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Insights Newsletter February 2020
How CEA Handled the 2019-2020 French Transportation Strikes
For the past two months, a historically long transportation strike organized by national rail workers in France has disrupted travel and kept the streets full of demonstrators and protestors. In Paris, the city’s typically efficient public transit system was almost entirely halted. Our CEA Teams across France were called to demonstrate our commitment to our students’ health and safety abroad during the strikes, and we want to share what we put in place and how we supported students and their families through the situation.
As they anticipated the beginning of the demonstrations in December, CEA’s France staff quickly determined that Paris and the French Riviera would be most affected by the strikes, with Paris presenting the greater challenge.
Kristin Kerr, our French Riviera Program Director, helped students arrange alternative transportation to SKEMA and reassured them they would be able to finish the semester successfully. Kristin and her colleagues encouraged students to connect with carpool opportunities and to travel together, and on some days, CEA put in place cars to take students to and from school.
Our CEA Paris Center Director Alexandra Mitchell worked with her team to put in place the following actions throughout December 2019 and January 2020:
- Daily emails to students with updates on transportation, which classes are running, and detailed information about where demonstrations will be. Safety tips also included.
- Thorough assessment of the situation to determine each day if the CEA Study Center would stay open or closed for student, staff and faculty’s safety.
- Academic accommodations for students who can’t arrive on time for an exam. CEA put in place multiple exam sessions and make-up exams for several students
- Take-home exams as alternatives where possible
- Relaxed attendance policy on days where getting to class was impossible
- Fresh, savory buns delivered during finals week each morning to recharge students after a long walk or complicated commute
- Reorganized Final Dinner event to avoid having to cancel the event. We celebrated the semester before finals instead of after with a delicious meal!
- Complete re-organization of Airport Pick up in Paris for the Spring 2020 semester to get staff to the airport on time
- Info sheets distributed upon arrival giving students tips on how to manage the strike
- Course lectures delivered through Zoom to save students the commute on days with no transportation
Paris’ daily email updates to students, staff, and faculty listed which lines ran normally each day and which ran on a limited schedule, along with closed subway stations and updates on the bus and tram services. This saved students the trouble of trying to navigate the metro’s website. We also made suggestions for navigating the city during the demonstrations and advised students to check the U.S. embassy website for additional updates on the local situation.
CEA also supported student health and safety in the following ways:
- The CEA Paris Center extended its hours to give students a place to go, in case the demonstrations or protests prevented them from reaching their housing.
- In addition to the local 24-hour emergency phone hotlines in each city in France, CEA’s 24-hour emergency hotline, operated from the United States, was available to our students in case they felt the need to report a troubling incident and receive guidance about how to respond and how to seek help.
- Our U.S.-based Student Affairs Director was in communication with students’ families, answering any questions they had and providing reassurance.
- Students were instructed and encouraged to follow local and international news as the situation evolved in order to make the best decisions about personal travel.
- To guide our new students in their quest for a warm dinner, Alexandra Mitchell shared food tips and a recipe with students in each of the daily transportation updates. Cream, butter, fresh baguettes, and soup are great remedies for stress!
CEA applauds our Paris staff and our Health & Safety department for their responsiveness and diligence in supporting Paris students and their families during an unpredictable time. All of our Fall 2019 students successfully completed their finals, despite the local demonstrations, and safely returned home in time for the holidays. Our Spring 2020 students are managing what we hope are the final days of the strike, while getting a taste of life in France.
In closing, here’s one of the recipes Alexandra Mitchell, our Paris Center Director, sent to students. Bon appétit!
Poulet à la Crème
Poulet à la crème or “Chicken with cream sauce” is a traditional dish from Normandy, a region well known for its dairy products and apple products.
- 2 chicken breasts – You can get your chicken at the grocery store, at a butcher shop (more expensive) or at Picard. Poulet is chicken, and Poulet fermier is farm chicken, or free-range chicken. “bio” means organic. (remember, when buying perishables, the dates are DD/MM/YY)
- 1 or 2 apples
- 1 pot of “crème fraiche” (200-250ml). The best is 40%, though you can get lower percentages if you are looking for a lighter version. Use a larger pot of crème for creamier sauces, or get 2 pots if you want. There is no strict rule on the crème!
- A bunch of mushrooms
- Pasta, rice, noodles, or baguette. Where there is sauce, there is the need to have something to gather the sauce!
- A little vegetable oil
- Salt, pepper
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in your biggest frying pan, and when it is hot, add the raw chicken. You can cut the chicken into strips if you want it to cook faster or be “bite sized,” or you can leave it as a whole breast. Cook the chicken at medium to high heat until it is cooked through.
Add the mushrooms and apples cut up into slices and continue to sauté. Season with lots of pepper and the right amount of salt.
When everything is nicely cooked (basically ready to eat), reduce the heat to low, or even take it off the heat to start with, and add the cream, all of it. Mix gently to let the cream melt. You aren’t cooking the cream, but rather just heating it up and getting it to capture the flavors of the other ingredients. The cream will melt into a perfect sauce. It is as easy as that. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
Serve over cooked pasta, rice, noodles, or on its own with a baguette.
Some people cook the apples separately so they don’t sweeten the sauce too much. Some drop the mushrooms. Do as you prefer! This definitely should be served with some cider.
For a vegetarian version, replace the chicken with a few veggies to sauté.