“Learning to talk, learning to walk in Paris” by Ram Franqui (Hamilton ’19)

Day 2 in Paris, I decide to grab a quick bite to eat at a Vietnamese place in the 2nd arrondissement. I finally make it through the line and ask the Vietnamese man for a sandwich and a “nem au canard, s’il vous plaît.” In a thick accent making his question unintelligible, he responds, “Rechauffé?” Although I can’t make out what he says, I clearly see all the solemn French people behind me waiting for me to speak. I answer “non” very seriously to not seem ignorant. I come to realize what he asked as I walk down the street munching on a frozen nem. I would have loved my food warm…

Thankfully, I’ve made progress since my first days here in Paris, but these situations define me nonetheless. These instances stand as small hurdles that I overcame, indicating my integration into daily life. Now I speak to that same Vietnamese man at least once a week, sometimes eating lunch with him, and I always leave with my food warm. As time has passed, my ability to comprehend, to communicate, and to build relationships has progressed as well. From my experience, much of this refinement happens over a glass with my host parents or a cup of coffee with some French students who found me and my attempts at acting like a native endearing and entertaining.

Academically, this semester I am taking three courses at the Institut d’Études Politiques, mainly just called by its short hand Sciences Po, to satisfy requirements for my major in world politics; this opportunity is allotted only to yearlong students of the Hamilton in France program. The courses offered at Sciences Po include subjects ranging from the abstract such as “Theories of International Relations” which is a large lecture class with an associated TA session, to the very specific and concrete such as “Dynamics of the Global Economy: Macroeconomic Management to Structural Reforms.” I am enrolled in both and can say that the student body pulls from every continent and affords students an opportunity to interact with a diverse population of individuals unified by a common interest in politics with a uniquely French perspective. As a native Spanish speaker, I found the opportunity to speak the language I spoke back home in Miami with students from places like Colombia and Puerto Rico invaluable. It provided a much-appreciated sense of home. I can’t say, though, that I find the weekly 8AM TA session thrilling, but the red-eyed French graduate student with coffee stains on his scarf leading the session doesn’t either – we empathize with one another.

The IEP also provides multiple opportunities to participate in extracurricular conferences, clubs, and sports ranging from discussions on bioethics to boxing classes in the 6th arrondissement. These types of events, sprinkled in with the HiF excursions to other gorgeous areas of France like Marseille and Burgundy as well as the pervasive beauty and activity of Paris itself have made my time abroad extremely exciting and like nothing else I have ever experienced. Paris brings the old world together with the new world in a way I have never seen, mixing modernity with antiquity, producing all around beauty. Even if you want to do nothing all day but sit at a café, a perfectly French cultural activity, nothing feels like something and you will find yourself happily content. I am 6 months into my 9 month stay, and I can say with certainty that I made the right decision staying here for the year.

Ram Franqui

A weekend with the sun in the South of France

For their first trip after the winter holidays, students visited four iconic cities in Provence, in the South of France. They started with the Palais des Papes in the city of Avignon, which was ranked by UNESCO as a world heritage site. During the 14th century, the administrative center of the Catholic Church was in Avignon, displaced from Rome, until it moved back to the Vatican in 1370. This impressive fortress-like structure still contains some murals and provides beautiful views from the high terraces.


The group posing in front of Avignon’s Palais des Papes

The next morning, the group headed to the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct that was built in the first century AD by the Romans to transport water from Uzès to Nîmes. It is the highest of the standing Roman aqueducts.


A guide allowed students to walk through the highest level, through the tunnel that conveyed the water.


In the afternoon, they visited the town of Arles, which is also well known for its Roman arena and theatre.


Students posing in the Roman Arena and listening to the guide telling us about the story of Roman theatres

The third and last destination was the city of Marseille on the French Riviera. The city is the second biggest in France after Paris, and it is famous for its historic harbour and the Quartier du Panier. The ‘Mistral’ wind blew over Marseille but the sun was shining all day.


Students enjoying the seaside and Ram Franqui (Hamilton ’19) tries the ‘Bouillabaisse’ soup, a typical dish in the region.


Taking a walk in the ‘Quartier du Panier’ and its street art collection on walls


Watch the video of the weekend here: 


An Alsatian weekend

Hamilton in France students had a weekend excursion to Alsace in November. Located in Eastern France, and close to the German border, the Alsatian region offered students the richness of its history and the pleasures of its gastronomy.


Our first stop was in Strasbourg, where we spent two days. We walked through the city with a guide who told us everything about the beautiful cathedral and the history of the city. The architecture is one of the finest high examples of Gothic architecture and one of the tallest churches in the world. The city has shifted from being in German territory to French several times over the centuries. Students enjoyed the holiday decorations and the markets. The city is usually thronged with visitors during winter as its Christmas market is world famous, but the market was still being set up and it was not too crowded.

