For many people, Paris, often referred to as the City of Light, is an ideal place to visit with its great food, historical monuments and extensive - if a bit jammed - public transportation.
As a French major here at Geneseo, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to spend time in France, but I was admittedly less excited about taking a class during the summer.
I left for Paris in July knowing nearly no one on the trip, and returned four weeks later with 21 amazing new friends and experiences I will never forget, not to mention more pictures than anyone could ever conceivably look at.
The class itself took us all over Paris and beyond - from the beaches of Normandy to Ypres, Belgium. We visited the Curie's lab, the American Cemetery and a dozen other things in between. A personal favorite was the Musée d'Orsay, a converted former train station that houses some of the world's most famous artwork, including works by Degas, Monet and Renoir.
We were fortunate enough to be in Paris for Bastille Day - a French national holiday that's not unlike our Fourth of July. My classmates and I attended the parade on the famed Champs-Elysées in the morning, and in the evening we sat along the Seine River in perfect view of the Eiffel Tower to watch the amazing, world-renowned fireworks display.
Our explorations outside of class included all of the major tourist spots: the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. Paris is an ideal starting point for other travel around Europe, and on free weekends students traveled to London, Amsterdam, Madrid and Bruges.
I was awestruck at the opulence of the Palace of Versailles and more than a little obsessed with Belgian chocolate. Some of us even had a run-in with the occasional celebrity - it is Paris after all!
Taking a class during the summer was more interesting than I anticipated. The books we read felt more relevant to our lives when we could clearly see the effects of them in our surroundings - from the graves of Voltaire and Rousseau in the Panthéon to the Marais quarter where the Jewish population of Paris lived and wrote during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II. Taking Humanities II in Paris brought to life material that could otherwise have felt dull or uninteresting.
While the cost and the idea of the dreaded "summer class" may be deterrents to some, the benefits of this program surpass them by far. Our summer programs allow students to experience an entirely different culture with the support system of 20 other Geneseo students. Studying abroad is an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone who has the opportunity.