Je Suis Charlie

Tomb of Bernard Verlhac at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. (Photo by Danna Samhan CC by 4.0) 

Je Suis Charlie 
By Danna Samhan, FIU Honors College
July 2016

Here Lies Bernard Verlhac at the age of 57, known under the name of Tignous. Father of four, career oriented, published author. Titled by the Worldwide Wildlife Foundation as “A Friend of the pandas and the Earth.” A member of Cartoonists for Peace. Loved by many, hated by many. He is buried here today as a symbol of the French people, killed for using his voice – for sparking and provoking thought that made others uncomfortable. He had the artistic ability to make a joke or create a stance out of any matter going on in the world. Whether it be on religious groups, or political views, Tignous was drawing out scenarios to mock them, mock them well. For almost 35 years he was a cartoonists for the legendary satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo

On January 7, 2015 at 11:30 am Tignous lost his life in a mass shooting. He lost his life by two Islamic shooters who had claims to be defending the religion of Islam…in which Islam did not need any form of defending.

Bernard Verlhac was the embodiment of Je Suis Charlie, cartoonists who was not afraid of using his talent. His cartoons were symbolic to the kind of person he was. A light-hearted French man who believed anyone could be a target, since we are all equal. For that reason his funeral service allowed his fans and fellow loved ones to create their own cartoons on his coffin to honor the kind of man that he was.

Our similarities? Using our talent to start opinions. To have people thinking for themselves on what they enjoyed or what pissed them off.

Bernard Verlhac – Tu Es Charlie

Charlie Hebdo has been known to spotlight any group and has found a way to create a laugh out of their views or beliefs…. as well as grind their gears.

Charlie Hebdo has been targeted by extremist Islamic groups for mocking the Islamic Faith. The Editor in Chief was even #3 on the most wanted list by Al Qaeda. In no way is it allowed in the religion to idolize a figure. Religious or not. Even my own mother refuses to have a Buddha figure in her home for fear of going to Hell. There is no such thing as having photos or statues and figurines of Allah or the Prophet Mohammad hanging in our homes or in our mosques. It is seen as a sign of disrespect to Allah and the faith for humanizing such a high power. So of course the newspaper used that to their advantage as a joke.

This is where my clash comes in, where the collision of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion meet. France takes pride in having liberty and freedom to all of its citizens, each citizen is allowed to speak freely and practice freely without having to face repercussions. The same fundamentals that the United States used to form the nation. Charlie Hebdo, a newspaper that takes pride in having no filter, did what they saw fitting – and each and every single one of us gets to decide how we perceive it. Charlie Hebdo, like myself live by the saying “offense cannot be given only taken”

I believe we are all entitled to our own beliefs and opinions; we are human who have our own minds that can formulate thoughts individually. But as a Muslim, there is a small stop sign that reminds me I cannot disrespect or make a mockery out of the religion that I was born and raised into, that I today still practice. As an Islamic women growing in a free society – I am not offended by the drawing, but understand where others would be.

Danna Samhan and her France 2016 class of FIU Honors in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. (Photo by JW Bailly CC by 4.0)

For me? Danna Samhan – Je Suis Charlie, Je Suis Islam.

The Islam the media what’s you to know is the terrorist groups and individuals who seek to frighten others with their threats and attacks. The Islam the media what’s you to know has struck down on France repeatedly, attack after attack for the country being so prideful and free; everything they’re against. It is the same Islam that has you thinking “Allahu Akbar” means an attack is coming your way rather than God is the Greatest. The Islam the media wants you to know is extremists and radical using the religion as an excuse for their actions.

A result of this; media propaganda has resulted to millions of displaced Muslims spread out throughout the world because no government wants to aid them in refuge. It means Syrians who are on the streets, helpless are still being depicted as members of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and so forth. Muslims today are exiled from society because of their religious belief, even though Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. It means there are young men who are taken off a plane for saying InshAllah “God Willing” on the phone. Or beaten in a hotel because they wear traditional Islamic clothing. It means Muslims like me are strip searched at Israeli Borders and stopped randomly at TSA lines because my middle name is Mohammad.

The Islam I know is meant to promote and spread peace to those around me. I was taught to always give to those who do not have and be thankful for what I have. To never judge anyone based off their opinions and beliefs. The Islam I know taught me that we are all one in the same, brother and sister; human.

It is up to you to decide whether or not Bernard Verlhac died because of two Islamic men who represent the entire religion or if it was by two extremist men who harbored hostility and anger – what the Quran teaches us not to have.

