In the Loire Valley, there are no mountains but vast plains where French kings and the nobility built impressive and elegant castles during the Renaissance period. A chance for students to learn more about French history and architecture, while enjoying the landscapes of this charming region.
“Phantoms, Ghosts and Other Spirits” is the name of the course that Olivia and Jorge take at Sorbonne-Nouvelle University this semester. In this video, they tell us about how it is to study world literature at a French university.
Biarritz, coastal town in the Basque Country, with its long beaches and wonderful gastronomy, is where the journey started for the students of the 2018/19 Hamilton in France program. During the orientation week in the South-West of France, students brush up on their French, get ready for the upcoming academic challenges and discover one of France most beautiful regions. Hiking in the mountains, baking typical gâteaux basques, visiting local organic farms, students were able to dive into the culture of rural France before flying to the capital city, and their home for the fall semester or for the year : Paris.
Long avenues and historic buildings, narrow sidewalks and charming cafés, new homes and new host families, the first week in Paris is a period of transition and preparation for the students’ upcoming semester in France. They attended introduction classes at Reid Hall, home to the Hamilton in France program, visited various Paris neighborhoods, including a boat excursion on the Seine, and discovered their future universities. They also started their artistic exploration of France with the beautifully renovated Picasso museum in the Marais, and with recent French films.
Orientation is over: time to jump into classes at the Parisian universities. Littérature, sociologie, histoire, physique… students picked courses that match their academic path at their home universities in the United States: some take literature classes at the Sorbonne-Nouvelle University, others study sociology at the university of Paris Diderot, or law at the university of Panthéon-Sorbonne. They are now getting used to very different teaching styles, and to the way French students interact with one another. Many already participate in student clubs (danse, yoga, basketball) and are looking for volunteering opportunities. All in French, bien sûr…
Hamilton in France students have now returned to their respective homes in the USA; the program ended on May 20. Although the students’ last days in France were punctuated by end-of-year exams, they were also filled with happiness and love. Students enjoyed going out together in the city; they went to the last places they had planned to visit in their to-do lists.
During their last weeks in Paris, the group enjoyed a series of festive gatherings with the local staff and faculty to celebrate the end of their stay in France. They had couscous and tagines for lunch at a Moroccan restaurant near Reid Hall and then had a final repas gastronomique near the Latin Quarter. Finally, they celebrated the end of the year with a buffet at Hamilton’s offices in Columbia Global Centers.
Last dinner at a gastronomic restaurant in the 6th arrondissement of Paris
Honouring Pr. Roberta (Bonnie) Krueger who directed her last HiF program this year
Ram Franqui (’19) describes his last days with the program: “The experience during the final days with the Hamilton in France group were both extremely satisfying and sad. We shared many typical Parisian nights, making the most out of every last moment, laughter, crepes and kebabs. We were happy to finish classes, but our excitement was tinged with a slightly somber shade as we knew this would be our last au revoir. We all felt the urge to make the most out of all the details that had become normal to us over the course of the last semester or year.
When returning to the US, we will reflect on our time in Paris as one of the most nostalgic.”
End-of-the-year video by Grace Myers:
Hamilton in France students recently visited the western region of Normandy. They started with a guided visit of Caen’s Second World War museum and learned about the history of the Normandy landing by American and British troops back in 1944 in this strategic region during the war.
Students posing on the Pointe de Hoc
They visited the Pointe du Hoc, Omaha beach and the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-mer during the afternoon. The Pointe du Hoc and Omaha beach are famous for the landing of the ‘Rangers’, those American soldiers who assaulted the German soldiers and bunkers occupying the zone. A few bunkers are preserved and open to visitors. Our guide told us about the bloody but courageous landing of the Rangers in the occupied zone.
The group at Omaha beach memorial
Both of these places have served as ar memorials since the end of the war in tribute to the American soldiers who gave their life to free France and the Western world from tyrannical powers. The guide told us about the moving stories of US soldiers who were mostly quite young, including the deceased brothers who inspired the Spielberg movie “Saving Private Ryan”.
The Christian and Jewish graves of the American soldiers who fought and died in Normandy
On Saturday evening, the group enjoyed a meal at a gastronomic restaurant in the fortress city of Saint Malo in Brittany, before heading back to Normandy on the next day.
Gastronomic restaurant by the sea in Saint Malo
On Sunday, our last day, the group visited Mont Saint Michel, an eighth-century religious center which became a monastery and pilgrimage site in the twelfth century and has since served as a fortress, a prison, and now as a renowned World Heritage site. Students were astonished by the beauty and magnitude of the mount. A village surrounds the flamboyant gothic-style abbey located at top of the rock, which is itself surrounded by vast sandbanks and becomes an island when the tides are very high.
Students posing in front of the Mont Saint Michel
The island was originally called Mont-Tombe but became known as Mont-Saint-Michel in the 8th century, when St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, built an oratory there after having a vision of the archangel St Michael. It rapidly became a pilgrimage centre, and in 966 a Benedictine abbey was built there.
The island, which was fortified in 1256, resisted sieges during the Hundred Year’s War between England and France (1337–1453) and the French Wars of Religion (1562–98). The monastery declined in the 18th century, and only seven monks were living there when it was dissolved during the French Revolution (1787–99). It became a state prison under Napoleon I (reigned 1804–14/15) and remained a prison until 1863. In 1874 it was classified as a historic monument and restored and became one of the most popular touristic spot in the world with 3 million visitors per year.
You can watch the video of the weekend here:
(VIDEO) Anne Homans and Ram Franqui (Hamilton 19′) chose Paris and the Hamilton in France program for their exchange year abroad. They share their experience in a video-interview:
Students visited the wine region of Burgundy last weekend, March 17-18, 2018. On the first day, the trip included guided visits of Dijon, the capital city of the region, and the Château du Clos de Vougeot, a Cistercian winery built in the 12th.
The Château is set in the heart of Burgundy’s grand cru Vineyards and is the venue for many festivities celebrating wine. Students also enjoyed a dégustation in a nearby cellar, tasting a selection of the best wines from the region.
Afterwards, the group enjoyed a night in a charming hotel in Beaune, along with a nice restaurant.
They visited the Hospices de Beaune on Sunday morning. A hospital founded in the late Middle Ages, the Hospices Hôtel-Dieu of Beaune is one of France’s most prestigious historical monuments. Its architecture is flamboyant gothic with polychrome roofs of vibrant color. The Hospices are also famous for their 60 acres of vineyards producing prestigious wine, sold at auction on the third Sunday in November.
For our final destination, students visited the Abbey of Fontenay, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1981. Built in 1118 by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, it is the oldest preserved Cistercian abbey in the world. After the French revolution, which led to the departure of the monks, the abbey was converted to a paper factory which preserved all the buildings of the Romanesque period. Since 1820, the Abbey of Fontenay has been the private property of the same family, which continues to preserve this exceptional site opening to public visit all year round.
Students had the privilege to be practically the only visitors at the abbey that day, and they marveled at the snow, which perfectly suited the peaceful landscape.
Video of the trip here: