HUMN II in Paris: a cultural exploration of European tradition

Many people dream of visiting Paris, but this dream often remains untouched or unrealized until later in life. Nineteen students realized their dream this summer, combining their study of Humanities 221 with the historical setting of Paris.

For the past seven years, professor of French and western humanities Beverly Evans has served as the program director and supervisor of the four-week trip to the City of Lights. Evans also helped establish the program.

Evans and her students visited and explored the food and culture of France, Belgium and Normandy. The students stayed in a hostel called the FIAP Jean Monnet, located in Paris’ 14th district on the left bank of the Seine River. Evans said that in this district, tourists are scarce, adding that the Jean Monnet is the place where students come together to form an “intellectual community.”

According to senior Emily Webb, this community resulted in lasting friendships.

“I wound up forming an incredibly close bond with 18 almost-perfect strangers to the point where I now consider them to be my second family on campus,” Webb said.

Students had the chance to walk down the streets of Paris, eat Parisian food, interact with Pairisan locals and soak in all of the history that surrounded them.

“Geneseo students are nice; they represent their college and country really well,” Evans said, adding that local restaurants near the hostel await the return of the Geneseo community each year.

The trip focused on all parts of French culture. Students visited Caen - a commune in northwest France; World War I and World War II memorials; Foucalt’s Pendulum in the Panthéon; and the Loire Valley. The Loire Valley, located in central France, spans 280 kilometers and encompasses late Renaissance and Enlightenment castles like the Chateau d’Amboise and Chenonceau.

Because of the array of student majors that traditionally find their way to Paris, Evans plans different attractions and excursions that she thinks will interest each student. On the weekends, some students traveled to other cities such as Barcelona and Dublin.

The summer trip would not have been possible without national tour guide Pierre-Jean Cornuat, who has worked with Evans and her students on all seven Western Humanities trips to Paris.

“[Cornuat] makes the trip … He does not just guide, he presents,” said Evans. She added that Cornuat is an essential part of the entire staff that works to make the Parisian experience worthwhile for the students.

As a way to remember the trip, the students created a YouTube video titled “Paris 2012 (528 Scavenger Hunt),” showing all of the historical sites they visited. After a month of sightseeing and adventuring, these students now have reason to repeat the famous Casablanca quote, “We’ll always have Paris.”