It is up to you to decide how you want to depict an entire religion – which has the same fundamental beliefs as Judaism and Christianity – judge one of them, judge them all.

Charlie Hebdo, a week after the attack, published on the cover “All Is Forgiven” because they understood it was the killers’ fault. Not anyone else, not any other group.

Je Suis Charlie
Bernard – Tu Es Charlie
Are you Charlie as well?

31 Days

En route to Montparnasse (Photo by Rachel Young CC by 4.0) 

31 Days 

By Rachel Young, FIU Honors College
July 2016

Start – Montparnasse Bienvenüe 
End – Abbesses (Butte Montmartre)

31 days to scour every inch of this city
31 days to ride every metro line 
31 days to delve into thousands of years worth of history 
31 days is all
31 days, it’s fine 

But will it be enough? 
Will it be enough for me to find myself or even begin to?
Will it be enough for me to realize life is our greatest gift but still so rough? 

31 days 
31 days to feel feelings I’ve never felt before
31 days to sympathize and feel reborn 
31 days to fall in love with timeless art
31 days and in Paris I’ve left my heart

Fluorescent lights and chipped blue tile
It’s not until my 30th day I realize finding beauty in everything is so vital 
The rush of the damp underground air
The mother combing her daughter’s unruly hair

31 days to climb every step
31 days, not one overslept
31 days, 29 stops
31 days, not even close to being enough 

I find comfort in my metro seat
I find comfort in the 18th 
For that I take two lines from home 
And find myself in Abbesses 

With just a swipe of my Navigo 
I ascend from the steps of Montmartre to the steps of the Sacre Coeur 
Where did the time go? 

From sex shops to Moulin Rouge 
To Piaf’s early stages 
Pigalle sets the bar high 
I feel the need to remember all faces 
I feel I need more time

Place de la Concorde, you’ve seen Paris grow up
From the French Revolution to the various Tour de France revolutions, you’ve had the front seat
Standing tall next to the Tuileries, in awe of your grandeur I’m trumped

31 days to relate to a tragedy, a lifetime to carry out a heavy responsibility
31 days to cross every ‘pont’
31 days and Rue du Bac leads me to a shop full of taxidermy 
31 days, hey there’s that metro font!

31 days, metro closes in 5
31 days we’ve reached Rennes 
31 days, this stop is barely alive
31 days this city I’ll always defend

Montparnasse we meet again 
Bienvenüe would have loved the gem you’ve become 
Your seemingly endless tunnel brings me comfort 
The lavender rooted in the gardens of the Jean Moulin museum, I’m home

31 days, how long has it been?
31 days I feel at home
31 days so much accomplished since
31 days, worth all the miles flown

31 days I once had
31 days have gone
31 days and we’re already preparing to land
31 days, Paris I’ll always call you home

Gare Montparnasse’s never-ending walkway (Photo by Rachel Young CC by 4.0)

I owe my experience in Paris to the metro. Without my Navigo card and my pocket map, I don’t know what I would have seen or how I would have felt. The metro makes moving around the city so easy it’s almost a crime not to take advantage of it. What I’m going to miss the most of Paris is the metro and the emotional ties I have to it. Back in the spring semester, my group and I chose Line 12 and I can say it’s easily my favorite metro line. The connection I’ve developed with the various stops and even the metro cars themselves is something I cannot put into words. The moment I realized I was in Paris and the various existential crises I had throughout the trip took place on this metro line. My relationship and my connections with this city will stay with me throughout my lifetime and a lot of those connections I owe to this line. The facility that the metro gave me to explore the deep crevices of Paris and to delve further into the history and culture that France holds is something I will value forever. Merci beaucoup et à bientôt, ligne 12.

Scientia est Potentia

Addis Gonzalez in front of the Jean-François Champollion’s tomb in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. (Photo by Rachel Young CC by 4.0)

Scientia est Potentia

by Addis Gonzalez, FIU Honors College Alumna
July 2016

Plot: Division 18, #2
Death: Mar. 4, 1832

In the British Museum of London you will find the Rosetta Stone. If you look closely, you can see that it is composed of three different languages. At the top and middle are hieroglyphic and demotic writing, both of which were incomprehensible until the early 19th century. At the bottom you will see Ancient Greek inscription which scholars used to decipher the other two languages. This is partly attributed to Jean-François Champollion, who transliterated Egyptian scripts in Paris in 1822.

