A Chicagoan in Paris

Magazine intern Phoebe Maltz, ‘05, shares some moments from studying abroad.

I just returned from the College’s Autumn Paris Civilization Program. My classes—European history with an emphasis on France, supplemented by a French grammar and writing class—at the University’s Paris Center, opened September 2003, were taught in French by Chicago professors.

My dorm room at the Fondation des Etats-Unis came complete with a sink, a broken chair, and stern warnings that using a hairdryer would blow a fuse. The dorm is part of an international student community, the Cité Universitaire, located at the city's southern tip, two Metro rides away from the Paris Center. More than 20 Chicago students from two different study-abroad programs lived there this fall.

Parisian markets sell delicacies from shiny vegetables and delicious but stinky Camembert to dead rabbits, still furry, hanging upside down by their feet. Chicago students, accustomed to such fine dining establishments as Pierce, Hutch, and Medici, frequented the markets, such as this one on the boulevard Raspail. Early on I broke my general rule of not eating unwashed fruit, polishing off a huge quantity of strawberries too tasty to save for home.

I’d park myself in Paris cafés, often elegant and rarely cheap, to stay caffeinated while grappling with my more difficult civilization assignments or on days when reading in French seemed especially daunting. Au Vieux Colombier, right outside the St. Sulpice Metro stop, had industrial-strength espresso, chic patrons, and a prime location in one of many designer shoe districts. When espresso lost its kick, I turned to pastries, eventually setting a three-per-day limit, at least one of which always included a flan—custard in a pastry shell.

Phoebe Maltz

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January 12, 2004