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Just an Extraordinary, Ordinary Day à Paris

“A Typical Day” in Paris is inspiring, unpredictable, and anything but typical.  My CEA class schedule gives me the perfect amount of consistency and structure to stay focused and organized, all while leaving plenty of time for me to fill in the blanks.

The particular CEA study abroad program in Paris lets me enjoy, for lack of a less cheesy phrase, the best of both worlds (or if you’re more the literary type, as Voltaire would describe, “the best of all possible worlds”).  Not only am I able to meet students from across the States in my CEA courses, but I also have the fortune to metro across the Seine to study alongside students from across the globe at L’Université Paris-Sorbonne.

Technically, my studies don’t start each day until 12:45 pm. However, in retrospect, my learning begins the second I wake up.  Whereas it usually takes black coffee and six alarms to wake me up, the mere fact of being in this incredible city makes me jump out of bed faster than a child on Christmas (well, I still need help from those alarms). As frustrating, claustrophobic and odorous as the metro is at times (as in, all the time), it’s probably my new favorite mode of transportation – behind Uber of course, Paris traffic is simply something you don’t want to mess with.  Knowing I can walk around aimlessly for hours, find a metro, and still manage to safely find my way home, is extremely comforting – especially being as map-illiterate as I am.

 Lily and I starting our day in true parisian fashion

My routine has transformed into me and my morning breakfast buddy, Lily, grabbing our daily lattés, exploring the Marais, and finally, making our way to CEA for Haute Couture: History of Style & Fashion. You’re probably thinking, this is a class?! Yes… and it is incroyable!  Fashion has always been my – for lack of a better, non-rhyming word – passion. Therefore, the ability to learn about a subject I love, in a city I love, is amazing.  My professor is everything you would expect and more from a man named Jean-Pierre Constant (fun fact: he was the historical advisor for the film Ever After).  Class usually starts with him reminding the overwhelmingly female class that fashion was created for men, and always ends with me knowing more about European history than I’ve learned in any UCLA course and more about fashion than I could ever learn from reading Vogue, front to back.  Considering a month ago my coolest field trip was to the SF zoo in second grade, I could hardly hide my excitement after learning our class excursions would include trips to the Louvre and Musée Carnavalet.
 Class isn't so hard when this is the location.

At 2pm, my friend Lars and I close our couture notebooks and sprint to the metro for our French courses at Sorbonne. Although this aspect of the program is intense and tiring, it is 100% worth it. While I’m used to the American system of structured learning goals and rigid lesson plans, my interactive Sorbonne class is a breath of fresh air.

In between the two hours of enhancing my grasp on french grammar and my hour long phonetics class, my classmates and I are free to explore, nap, eat, etc., during a 30-minute break.  After a few days of simply sitting, staring at the Eiffel Tower from our the 8th floor library, Lars and I discovered what would quickly become our routine hang out sesh during our 30 minutes of freedom: Le Jockey.  Six buildings down from the Sorbonne sits Le Jockey, a popular corner restaurant whose waiters are as friendly as their guacamole is disgusting. After the much needed energy/refreshment break, Lars and I head back to the phonetics lab, where students receive headsets that allow them to speak into a microphone, listen to their pronunciations, correct their mistakes, and try again.  When I arrived in Paris, I would enter cafes and order in french, only to be replied to in english.  With just a week of phonetics under my belt, I’ve increased my chance of getting a response in french from about 0% to 65%!

 My Sorbonne teachers have to bribe me to study by making this my view.

After 3.5 hours at the Sorbonne, the only thing Lars and I want to do is pass out.  However, the only acceptable thing for us to do is meet up with our friends Lily and Grace to check off #1 of our Paris bucket-list: discover a random new restaurant in each of the 20 arrondissements. We’ve explored three, but I’ll save that for another post.

While I could easily repeat this routine everyday for the next four months, it’s an added bonus that each day continues to bring unexpected surprises and new discoveries.

Bisou bisou,


Madison Vlay is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Paris, France. She is currently a junior at UCLA.

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