As I mentioned in my previous blog post, the Parisian lifestyle is much slower than the typical pace of the United States. Hurried city streets feel much more effervescent and much less “late for work”; cafes swap laptops and itineraries for mugs and mindfulness. As I settle into my new home, I’m finding myself more comfortable with just my thoughts and a cappuccino. While learning to sit and just think has definitely taken some getting used to, I am learning that self-reflection is hardly a waste of time.
The abundance of museums, widespread support for the arts, and slow mealtimes in Paris have allowed me to digest information unlike ever before. For example: on Tuesdays, my art history course meets for a lecture at CEA. On Thursdays, we visit a relevant museum and study the material by wandering the exhibits and applying our new knowledge to the pieces on display. After leaving, I usually head straight to a cafe where I can review the technical information, like time periods and artists’ names, and synthesize the more abstract information – what is femininity, and how is it explored by different artists? How can I contribute to feminist conversations started by Courbet and Millet? And while their ability to generate conversation is impressive, why do I care about it in the first place? What aesthetic elements draw me to the art? How can I employ that in my own medium?
As a documentary film major, this perspective has been hugely beneficial for deconstructing complex ideas and simplifying them into the most basic questions: How can societies make art more accessible? And why does it matter? This reflexivity helps remind me why I chose my area of study in the first place.
Studying abroad in Paris has motivated me creatively, and allowed me to grow both personally and intellectually. My classroom has moved outside four walls and beyond the city limits of Paris.
Abigail Haley is the Fall 2018 CEA MOJO Blogger in Paris, France, and is currently studying at Ithaca College.