Strasbourg cathédrale

The group had diner at the restaurant “Au Dauphin” located just in front of the cathedral. They tasted a typical regional dish, “choucroute” made of charcuterie, sausages, potatoes and sauerkraut (brined cabbage), and it is gluten free! Tasty vegetarian dishes were also served, like the “tarte flambée” with cream, onions and vegetables.

Riquewihr vin

We departed on the next day to explore the “Alsace wine route” and discovered the beautiful city of Colmar. On our way, we saw the European Parliament, unfortunately closed on Sunday. While in Colmar, students visited the Unterlinden museum with majestic paintings of the Renaissance. They also had lunch in the cozy restaurant “La Brasserie des Tanneurs” where they all tried the traditional “tarte flambée”, which is another typical dish in the region. It is similar to a pizza, but it is flatter and made of cream, onions and “lardons” (small bacon bits).


We headed to Riquewihr in the afternoon, where students visited a wine maker at the “Zimmer” wine cellars, and three types of wines. The city is on a hill close to the Vosges mountains, and it was brightly decorated with holiday ornaments. Students strolled through the city and took a lot of pictures.


Testimony of Fred Guo (Williams ’19):November 18, Hamilton in France brought us to Alsace and it was my very first time. I really enjoyed the trip as I have been looking forward to going to Alsace since arriving in Europe.”

“It was really nice to visit Strasbourg since I have also been taking a class on the EU parliament and to visit Strasbourg meant I would be closer to one of the seats of European democracy! Apart from that of course, Strasbourg was very charming. We have had the great fortune of at least seeing the decorations for the Christmas markets. The streets were filled with decorations, stuffed animals and lights that were ready to be lit up. We also had some pretty good food at an Alsatian restaurant that is just next to the main Cathedral of Strasbourg. It was magnificent! The structure was tall and red and definitely reminded me a little bit about Game of Thrones when I was there.”

“If you are ever in Strasbourg, you cannot miss it! (literally, because it is also very tall!). We then visited Colmar, and the whole experience was also very charming. Before even arriving in France, I read articles online recommending tourists to visit certain towns and cities in France apart from Paris, and Colmar was definitely on that list”.

“Even though it was winter, the colors of the architecture and the Alsatian atmosphere was palpable and enjoyable! Be sure to visit it too for Christmas if you ever find yourself in France! As a student from Tulsa, Oklahoma representing Williams College, it was definitely an eye-opening experience and one that I am very grateful for especially with the spirit of Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up! Vive la France.”

After filling their heads with happy memories, the group returned to Paris by train that evening.

Watch the video of their trip: 




A royal trip!

By Morgane Guillou, program assistant for Hamilton in Paris.

We went on our first week-end field trip to the famous Châteaux de la Loire in the southwest of Paris. Our trip included the visit of several Renaissance castles (Azay le Rideau, Chenonceau, Chambord) and the abbey of Fontevraud, not to mention a wine maker’s cellars in Chinon where we tasted the Loire Valley wines. The group spent the night in the medieval village of Chinon and we had lunch in Amboise, the city where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last years at the behest of the King, before coming back to Paris by train.

Sans titre

Hamilton students posing in front of the Château d’Azay le Rideau


  The group posing in front of the château d’Ussé, said to be the inspiration for La Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty)

oui oui Bridget Horwood (Colby ’19) enjoyed the Château de Chambord

oui oui oui

Students at the vineyard, waiting to taste the wine

Fred Guo (Williams 19’) tells us in French about his favorite castle in the region: « Le château de Chenonceau était mon préféré par son architecture sur le pont et ses jardins fleuris. Le mobilier était très original, on peut sentir l’atmosphère de la Renaissance et le drame entre Catherine de Médicis et la maîtresse du roi Diane de Poitier pour qui ce château a été construit. Le site n’était pas trop touristique et on se sent voyager dans le passé. Chenonceau était pour moi le château le plus magique et le plus charmant de tous ceux qu’on a visités. »

yes yes yes

Students posing in front of the Château de Chenonceau

Thomas Parker (Hamilton 19’) tells us in French about a historical detail that marked him during our visit at the Abbey de Fontevraud: « Je me souviens de la visite qui m’a le plus frappé pendant notre weekend à la Loire. C’était la visite à L’Abbaye de Fontevraud, où le corps de Richard Cœur de Lion (et quelques autres) était enterré(s). La guide nous a expliqué qu’il était possible que quelqu’un l’ait déplacé pendant la Révolution française ; donc son corps n’est peut-être plus enterré à cet endroit. Mais je trouve incroyable que le corps de ce roi connu, qui a vécu il y a plus de 900 ans, soit resté dans cette abbaye au moins jusqu’à la Révolution. Rien ne rend l’histoire aussi réelle que ce genre de détail pour moi. C’est ça l’histoire : vraie et viscérale. »

yesRam et Julian at the Abbey de Fontevraud

yes yes

Students return to Paris by train

To further know about this weekend, watch this video:



Back to school in Paris

By Morgane Guillou, program assistant for Hamilton in Paris.

