Week 3: School Begins!

This past week was my first week of class! I was excited, but also as I mentioned before, I was reluctant about some of my classes. Much of that changed during the week.

Here is my schedule for this semester:

Junior Seminar I: Monday 2-7:00 PM, 3 credit hours
French I: Tuesday & Thursday 9-10:15 AM, 3 credit hours
Fashion Films II: Wednesday 10:30 AM-1:00 PM, 2 credit hours
Motion Graphics I: Wednesday 2-7:00 PM, 2 credit hours
Digital Photo Lab I: Thursday 10:30 AM-1:00 PM, 3 credit hours
Introduction to Visual Culture: Thursday 2-4:30 PM, 3 credit hours
For those of you familiar with KCAI, you can see the classes work kind of differently. Some electives are 2 credit hours, and all classes are once a week with the exception of French I. I still need to figure out what the difference is between 2 and 3 credit hour classes, because they meet for the same amount of time each week. Overall, I really like my schedule. I have a nice, long weekend starting after my last class Thursday at 4:30 until my first class Monday at 2:00. I also only have one class Tuesday morning and then I’m free the rest of the day. This gives me plenty of time to work considering I am taking 4 studio classes (a record for me) and I want to do some traveling on the weekends.
Monday: Junior Seminar I
I was able to have a relaxing morning and get to school an hour and a half early. Once class started we did the basic introductory go-around and syllabus review. This class seems to be my most intensive, but being my main photography studio class that makes sense. I am really looking forward to it, as I was surprised to learn we will be working mostly in film this semester. Luckily I brought my Mamiya 645 (a medium format camera) instead of a 35mm camera, because our assignments require either large or medium format. I’m also excited to be able to use a 4×5 camera in Paris, since I wasn’t sure if this was going to be an option here. Of course the cost factor is incredibly high here in France, but I just keep telling myself using large format in Paris will be worth it. I am already  super inspired and have tons of ideas for our first assignment, as well as the following assignments. Other than taking photos, a part of the class is going to exhibitions around the city and writing reviews of them. I am so excited for this as it gives me another reason to visit some smaller, not as hyped-up touristy museums and see what they have to offer.
Tuesday: French I
French is going to be very interesting. The teacher does not speak much English and teaches the class entirely in French. This makes me incredibly glad to have some basic knowledge of the language’s spelling, grammar, and introductory vocabulary. I feel like I have a good grasp of how the language works grammatically, I just don’t have a large vocabulary or confidence in speaking it. Since this was only the first class, I’m not sure at this point how things will go.
Wednesday: Fashion Films II
Okay, the title of this class is really misleading. This is the class that the head of the department recommended I take, and I grudgingly obliged because it had “fashion” in the title. Little did I know this was really just a film class! We are going to spend the entire semester watching and analyzing films while learning how to write scripts, storyboard, and everything that goes into making a short film. I love films and have always wanted to learn how to make them, but I also found it extremely intimidating and scary. There is so much work that goes into making a film, even one only a few minutes long. The part that has always really scared me was not the planning or shooting process, but editing. However, with this class I get to learn Adobe Premiere Pro, which I already have thanks to KCAI giving each student the Adobe Creative Suite. So now I get to learn how to make a film, edit it, and watch a ton of great movies in the process! This class is definitely a pleasant surprise and I can’t wait to start learning more!
Wednesday: Motion Graphics I
This is not a class I was initially registered for because it conflicted with a photography elective that the head of the department wanted me to take. However, my desire to learn Adobe Affect Effects was greater than my need for another photography class, so I switched. I am also really excited for this class because AE is a program I have been wanting to learn for some time now. Considering all of my friends are animation majors and I spend a lot of time in their studio, I’ve seen how it works but I’ve never actually used it. Now I get to join in the fun and learn a little animation myself. This class is in a 5 hour block, but it only meets every other week. We spend most of the time doing tutorials and independently working on assignments, so we get to work on our own time at our own level of expertise. I hope by the end of this semester I can say I’m confident in my AE abilities and maybe have some cool animations, too.
Thursday: French I (again)
This class gave me a much better feel for what it will be like this semester. It was actually pretty fun. We’re still just going over basics, but I think it will be really helpful. On a completely random note, as I was looking through my workbook I noticed in a section talking about professions and one of the examples was “Il est avocat.” (He is an avocado) I have no idea how someone can be a professional avocado, so I looked up “avocat“. Turns out it means lawyer and  avocado. If you wanted to say someone was an avocado, you would have to say “un avocat“. French is weird.
Thursday: Digital Photo Lab I
I think this class is going to be super helpful. It’s a purely technical class about Photoshop, Bridge, and digital printing methods. While these are all things I have a good amount of experience in, taking an entire class dedicated to them will greatly improve my workflow and make sure I’m not doing anything wrong. Plus, I want to get better at printing. We don’t have to shoot any work specifically for this class, so I can use it as a chance to improve either the photos for my other class assignments or the photos I take for fun while I’m here.
Thursday: Introduction to Visual Culture
I was not entirely sure what to expect with this class, but I think it will be very interesting. It will be partially conducted through social media: Facebook, tumblr, Instagram, etc. which we will use to create a visual dialogue of things we see or find interesting. We will then connect them on a historical timeline. I am most interested to see the connections between artists across time and how they create a chain reaction of influence upon one another.
So there you have it! I am really excited for this semester. I am so glad I get to learn so many new things, particularly programs in the Adobe Creative Suite. I want to eventually learn how to use as many of the programs as possible since I have them and they can only help me. I also get to further my experience with medium and large format film photography, in Paris of all places! I am still waiting to hear about the internship but I am hopeful. It will take up a lot of the free time I have in my schedule right now, but I think it would be worth it. My next update will be on this weekend!

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!

