16 July 2015

Summer in Paris

Summer in Paris hits the city hard and swift. Our move to Cite U at the start of July coincided with the first heatwave of summer, so the air-conditioned luxury of our former hotel was sorely missed. It was a challenge to dress presentably for work in 36-degree heat, but as some coworkers showed up in shorts on these days, that was our cue to follow suit! Unfortunately the typical, century-old Haussmannian buildings that house most offices in the central districts are not equipped with modern conveniences like air-conditioning.

One of our favourite Sciences Po lectures to-date has been one on ‘The History of France through Paris landmarks’. Here we learnt how the city was first founded over 2,000 years ago in an area presently known as the Latin Quarter, the significance of the Louvre, Tuileries and Versailles as palaces, the relationship between the taxation system and socio-economic situation of its various residents, and present day renewal plans to expand beyond its borders in the ‘Le Grand Paris’ urban project.

Equally as interesting were a series of lectures on European identity issues, both past and present. Topics such as migration, security, solidarity and leadership opened our eyes to the multilayered complexities of the evolving European identity and its implications for existing and future member states.

So after all of this cultural education, some of us decided to kick off the weekend by watching a show at the Moulin Rouge. It was a spectacular performance filled with breathtaking acrobatics and the compact, big-top setting made the experience all the more intimate as we sat around dinner tables and mingled with people from all over the world. It reminded me of our lecture on identity issues and what it means to the French people, since this show clearly capitalised on its unique place in Parisian history. Photos were not allowed during the show for copyright reasons, but I can tell you there was a huge pool of water, python snakes and rollerskates!

Last weekend saw our entire class being treated to a day off work to attend a study trip to Brussels to learn about the EU Parliament. Coincidentally, Friday marked the start of the Bastille Day long weekend, so excitement levels were high as we would head off to other destinations (Amsterdam, Bruges and Aix-en-Provence) following the class trip. The EU institution buildings were quiet that day as EU officials and heads of state were scheduled to meet in Strasbourg instead - we were devastated about our missed opportunity to see Merkel, Tsipras, Hollande etc.! The parliamentarian role play game was interesting as was Brussels as a tourist destination. Thinking it would be a ‘European’ Canberra, the city surprised us with its fair share of tourist drawcards, from its official buildings, historic architecture, public parks, to a bustling town square serving up the must-try diet of Belgian fries, waffles and beer (though not all at once).

Finally, Bastille Day arrived. Being the conscientious students that we are, the morning was spent completing as much of our upcoming assessments as possible before heading to the supermarket to shop for our picnic on the Champ des Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower. We successfully secured a prime spot and spent almost 7 hours entertaining ourselves before the fireworks started at 11pm. Surprisingly, the crowds were not as severe as those during New Year’s Eve in Sydney, but perhaps it was an indication of how much larger Paris is as a city.

With just over two more weeks of the IPP left, it's time to power through all the touristy things on our to-do list!

Farah Tan
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the International Placement Program in Paris, France 

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