to my videos and you can watch two short clips of a wonderful show.


Palace of Versailles: Hall of Mirrors


Palace Gardens: My favorite fountain


The most recent mini excursion that I went on was to Disneyland Paris! For those of you who know me well, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to go to see Buzz Lightyear (see photo). I went with two other classmates and it was a good, really fun trio. In all honestly, it was a really cool experience because the parks have pretty much the same setup, and they have almost all the same attractions (the rides themselves obviously aren’t the exact same layout), but the atmosphere was different. It truly was a world attraction. On rides (other than It’s a Small World), they switched between mainly French and English so that more people would know and understand what was happening. The closing ceremony was absolutely breathtaking! It’s one of my favorite memories so far.


Buzz Lightyear and I

So if you managed to read all the way this far, thank you. It was a short summary of two weeks, but like I’ve said, not even counting these mini-excursions, I have managed to stay busy and am working hard at improving my French, take in the culture, and adjust to the daily life in Paris. I promise you’ll hear from me in less than two weeks, I’ll be better about writing my blog!

Week #1- Tourist Week

It’s amazing how much I’ve learned so far; I’ve only been here twelve days and I’ve done so much and seen even more. So let’s start at the beginning:


Tour Eiffel et moi!
Tour Eiffel et moi!

I arrived in Paris, completely unaware of where I was in regards to where I needed to go. Let me tell you, it is so much harder to approach a native and ask where you are for the first time, than to ask your French professor on which main themes you should focus for your rather large French literary analysis. After some time and a few wrong turns, I got to my hostel. Tired, I went to bed early.

After finding out the hard way that I wasn’t doing my homestay with the original host mom, I met the rest of the wonderful people on my program. Since then we’ve been doing practically everything together.

Just South of the famous Luxembourg Gardens, home of the French Senate
Just South of the famous Luxembourg Gardens, home of the French Senate

So what have I done besides be homeless and get lost? I’ve been what I call a “residential tourist.”

Technically I am not a tourist, because I have a visa and I live in France. However, I’ve done about everything tourists do. I’ve been to the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Le Louvre etc. I’ve visited several museums and other locations. However, in Paris, it is so good to be a student on a Student Visa. I say this because, if you are a resident in France under the age of twenty-six (no discrimination to race or ethnicity) you are allowed into museums for free… all of them! There is one dilemma: there are just too many museums to visit and check out in the time that I am here.

The Moulin Rouge is a cabaret show that was known for its... classy broads. It remains very classy, with the cheapest show 180 euros which is over $200! Don't worry Mom out of my budget.
The Moulin Rouge is a cabaret show that was known for its… classy broads. It remains very classy, with the cheapest show 180 euros which is over $200! Don’t worry Mom out of my budget.

I haven’t just been a tourist though. I have also started taking a class at Ecole Etoiles, a school for international students looking to improve French grammar. I start my classes at L’Institut Catholique next Monday, September 23rd, and that is when life will get a little more interesting.

A Place to Crash

For my first night in Paris, I needed a place to stay. For a student like myself, a hostel is the best choice. In America, we really don’t have anything that are quite like youth hostels, but they are EXTREMELY common throughout Europe. Hostels are great choices for any young person on a budget who is looking for a place to sleep for their cheap price. Many of the people who stay in hostels are people who are backpacking across a country or across Europe.


Peace and Love Hostel
Peace and Love Hostel

I have posted a picture of my hostel, The Peace and Love Hostel. Sounds a little sketchy at first, but it was actually a great place to stay. Obviously, it isn’t a five-star hotel, but it isn’t a terrible place like in the movie Hostel. I stayed on the 7th floor (which in America is the 8th floor), so my legs got a workout. The room had a tiny bathroom and an even smaller shower, but it had a bed so I can’t complain.

I ended up staying in a four person room: myself, one roommate was from Austrailia, one from Holland, and the other came in rather late so we didn’t get to talk. It provided a great opportunity to meet people, and there is a possibility of traveling closer to Christmas with my new friend from Austrailia.


The view from the 7th (8th) floor of the Peace and Love hostel.
The view from the 7th (8th) floor of the Peace and Love hostel.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience (even though I went to bed early because of jet lag). Like I said before, it was inexpensive, not overly luxurious, but had the essentials that I needed, and I met some people from around the world that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

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