Many people don’t feel the need to study abroad because they find everything they need at the school they already attend. That may be true, but there is nothing that can replace the valuable experiences you can only get from traveling.
I have attended two art universities prior to the American University of Paris, both with their own museums and galleries where occasionally we would go as part of a class. Art history was always something I had to take and it was never something I really looked forward to. Slide, name, date, slide, name, date, etc. It was boring and I could never really relate to what I was learning. CUE AUP!
I am in a class called Versailles: From Absolutism to Enlightenment. I have it twice a week. On Tuesdays, we have lectures for an hour and twenty minutes, which is not a bad length for a lecture. But then, on Fridays, we go on field trips. Every Friday. And not just to the school museum (not just because we don’t have one) but to PARIS museums, and chateaus, and gardens! Everything we talk about, we can go see in person and it makes such a difference.
Last Friday, my professor Gabriel Wick, took my class (about eight girls) to the Saint Germain Chateau. It’s about a 40 minute RER ride from our school to the West of Paris.
The Chateau is where King Louis XIV was born and it was meant to be his country home before he decided to screw it and move everything to Versailles. The castle itself is now an archeological museum but we mostly visited it for reference and for the architecture of the castle. A lot of what we talk about in class has to do with the politics surrounding the architecture and gardens of the 17th century. Being able to go into a real chateau from that era and experience it in real life makes learning so much more fun and understandable. After exploring the ins and outs of the Chateau, we walked to the edge of the property where you can see the entirety of Paris and the Seine. It was an amazing sight. Crazy to think that, although there are many more buildings in Paris now, the king would stand at that same spot and survey his kingdom.
Our professor had recently helped cowrite a book about a duke’s house near the chateau that was split into two to make way for a road. He took us to one of these houses after the Chateau. We entered through the backyard after being greeted by the sweetest little old woman. She was so French and proper, and so kind (and had an adorable collie named James. Woo dogs!) She showed us a floor plan of her house and our prof showed us the similarities between it and the chateau. Then she and her daughter brought us into the house. It was incredible, like something out of a period drama. The first room was small but with high ceilings, a chandelier, and robin’s egg blue wall panels. James made himself comfy on one of the chaise lounges. The next room was bigger and had gold paneling. It was kind of like a miniature Versailles. Everything was ornate and delicate. The entryway was all marble with a spiral staircase and wrought iron bannister. That’s all we were able to see but it was so magnificent! She told us all about the history of the house and answered any questions we had.
As the other girls and I left the house and started walking back toward the metro, we were all in awe of the experience we had just been privy to. Never would something like that have been achievable at a school in the US. We had just stepped foot in a piece of beautiful art history–more historic than America itself (if we’re talking America’s independence).
We all agreed that this–these types of experiences–is why we study abroad.