Studying aboard in Paris was an experience, not a class.

This post is to provide a short description of my project for the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program. This ended up being a lot more than one to two paragraphs, but it is of good quality.

From May 23rd to June 7, I studied aboard in Paris, France. The program I enrolled in was through the History of Art Department. While in Paris, we studied Medieval Paris and looked at many Gothic cathedrals in Paris and in the surrounding cities. To prepare for studying aboard, I attended a class on the Ohio State University’s Columbus campus two weeks prior to flying to France. During those two weeks, I basically took a crash course in Gothic cathedrals. I learned the proper vocabulary used to describe the structure and designs of Gothic as well researching a particular topic to teach to the class while in Paris.

As previously stated, I researched Gothic ivories. I focused on a large statuette of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus that is thought to have been located in the lower chapel of Sainte-Chapelle, but now resides in the Louvre Museum.

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There were three different typical days in Paris.

The first day was when the class went to a museum to talk about a particular object and it’s significance to Medieval Paris and Gothic cathedrals. For example, the day that I presented my research to the class, the first half the day was time for personal exploration of the city and the second half was sent at the Louvre. At first I went to the Grande Palais to see an exhibition on Diego Velazquez, which was awesome because I saw some art by one of my favorite, Jusepe di Ribera, unexpectedly. Then, I met the class at the Lourve Museum. I present my research in front of the ivory statuette and then, Professor Whittington, our professor for the course and program, showed us some of his favorite pieces in the museum. (The Louvre is amazing because the major of the painting and sculptures discussed in the survey course for History of Art are found in the museum. So I was able to see many of the pieces of art that sparked my passion for the history of art.) We would then have the rest of the day to go get dinner and enjoy the nightlife of Paris.

The second day was when the class took a day trip to one the surrounding city that had one of the famous Gothic cathedral. Our first day trip was to Chartres. We left early in the morning and made the hour train ride to Chartres, France. It was awesome (in the sense that the experience inspired awe) to watch as the train approached the city and the cathedral towering over the surrounding buildings. The class would first sit outside of the cathedral and look at the very detailed façade, noticing the aspects that made this cathedral unique and the characteristics that are common among all Gothic cathedrals. Then, after looking at the outside, we would enter the cathedral, and so the same visual analysis. Then, two students would present their research. When we visited Chartres, we talked about the current renovation and restoration of the cathedral as well the importance of the labyrinth in the Medieval era. We would be on our won for lunch. I was so proud of myself because I was able to order and pay for food in French, without needing the storeowners to speak in English. (In Chartres, I had the best lemon tart.) Then we would reconvene at the cathedral and study some more. Eventually, we would make our way back to Paris for dinner.

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The third type of day was a free day. We were allowed to explore Paris on our own. My favorite free day was when I traveled by myself to Rouen, France. It was a two to three hour train trip. I went to go look at the Rouen Cathedral that Claude Monet famously painting many, many times. Though, my favorite part was that I saw a painting by my all-time favorite artist, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. I am a personal believer of the power of viewing art in person and to see Caravaggio’s Christ at the Pillar in person was one of favorite experiences of the entire trip. I also became very confident in myself because I was able to thrive on my own in the unknown.

This post addresses how I saw myself before the experience and how I changed after studying aboard.

The semester before traveling to Paris was a hot mess for me. I was still coming to terms with my mother have breast cancer for the second time, losing an election for the executive board in my favorite student organization, and dealing with my boyfriend breaking up with me. After that semester, I had very little self confidence, I felt like a failure, and looking back, I think I was in state of mild depression. (My mom is in remission, I’m running for a position again this year, and my boyfriend and I started dating again, so things did get better.) The majority of my thoughts were along the lines of “Why am I going to college?” and “This seems so pointless.”

This was my first selfie in Paris. I was so tired from the flight over.

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After studying aboard, I gained confidence in myself and my abilities. I was able to converse with some people with the basic French I had learned in high school. I became happy again. Seeing all this art that I had loved from afar, in person, helped confirm that I was going in the right direction by majoring in History of Art and having the career goals of working in a museum. I like to think that Paris was one giant reminder why life is good.