Champollion was born December 23, 1790 as the last of seven children to Jeanne-Françoise Gualieu and to Jacques Champollion. His mother was not too present in his life and his father was a notorious drunk. He was raised mostly by his older brother Jacques-Joseph, a successful archaeologist who wanted to join Napoleon’s Egyptian Expedition. This is said to have influenced Champollion’s early-on passion for Egypt. Having a great talent for philology since a young age, Champollion learned a dozen languages by the time he was 16. This caught the attention of Joseph Fourier, who was the first to expose him to the mysterious hieroglyphs.
From that moment on, he declared that he would be the one to decode Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The Champollion brothers continued to express their passion for knowledge while under the new Royalist regime when they established Lancaster schools to provide the general population with an education. Since ultra-royalists did not believe in education for all classes, these schools were considered revolutionary endeavors. Taking it one step further, Champollion led an uprising in 1821 where he and a band of Grenobleans stormed the citadel and removed the bourbon royalist flag and replaced it with the tricolor flag. Although he was charged with treason and went into hiding, he was eventually pardoned and able to continue his work.

There is a constant stream of passion seen in this man’s life that is invigorating and truly inspiring. He comes at all aspects of life with full force. In his eyes, the mysterious and unattainable is captivating and close in sight. He ties himself to a foreign culture that was more than three millennia and 2,000 miles apart from his own. He did this while making his political presence known in a time of turmoil in his own country. The only aspect of Champollion that I do not agree with was his failure to mention the contribution Young made to decrypting the hieroglyphs. I believe that one should always give credit where credit is due.

Just like Champollion, I am in a constant pursuit for knowledge. From a young age, I too shared a love for language and the individuality it brought to different cultures. Those individualities also cultivate commonalities between shared interest groups, regardless of time or space. My dreams in life have always been to learn about as many cultures as possible and travel every inch of this planet. Essentially, it is an endless search for a sense of familiarity with the unknown in order to feel the unspoken bond between us all. To me, this is exactly what Champollion embodies.

Addis Gonzalez’s France 2016 class of FIU Honors in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. (Photo by JW Bailly CC by 4.0)

Gaining a deeper sense of familiarity and understanding changes our perception of the unknown. There is no fear, no need for any possible future presidents to feed on phobias of the masses or offerings of regressive structures such as proposed massive walls that induce segregation. There is, on the other hand, opportunity for growth, acceptance, and unity.

I genuinely am a very curious person and live my life in an endless period of “Egyptomania” that expands beyond interest in the study of Ancient Egypt remains and culture to absolutely everything. More appropriately, I live my life in a period of “Enlightomania”. I’m sure there are others like me whose thirst for knowledge is never quenched. Luckily, I was born in a country who fought for the ability for me, a young Latina woman, to receive an education. Countries, such as those in the Middle East, aren’t as lucky. Women receive an education that is different from men, in segregated classrooms taught only by other women. Education is a growing experience and the thought of people receiving it in a limiting environment is like imagining a person walking through a free city with 50 lbs of chains strapped to them.

Champollion and those who sought to understand the world’s past, present, and future truly make humanity a magnificent thing to be apart of. Even so, I believe that we still have a ways to go in order to expand our horizon of understanding so that all are able contribute equally.

Live to Work or Work to Live?

IMG_8222Weekend street market in Lyon. (Photo by Rachel Young CC by 4.0) 

Live to Work or Work to Live? 
by Rachel Young, FIU Honors College 
July 2016

Here are my thoughts on varying lifestyles and their effects after having lived abroad in France for a month.

It was a Friday evening and I was sitting in a mandatory study abroad meeting to go over all the technicalities of traveling and the university regulations that would still apply to all of us once we were on French soil. After hearing about what we should and should not do while abroad, we turned to something hardly any of us had thought about; adjusting when we returned. We were told there were stages of adjusting. We were told we would feel out of place returning. We were told it would be a process. Months later I’m struggling to recall how I once lived the way the majority does here in the States, namely Miami.

Spending a month in France challenged me, both physically and mentally, and truly changed who I am and how I see myself and humanity in every light. From hiking the French Alps to drinking wine with a holocaust survivor to sitting in a park eating falafels in the Jewish-Gay Quarter on Bastille Day, I realized that there is more to life than the mundane. My time in France allowed me to compare the typical lifestyle in Miami to the typical lifestyle in Paris. For one, I found that the majority of people have a firm grasp on what it means to enjoy life and most importantly enjoy your life. I emphasize the idea of the self because that is a very vital aspect of French culture. Though they have collective tendencies and are a very resilient people, they live their lives the way they wish to live them, without fear of judgement; something I admire and aspire to incorporate into my day-to-day life. The French have a deep understanding of the difference between working to live and living to work. What drives us is what we should be questioning.

