Welcome to the manifestation of my journey studying abroad in France! My name is Haven Blackmon, and I am originally from Orlando, Florida, and moved to Miami to earn my B.A. in psychology, minoring in biology at FIU. I am interested in studying molecular biology and genetics, focusing on the genetic factors of neurological cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. However, having an interdisciplinary education which explores the relationship between different subjects is my utmost priority.
Paris as Text
Photo by Haven Blackmon
The United States and France share many commonalities; however, there are stark differences between the two. The American Revolution and French Revolution occurred closely together, and aimed to achieve the same principles of democracy and universal human rights. In these centuries following the revolutions, the implementation of these principles into the fabric of society have manifested in different ways and at different speeds. One principle emerging in the last century throughout the developed world, environmental protection and conservation, has been approached quite differently in the U.S. and in France. In the U.S., commodities such as fast food and single-use plastics have been readily embraced. Interestingly, the long-standing tradition of fresh, market-bought food has largely prevented the proliferation of these products. In the markets of Paris, paper bags are standard, plastic utensils are provided sparingly or at cost, and straws are rarely used. With the Western world focused on faster food, faster deliveries, and faster results, old habits seen in the heart of Paris have largely protected it from the modern problem of plastic pollution, seen overwhelmingly in the U.S. In addition, sodas are almost exclusively sold in cans, and water is more sparingly used in toilets and water fountains. Outside of Paris, wind turbines are generating renewable energy in large fields. While modernization has provided for increased productivity and wealth, the carelessness with which society has approached it is quickly creating new and urgent problems to solve. In cases like the markets of Paris, adherence to old habits and traditions has lessened the burden of plastic pollution in this corner of the world.
Versailles as Text
Photo by Haven Blackmon
The Palace of Versailles, the largest palace on earth, has solidified Louis XIV one of the most significant spots in European history. While being a king of France ensures your name being documented in some history books, greater achievements are necessary to secure such a prevalent place in world history. Of course, this achievement did not come without the suffering and death of many, but a king must not be so concerned as to relinquish such a coveted place in the minds of people for generations, centuries, and millennia to come. To be remembered for a few decades after your death is much easier than to guarantee that you will be remembered 2,000 years after your death. What better way is there to be remembered for a thousand years than to create the most extravagant palace in history and repeatedly plaster your face onto the god of the sun? Will maintaining peace and feeding your people for a few decades be enough? Surely writing a book or a symphony will not guarantee your long-standing spot in history like creating an extravagant palace that stands for centuries or founding a new nation (like the founding fathers of the United States). Acts such as maintaining peace or writing books are undoubtedly too much of a gamble, and the large risk is simply not worth the uncertain reward.
Lyon as Text
Photo by Haven Blackmon
After visiting Montluc prison, hearing Claude Bloch tell his story of surviving the Holocaust, and seeing World War II artifacts in the Resistance and Deportation History Centre, I realized that my education in the United States had never really taught me what it felt like to live in a time and place where your leaders and your government saw you as nothing more than a pest to be exterminated. I learned that approximately six million Jews were murdered over a time span of six years, and that many of these people were gassed and their bodies burned- but I never learned what it felt like to be imprisoned in a cell of only a few square meters with seven other people for weeks at a time. I never truly understood the details of how every step of the deportation and internment process was intentionally designed to rob all humanity from humans who were the victims of this genocide. It is one thing to be taught and another to truly understand. It is one thing to teach the number of people targeted and murdered, and another to demonstrate to students the reality of being packed into a prison cell. As the memory of the Holocaust fades away with time, I feel it becomes even more necessary to educate youth in a more tangible way than history books. While American students may not be able to visit concentration camps, Holocaust history can still be taught in more tangible ways, including Holocaust museums and classroom demonstrations of food portions in concentration camps and weight loss of those who survived. Ultimately, future generations will prevent this from happening again not by regurgitating textbook facts, but by seeing and understanding that this terrorization of people resulted in the few adult survivors that were rescued weighing nothing more than that of an eleven year old child, and that people are only capable of this magnitude of terror with the complacency and inaction of many.
Yahnell Judah is a senior at FIU majoring in Biology and Interdisciplinary Studies with minors in Psychology and Chemistry. She will be graduating in Fall of 2019 and plans to attend graduate school to obtain her doctorates in Biomedical Sciences. Since her programs are primarily math and science focused, Yahnell hopes to learn more about European perspectives concerning the humanities, including art and culture. Below are her As Text assignments.