This was my last selfie in Paris is the airport. It was a weird mixture of “I don’t want to go,” but “I miss home.”

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This post will address my transformational experiences specifically.

Throughout the entire trip, I got lost in Paris by myself on multiple occasions. Usually I started my search for the known with a couple of tears. To be lost in a big, populated city where the majority of the people did not speak the same language as you and without the ability to call anybody was stressful. Luckily, the subway was easy to navigate and our professor did a great job of showing prominent landmarks near our hotel. To find your way back after being lost was a validating experience. I wasn’t totally helpless. During an adventure, a.k.a. not knowing where I was, someone approached me and started to speak French. He seemed to asking directions because he started pointing in different directions. I felt really cool because he at first mistook me as French and because I was able to respond back in French with “I’m sorry. I don’t speak French.” (Though, saying that you don’t speak French in French is a little ironic. Multiple French people pointed this out to me.)

Before my boyfriend and I broke up in February, he had introduced me to a band and I liked them. While looking to see if there would be any concerts of bands that I knew while I was in Paris in May, the band discovered through my boyfriend would be playing a show. The morning of the concert, I asked if anyone would want to go with me; I wasn’t going to go to concert by myself. One of my classmates joined me. (We got lost on the way to the concert venue, but I refrained from crying since someone I knew was with me.) The concert ended up being amazing. The music was great. We ended up meeting all the band members. I legally drank alcohol. I cried (surprise). It felt nice to enjoy something that I had lost interest in and also to not miss my boyfriend. (Since we started dating again in October, we went to the band’s concert in Columbus, Ohio. The concert was just as amazing, but even a little better because it was with him.

This is the leader singer of Misterwives and I. She was fun to meet.

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The experience in which I am most proud of myself is when I took a day trip to Rouen, France by myself. I bought my train ticket. I got myself to the train station on time in the morning and I arrived in Rouen mid-morning. I had two goals while in Rouen: I wanted to Rouen Cathedral which had inspired a series of paintings by Claude Monet and I wanted to go the Musée des Beaux-Arts. I went to the cathedral, but that was honestly a let down. I understood why our professor did not take the class to see that particular cathedral. Going to the Musée des Beaux-Arts was the highlight of the trip. At the museum they had a painting by one my favorite artist, Michelangelo Merisis da Caravaggio. There are only four paintings by Caravaggio in the United States, one in Fort Worth, Texas, another in Kansas City, Missouri, one in New York City, and the last one is in Cleveland, but it was being restored when I went to go see it. So, at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, I saw my first Caravaggio painting in person and it was somewhat overwhelming experience. Any painting is ten times more beautiful or interesting or thought provoking in person than a digital or printed recreation. (The only exception is the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. It was a very underwhelming experience.) I started to cry because I think that the painting is exceptionally beautiful. Gallery attendants don’t know how to handle crying though. I was just awkwardly stared at for a bit.

This picture is of Caravaggio’s Christ at the Pillar.

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One of the last experiences that was part of my transformation was facilitated by my professor. In Reims, France, took us away from the popular and crowded Reims Cathedral and to a smaller cathedral. There was no one in the cathedral and the light were off, the only light came from the stained glass windows. He asked us to spread out through the cathedral and to sit in silence. It was a great time to reflect on that I had learned, both personally and academically, and to reflect on all of my experiences so far. The peace I felt afterwards was so uplifting. I did not cry, I was too happy.

So why was this trip beneficial to me??

Along the lines of career or professional goals, I feel that my goals are good goals and I will be successful. After graduating from undergraduate school, I plan on attending graduate school and because I studied aboard, this will help me in the selection process. Also, My passion and the time and energy I put into studying the history of art was validated in Paris. I was able to use what I had learned in class. Eventaully, I will be apply to apply this experience in the future.

Personally, Paris helped me to become happy. I’m still happy now because of Paris. I can’t wait to go back.

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