November 21, 2008

Trip will offer students ‘Parisienne experience’

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- You could go visit Paris, France, or you could go live there for two weeks. The difference? Well, for one thing, a grocery bill.

A new class, FR375: History of Paris through its Monuments, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale offers students with at least a second year mastery of the French language the opportunity to appreciate the history, culture, society and literature of Paris in its natural environment.

Virginia Donovan, French instructor, organized the three-credit-hour class as a language-intensive two weeks in Paris. Lest the students confuse this trip with a mere vacation, she arranged for housing in an apartment complex “in the heart of Paris, near the Louvre Museum.”

“As I organized this class, I thought to myself, ‘Do you want them to have a tourist experience or a French experience?’ I want them to have a Parisienne experience,” Donovan explained.

And while some of that Parisienne experience will almost certainly include people watching from a sidewalk café, Donovan wants her students to live for two weeks as Parisiennes do, to fall into the Parisienne cadence of life in the only way possible -- by experiencing it.

That means, for example, that students must shop for groceries -- and not in the typical American “stock-up” style, but in the Parisienne tradition of daily or nearly daily trips to the market, where, Donovan insists, they must buy fresh fruits and vegetables to prepare their own food.

“When you live there -- when you stay in an apartment and not in a hotel, then you really see how the French live,” she said. “The housing set-up is really the backbone of this experience.”

The apartments all have fully equipped kitchens, bathrooms, washing machines and high-speed Internet. Some may have microwaves and all come fully furnished. The cost is about 480 Euros a week for the apartments, or about $700. The apartment occupancy is three to four, Donovan said.

Of course, the class is not just about everyday activities in a foreign city. The students will visit the monuments that make Paris famous, and that are so integral a part of her history. The students will visit such sites as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame de Paris, Montmartre, the Arc de Triomphe, the palace of Versailles, the nearby Louvre, and also will enjoy a side-trip to see the châteaux of the Loire Valley. Another side-trip, one to see economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in Paris, rounds out the experience.

Donovan said she wanted to make this trip a course for which students could earn credit because she wants them to get the most benefit from the cost of the trip. However, there are openings for those who don’t want to take the course for credit. The French language study prerequisite applies even to those students, Donovan said.

Contact Virginia Donovan at or at 618/453-5437 for more information. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis with submission of an approved application, recommendation form and $250 non-refundable deposit. The trip is set for the last two weeks of May.

“For many students of the French language, there is really nothing more dreamed about than going to Paris,” Donovan said. “The format of this trip will help students to see how the Parisiennes live.”