Week 2: PCA Orientation

This past week was orientation week at my school! It was a pretty interesting experience that helped me get a much better introduction to Paris.

The pictures I took this week were phone photos. Since I am just familiarizing myself with the city and I have the luxury of time, I figure any place I really want to study and photograph I can go back to on my own time with my camera and really get the shots I want.

Right down the street from my school.

Right down the street from my school.

A metro station.

A metro station.

So, Monday we started off with a small breakfast and a welcome session. The group of friends I have been spending the week with consist mostly of other Americans spending the semester abroad who live in the dorms at St. John’s, with a few exceptions. It’s really crazy being surrounded by so many people from all over the world who have lived in several countries and speak many languages. I constantly feel over-shadowed and uncultured because I’m “just an American who speaks English.” After the welcome session we had lunch, and then a free afternoon until dinner that night at Bistrot de la Montagne.

Fancy dinner!

Fancy dinner!

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Blurry veggie food.

Blurry veggie food.

After a delicious dinner and lots of sitting, talking, and getting to know one another, we went out and did some exploring into the night.

New friends!

New friends!

Tuesday was the longest day of orientation. We spent a lot of time sitting on hard little wooden stools hearing different faculty talk to us about various aspects of living in Paris, studying abroad, and the school. I also had my first macaroon!

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I think I get the hype. They’re pretty yummy.

The event that night was a boat cruise on Les Bateaux Mouches on the Seine! It was super touristy but still fun to see all of the amazing sights right along the river. I got slightly overwhelmed realizing everything I have to see in the next few months, including my first glimpse of Notre Dame!

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That night  we walked around and explored. I also had my first crepe!

I don't know what this church is but I want to go back to it! I think it was in the 9th.

I don’t know what this church is but I want to go back to it! I think it was in the 9th.

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Nutella Banana. I wish it was peanut butter.

Wednesday was advising day, aka the day we finally got to see what classes were available and pick our schedules! It started off with departmental meetings, then we met individually with the department head to pick our classes. This day really made me miss KCAI. I love reading over each class description and formulating the perfect schedule. It also helps being familiar with all of the teachers and the way classes work with their credits. At PCA, I was pretty clueless. The head of the department basically told me all of the classes I should take, and most of the classes I chose had time conflicts. I was initially unhappy with my schedule, but they advertise the first week of class (add/drop week) as a time to try out classes and flexibly change your schedule, so I’m just going to every class I am interested in and then deciding what to take. So by the end of next week, my current schedule may look very different! One of my photography classes is a fashion class, which I am the most iffy about. When it comes to fashion photography, I have zero interest. That’s another thing I’ve had to get used to at PCA. It’s a very fashion-based school, whereas KCAI is liberal arts, fine arts and design.

That night we went to the Centre Pompidou. Is it terrible that I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the Pompidou before? I don’t know how that happened, because it’s the largest modern art museum in Europe. It is probably one of the most absurd, busy buildings I have ever looked at. It just doesn’t look like a building to begin with; more like a Dr. Seuss creation. Anyway, we had an unofficial tour from a Sorbonne student through the current main collection. It was really interesting because I’d only heard of about three artists before. Contemporary art is not my forte.

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Usually when I photograph art at museums, I also take a picture of the label so I can refer back to it later and research the artist. I regretfully did not do this, so I’m not sure who created these works or their titles. It is really hard to Google work based on a description of it.

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The Rainbow Room!! My favorite.

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So far my favorite part of the Pompidou is the view at the top! But I have yet to see their Modern art collection (it’s currently being remodeled or something so it’s closed). Oh yeah, we get in free with out student ID’s to the Pompidou, the Louvre, Versailles, and most art museums in the city. Yeeeesssssssss!!! After the Pompidou we explored the area and got food (see a pattern here).

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Wednesday night (or early Thursday morning; 2AM) there was an adorable little mouse running around in my room all night and keeping me awake. It especially enjoyed running up my curtains. It finally got so annoying that when I heard Anne’s grandson leave his room, I waited for him to come back and showed him the mouse. At this point it was camping out on this frilly thing that runs along the ceiling above where my windows are. We got a metal rod and after maybe 10 minutes, we lead it back down and out my window.

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Too bad he doesn’t cook.

Thursday was a free day so I finally took the opportunity to work out for the first time since I got to Paris. I was then texted by some friends that they were going to find brunch in Montmartre and I quickly agreed. Finally, Montmartre!!

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Almost immediately after we got there we ran into none other than le Bateau Lavoir. Needless to say I kind of freaked out. It was surrounded by a German tourist group that we followed for a little bit before veering off on our own.

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We ended up eating at Le Consulat. I had crepes again. It’s right across a super touristy shop that is filled with everything I love, so of course we went in.

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If you know me, you know this place is my heaven. It combined the two areas of art history I love the most: Art Nouveau and turn of the 20th century Paris. I have a gigantic le Chat Noir poster above my bed and a giant canvas Gustav Klimt print in my room in Kansas City. I think those were the only things keeping me from buying everything in that store, but I can always go back…

We saw a lot of people with huge ice cream cones, which is a big deal because everything is tiny here. We went to check it out and viola:

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We totally had ice cream. I want to go back and try (almost) every flavor!

Right down the street was this amazing view:

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And then we made our way up to la Basilique du Sacre Coeur.

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You aren’t allowed to take photographs inside, but it is incredible. All of the art is beautiful and the building itself it enormous. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many domes. I honestly don’t know that much about the history behind it, but considering it finished construction in 1914, it is a relatively new addition to Paris, which explains why everything is in such good condition. It also has an amazing view of the city:

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Montmartre is everything I dreamed it would be and I’ve barely explored it! I can’t wait to go back and spend tons of time there this semester.

That night, our orientation event was a guided tour of the undergarments exhibition in les Musee des Arts Decoratifs. I definitely learned a lot and our tour guide was very enthusiastic. This is another museum I don’t know that much about, so if anyone has any recommendations let me know because I get in for free!

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After the museum we explored and got food, this time Vietnamese.

Friday was the last day of orientation. We had our last information sessions, mostly regarding the school. Then we had a crepe lunch party. I also met with the career services faculty to discuss getting an internship in Paris. I have a really awesome opportunity I am applying for and will hopefully hear about next week. If I get it, I will share!

That night, the final event was garden aperetifs in the Tuileries. I met more of my fellow PCA students and we drank a lot of wine. Yeah, a school sponsored event that involves alcohol? You would find no such thing back home. C’est Paris!

So, this past week has been a whirlwind of information and new people and places and things and foods. I’m super confident at using the metro now. I’m starting to figure out how to eat in Paris. I fell in love with Montmartre for real. And school starts on Monday. I can’t wait to get my classes figured out, potentially get an awesome internship, and finally have something concrete here in Paris. As fun as all of this exploring is, it is also a lot to take in every day. There are many exciting things coming up though, so who knows!

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