Hamilton in France students have started their academic adventures in France and we have collected in French some of their first impressions.

Students are from five different NESCAC colleges, including Hamilton, Williams, Grinnell, Colby and Scripps Colleges. They will tell stories about their experiences along throughout the year on this blog.

Before settling in Paris, they spent their orientation week in Biarritz, France, and in the French and Spanish Basque country, to discover the culture and lifestyle of this fascinating region.

The city of Biarritz is by the sea on the South-West of France, 25 kilometers away from the Spanish border. The group stayed there for a week with professor Krueger. They enjoyed fresh air of the sea, the beautiful streets and landscapes of the region, and wonderful classes of French with local faculty.

They also visited Bilbao in the north Basque country of Spain, where they visited the Guggenheim Museum. In the French Basque country, the group learned how to cook a gateau (cake) Basque with a Chief pâtissier from the region. They also visited the village of Espelette, which is popular for its pepper that students tasted.

 chef photochef photo 2

After the orientation in Biarritz, students travelled back to Paris where they met their host families and started their Paris life. They visited their campuses before the beginning of classes in various Parisian universities and at Reid Hall, where Hamilton in France courses are located.

Continue reading “Back to school in Paris”

Dana Holloway ’18 shares her experience of studying English-language literature in Paris

On Thursday mornings, I walk into my school just off of Boulevard St. Michel in a beautiful old building. It used to be the royal school of drawing back under Louis XV, and entering the enormous carved stone entrance feels like going back in time. Crossing the secluded courtyard and climbing the stairs brings me to my classroom, an impressive room lined with bookshelves of English literature and dominated by a gigantic round table. Early comers discuss in French their plans for the weekend or the amount of work they have as they wait for class to start. When our professor enters and the class quiets down, she begins the day, saying:

“Alors, on va commencer with the oral presentation on Virginia Woolf…”

And with that shift from French to English, my brief language respite for the week begins.


This semester, I am taking an English-language literature class in La Sorbonne Nouvelle’s “Monde Anglophone” department. The course, named “Réécrire l’histoire,” focuses on the links between history, memory, and representation through the works of T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and Pat Barker.

Because I’m a Literature major at Hamilton, the HiF program allows me to take one literature class in English to help me meet major requirements. However, more important for me than the credit was the chance to study English-language literature from a French perspective. I was curious to see if the French approach to these texts was different, and what it was like studying these texts among non-English speakers.

What I like most about this course is our depth of study for each work. At Hamilton, we are often able to cover multiple authors, books, and periods over a semester. However, instead of quantity, the French pedagogical system seems to focus more on quality, with us taking several weeks to discuss each work. For instance, we spent more than four weeks discussing T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land alone! This slower pace took some getting used to, but I’ve come to appreciate how much better I understand the texts when I take more time to consider them. Our lessons are also heavy in literary theory and poetic terminology that are completely new to me, which has been excellent for gaining more tools with which to study literature.

The other students in the class are all French students pursuing Master’s Degrees in Anglophone Studies. As someone who now fully understands the difficulty of reading and thinking in another language, I am continually impressed by these students’ grasp of English and ability to articulate their thoughts, often with very elegant British or Irish accents! Many of the works we are reading take a lot of time and attention for English-speakers, such as The Waste Land and To the Lighthouse, so I admire these students’ mastery of such difficult material.

But while the language might be familiar for me, there are still many aspects of the French education system that took some time to get used to. For instance, instead of continuous, smaller assignments, the classwork consists of a single oral presentation of 25 minutes and a written final at the end of the course. The professor publicly comments on each student’s presentation, not hesitating to criticize weaker arguments or missed points. This course is also dominated by the professor’s lectures rather than comments from students, despite the round-table environment and small class size.

My course in the “Monde Anglophone” department has far surpassed my expectations, and it is one my most interesting and engaging courses in Paris. It has been a surprising mix of the familiar and the foreign, which has introduced me to new ways of looking at texts. For Literature majors in the HiF Program who have the opportunity, I would highly recommend this experience.

by Dana Holloway