IMG_0222.jpgRachel Young and her France 2016 class of FIU Honors in the Jewish-Gay Quarter in Paris. (Photo by JW Bailly CC by 4.0) 

The sense of growth that I feel is something I want to preserve and I’ve been finding it difficult to do so given the atmosphere I’m in. Though it is difficult to strip France of its beauty to try and figure out why the quality of life seems to be so much more enriching, I’ve tried with every ounce of fiber in my body and I’ve come to the conclusion that it simply has to do with the environment one is in. I’ve encountered maybe a handful of South Florida residents that maintain this European mentality and they usually grew up elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, South Florida is rich with culture, but pales in comparison to the history and resume that France has. How can we even compare?

I guess what I want readers to take away from my experience and my words is, take a step back and evaluate how you’re living your life and don’t feel discouraged to question societal norms and more relevantly, regional norms. It may seem like a daunting task, but every journey begins with the first step.


Anxiety Abroad

The gargoyle of Notre-Dame contemplates Paris. (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)
Anxiety Abroad
by Stephanie Villavicencio, FIU Honors College

July 2016

I lived thousands of miles from home for a month and though my anxiety assumed otherwise, I survived!

I’m in the middle of lunch, sitting across from my mother and I’m trying to hide the tears. I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m afraid. I leave to Europe for a month in the morning and I can’t do it. I paid an exorbitant amount to participate in a study abroad program and I’m convinced that I just can’t. What if I forget my passport? Or lose my luggage? What if something terrible happens and I never get to see my family again and — Panic attack. This is what I’m most afraid of. My anxiety holding me back, keeping me from living the life I want to live but am too afraid to.

So I packed up my fears, got on a plane, and flew to France.

Stephanie and her France 2016 class of FIU Honors in Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

Museum days were some of the hardest because crowded places are the bane of my existence. A crowded room may as well be a giant panic button to my brain, but I made myself focus on the lectures and the history behind each work of art, instead, each brushstroke, every color.


The hardest day had to be the one when I hiked in the French Alps. After a long uphill drive and a huge, beautiful lunch we started our trek. Not being in top physical shape, I was nervous I’d get lost, left behind, or just fall off the side of the mountain. So on the way up, when I start to lose my breath, I’m reminded of the fun fact that air is thinner and breathing is harder while one is on a mountain. Overthinking. The beginnings of anxiety. In my frenzied state, I try to calm myself down with a sip from my water bottle and end up spilling half. Cue panic attack. Now I’m going to die of lack of oxygen and dehydration. As certain as I am that this is my final resting place, that here, among the cows, is where I will die, somehow, I make it to the top. By some divine miracle I reach the top red in the face, short of breath, exhausted, sweaty. The top. Later in the month we took a day trip to the site of the World War II landings in Normandy, a region whose history was rife with violence and tragedy. We visited various battle sites and after a day filled with tellings of sacrifice, death and destruction, I was physically and emotionally spent, trapped with my thoughts in my own head, contemplating life, death, and who deserved which. We ended that day at Normandy Cemetery on Omaha beach, also referred to as Bloody Omaha for the sheer number of lives lost on its shores. Climbing down to the actual beach as a class was surreal, knowing that lovers and families were potentially sunbathing in the very spot a soldier breathed his last. It was surreal and simultaneously beautiful; knowing that people were free to do so thanks to the selfless sacrifice of another. So though I, personally, am not entirely confident in my appearance and never would have thought I’d be one to do so; though we had no swimsuits or towels or any previous intention of doing so, we all stripped down to our underwear and celebrated that freedom. And while that day saw me constantly tormented by my own thoughts, that moment my skin met the freezing ocean, all the weight was swept off and away with the current and I was joyful and alive and free.

Now, a month since I’ve been stateside, I look back on the girl crying in Nordstrom Cafe, and while she’s the same person with the same fears and anxieties, she knows now that she has the strength to overcome them. Living with anxiety is never as simple as “getting over it” and deciding not to let it bother you, and this trip helped me realize that coping with anxiety is about acknowledging your fears and limitations, while refusing to let them define you.

Check out John W Bailly’s study abroad programs
France Study Abroad
Italy Study Abroad
Spain Study Abroad