Back to SummaryMaya Lopuch - Student Advisor Profile
ACADEMIC INTERESTS : Economic History
Paris is a city illuminated. It is a city of history, of romance and of character. It is a city of legendary artists, of street musicians and of used book sellers. It is a city of breathtaking walks, of vibrant cafes, and of the best food that you could ever imagine.
I decided years ago that I wanted to study abroad in Paris, for all of those reasons and more. The city is a cultural icon. We come across images of it almost daily. For me, it was easy to daydream and imagine myself there: walking along the banks of the Seine, croissant in hand, staring up at the Eiffel Tower.
In the fall of my junior year, I was finally able to make that happen. Yet just a
few hours after I arrived I realized that my quarter abroad would not be just a collection of the typical touristy activities. Studying abroad gave me the chance to experience Paris. For three months, I was able to lead a double life, living in Paris as if it had always been my home.
My host family was a sweet older couple, Bruno and Anne, who lived in view of the Arc de Triomphe. They were cheerful and energetic, often talking excitedly about the antics of their fourteen grandchildren. Anne, a master in the kitchen, would prepare four course dinners daily. She went to great lengths to ensure that I could taste all of the classic French dishes, from ratatouille to quiches to soufflés.
Bruno and Anne’s enthusiasm contrasted sharply with my initial shyness. Embarrassed by my accent and grammatical mistakes, I would only utter back polite comments on the weather. But my host family was extremely patient and gradually reeled me out of my shell. I’m sure I made at least five mistakes for every three things I said right, but thanks to their persistent encouragement, I still felt comfortable. Our conversations quickly progressed to cover anything from arguments on French politics to silly discussions about the cross-dresser who lived in view of our living room window.
The classes at the Stanford center were some of the most rewarding classes I’ve
taken yet. All of my classes had fewer than 15 students, and most had two professors. Having taken mostly large lecture courses at Stanford, this level of attention was refreshing. The classes were structured so that all of the material was immediately relevant to living in Paris. I learned about the integration of the EU economy and about how elections are carried out in France. I wrote papers on perceptions of French nationalism and on literary landmarks in Paris. It felt as if my classes were an interactive guide, teaching me about the intricacies of French life that I would not learn otherwise.
But the Stanford in Paris program is so much more than just classes and a homestay. The immersion program gives you an incredible amount of freedom to explore Paris however you want to, and you don’t need to be just a distant observer. I spent whole afternoons sipping on café crèmes and reading in the
autumnal parks. I hunted for vintage treasures in the Marais district. I got in long discussions with cab drivers about the war in Iraq. I took advantage of the geographic centrality of Paris and traveled to London, Prague, Barcelona and Berlin. I saw classic French plays. I went to bars and rugby matches with my French friends. I learned Parisian slang and taught a few Parisians my own.
What I loved most about my time abroad is that it wasn’t as if a small Stanford campus was transplanted into Paris. It wasn’t just a collection of the typical classes and campus routines. Stanford in Paris is a truly integrated experience. For three months, I lived with a French family, took classes in French and went out with my French friends. By the end of my time abroad, it all seemed to fit. I was comfortable in Paris. And I was devastated to leave.
Maybe you’ve been to Paris before. Perhaps you went with your family a few years ago or with a program through your high school. Or perhaps you know Paris from something you read or something you saw. But brief visits or movies couldn’t possibly do the city justice. Go to Paris. Immerse yourself. Find the patisserie that makes the best croissants in the city. Make Paris your own. I am sure that it will be worth it.