IMG_20130826_195219_639

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!

IMG_20130827_110209

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!

IMG_20130827_184041_568IMG_20130827_184553_058IMG_20130827_184805_245IMG_20130827_184953_302 IMG_20130827_184909_199IMG_20130828_170621 IMG_20130828_170929 IMG_20130828_170252IMG_20130827_185704_494 IMG_20130827_190339_393 IMG_20130827_190255_317 IMG_20130827_190104_991IMG_20130827_191353_588 IMG_20130827_191545_044IMG_20130829_154810IMG_20130827_191839_887 IMG_20130827_192107_053Me1

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.

IMG_20130827_224749

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.

IMG_20130829_155732 IMG_20130829_160013

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.

IMG_20130829_160408

The Rainbow Room!! My favorite.

IMG_20130829_161434 IMG_20130828_191332_633 IMG_20130828_191737_383

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).

IMG_20130829_162356 IMG_20130828_194459_914 IMG_20130828_200840_999

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.

IMG_20130829_022934_756

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!!

IMG_20130829_163027IMG_20130829_123334_569

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.

IMG_20130829_124141_688 IMG_20130829_130004_485

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.

IMG_20130829_163320 IMG_20130829_163512 IMG_20130829_134856_381 IMG_20130829_134929_336

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:

IMG_20130829_135247_059 IMG_20130829_135254_155

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

Right down the street was this amazing view:

IMG_20130829_140415_376 IMG_20130829_140420_794

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

IMG_20130829_165152 IMG_20130829_141036_611

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:

IMG_20130829_141201_821

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!

IMG_20130829_194453_008 IMG_20130829_201113_886

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!

Day 5: Avignon

The key to our hotel room in Arles!

The key to our hotel room in Arles!

We woke up early to check out of our hotel in Arles and get to Avignon with plenty  time to eat breakfast and explore the Palais de Papes as soon as it opened. We only had until my train left at 1:00 PM, so we picked the Palais as our main focus for the few morning hours we would have in Avignon.

Avignon_5small Avignon_4small

The Palais was much bigger in person than I thought it would be.

Avignon_2small Avignon_3small Avignon_1small

The building itself is basically a giant, empty stone palace. To make it more of a tourist attraction, they have filled it with screens showing little videos explaining the history of each room and its purpose. All of the rooms with intact frescoes were not allowed to be photographed, so most of the photos I have are of empty stone rooms. Still, it was awesome how much of it was original. Some of the wood beams in the ceilings were still there; that’s wood from the 14th century!

Avignon_6small Avignon_9small Avignon_8small Avignon_7small

They also have some artifacts relating to the Palais and events that happened inside of it. I thought this was pretty cool.

Avignon_10small

“Skull of a man killed by a crossbow bolt.”

There was also a room that only the popes could access where they kept their money under secret stones in the floor. They are now covered in glass, but there’s an empty space in the side and people have thrown in lots of their own money:

Avignon_11small

More of the Palais:

Avignon_14small Avignon_12small

Avignon_15small Avignon13small

The kitchen:

Avignon17small

It was really difficult to accurately depict what this is, but in the kitchen they have this giant tower that they would build fires under. It was huge!

Avignon_16small

The view out one of the windows:

Avignon_18small

There were also some rooms housing sculptures and religious art from the time:

Avignon_20small Avignon_19small Avignon_22small Avignon_21small

The next rooms were all being used to house a contemporary art exhibition titles “Les Papesses” featuring work from female artists Camille Claudel, Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, Jana Sterbak, and Berlinde de Bruyckere. The sculptural pieces were beautifully interwoven within the large, stone palace and spread throughout the rest of our tour until the end. There was also a very excellent documentary featuring Louise Bourgeois that we sat and watched for quite a while.

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Camile Claudel

Camile Claudel

One of the largest spaces for the exhibition.

One of the largest spaces for the exhibition.

Avignon_28small

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois

Avignon_31small

Kiki Smith

Avignon_29small

Unsure…

Avignon_32small

After several hours at the Palais, it was time for me to head back to Paris. I had an amazing few days in Provence and I am so glad I had this opportunity! My favorite city by far was Arles. I would love to go back there if I have the chance. I definitely recommend it, though I would like to go back to all the places that I visited!

Day 1: Culture Shock

IMG_20130820_115708

My first day in Paris was, well, I guess what you would expect it to be for someone who spent from 3:00PM Eastern US time to 3:00PM Paris time traveling to get there. I had a flight from Newark to Oslo on which I slept maybe two hours. I then spent a lot of time wandering around the Oslo airport (which looks like it was designed by IKEA) being really confused because they don’t post the gate to your flight until the plane arrives. Once I finally boarded the flight to Paris, my brain was melting from all the Norwegian/German/French/Swedish?/Everything I’d been hearing since I left Newark, and I began to realize what it must feel like for someone who doesn’t speak English to come to America (it’s not fun). Once I finally got to the CDG airport in Paris, I spent almost another hour trying to find my shuttle bus and avoiding the creepy fake taxi drivers that hang around the exit area. The combination of my exhaustion, thirst, lack of food other than airplane food, and culture shock got a little bit intense by the time I actually entered the city of Paris. On the way to my new Parisian home, I passed the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, and then it really hit me. I still can’t really fathom how I got here in the first place.

I spent the rest of my first day getting acquainted with my new home and the woman to whom it belongs; Madame Anne Zeller. She speaks about as much English as I do French, but we’ve managed to communicate pretty well so far. She showed me how everything works and I tried to explain to her what I do and don’t eat. So far, I’ve learned that she lived in Madagascar for 17 years and because of that she eats a lot of rice. I’m looking forward to learning more about her as my French gets better.

Now I’m going to sleep since I have definitely been awake for over 24 hours. My future posts will be more photos and less words!