Paris as Text
Sainte Chapelle by Yahnell Judah of FIU in Paris on July 3rd, 2019
La vie en rose
Soft light passing through painted glass
Solid gold housing the Crown of Thorns
A chapel for cultural first class
La vie en rose
The King enters and the worshippers rise
All on one’s toes
Knowledge from scripture presented
By the worshippers eyes
La vie en rose
Shards of light run through scenes subject to be changed
Not in accordance to prose
The people are illiterate
Not noticing the end of the story deranged
La Bible en rose
The religion of the people sat at the throne
Holiness dragged to new lows
The power of the crown undermined
For King Louis the Ninth to own
VERSAILLES AS TEXT
Marie Antoinette and Her Home by Yahnell Judah of FIU in Versailles on July 7th, 2019
Marie Antoinette is one of the most judged figures that we have studied in French history so far, however, I sympathize with her. She was born in 1755 to a Holy Roman Empire and an Empress and was promised to the next King of France at a very young age. Of course she developed a taste for extravagance because she knew of nothing else, she was never built to sleep in a bed any less grand than the one she had and never meant to stay in housing any less grand than Versailles. Her time as royalty in France was wrought with unfulfillment as she was given little to no duties that were of any importance so she invested her time and money into her interests such as fashion. I do not think this excused her actions, because she still committed heinous acts such as using state money to continue to build Versailles as she wanted it to be while a large percentage of her population was starving. The country spent 20% of their national income on maintaining Versailles and I could only imagine how that would look to commoners whose children were dying. However, I find it important to note that her excessive spending was not the only cause of France’s debt, the country was also helping in foreign war that was very draining on their resources. Versailles and specifically Marie Antoinette became a scapegoat for all of the country’s problems. The Royalty and advisors of France at the time were obviously mismanaging money especially when it came to benefiting themselves and leading the country to the ground but I believe Marie Antoinette and the hideouts she created in Versailles receive an unfair portion of the blame. She was ignorant to the problems of the people and this is evident in Versailles and this created hatred for her, but I’m not sure if she deserved to be blamed in the entirety that she did.
IZIEU AS TEXT
A Letter to Albert Bulka by Yahnell Judah of FIU in Izieu on July 12th, 2019
You were the youngest of the children taken from your refuge by monsters, robbed of your childhood, innocence and the remainder of your life. On the 6th of April, 1944, Gestapo agents raided what was home to you under the orders of Klaus Barbie. You were arrested and dragged off and murdered for no other reason than simply because you existed. I can’t help but think of my younger siblings when I hear about your story. I love them more than anything in this world and I’m not sure what I would do if they were taken from me in such a way. When they were your age, they used to like to color and draw pictures, just like you did. I’m sure your older brother played games with you too, just like I did with my younger siblings. I feel for your parents also; they were just trying to give you a better life than the one that they were living. I don’t know how anyone could see you as a threat; you were just five years old. You and the other 43 children taken with you deserved to live out a fulfilling life, one not cut short by hatred. I wish you could see that Barbie did have to pay for his crimes against you and yours, even if it wasn’t near all that he deserved. His crimes against humanity will not be forgotten and I hope that the preservation of the memory of what he did to you can help it to not happen again in the future. For the first time since the early 1950s, far right officials have been elected in high positions in governments in several European countries and the United States. But I have hope, because we continue to honor your memory and the memory of others that went through the tragedies of the Holocaust.
LYON AS TEXT
The Lazar Family by Yahnell Judah of FIU in Lyon on July 10th, 2019
Hearing the tragedies that occurred during the Holocaust always makes me more aware of the hatred that humans have the capability to use to destroy the lives of others. Senseless hatred spread across several countries like wildfire, making people turn their backs on their neighbors, on their friends, on the principles of humanity and the idea that every person deserves to a chance to live. The events of this mass murder and imprisonment seem too preposterous to be true, yet it did happen and it happened with a violent amount of support. No single tragedy makes me wonder how humans can be so cruel more than the violence against children. The Lazar family was captured and held in Montluc. I stood in the same cell that the mother of the family tried to comfort her four children in. I thought of how impossible that task must’ve been, when they’re just children who don’t understand what is happening and aren’t being allowed to stand in the light of day through no fault of their own. The youngest of these children was just four years old. Only four years old. Francine Lazar probably never got the chance to spend time in school and learn and grow with children her age. She was robbed of any childhood she would have had a chance of remembering. Her years of coloring and learning to ride a bike and tripping over her own shoelaces at the playground were cut short for no other reason than hatred for her background. The entire family was sent to Auschwitz on the 3rd of February 1944 and they were never seen again. May the Lazar Family Rest In Peace.
Alex is wrapping up her time at Florida International University as a member of the Honors College. By the end of the summer semester, she will have earned her Bachelors Degree in Communication Arts. But before graduating, she is joining Professor Bailly on a study abroad experience throughout France.
PARIS AS TEXT
15 years of Catholic School, 21 Years of Reflection by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Paris, France on 7/5/19
Before I left to the airport for this study abroad trip, my abuela, who is the most religious person I know, lit a Jesus candle, blessed me with Holy water, and prayed over me for a safe journey. I’ve never put much thought into these extreme measures she goes through to ensure my safety since it’s something she’s been doing my entire life. But these past few months I’ve really questioned my faith and what I believe to be true.
And then I found myself outside Notre Dame on a cold July morning listening to the lecture about the 800 year old cathedral. “If you think you’re Catholic, you aren’t a real catholic according to the standards set forth hundreds of years ago”, Bailly states as I fix the cross around my neck. The wind is knocked out of me. My entire foundation is built up around this idea. Fifteen years of my life spent in Catholic school, participating in campus ministry retreats, and attending weekly mass. My life revolved around this religion. But it’s true, I’m not a real catholic.
Over the years, I’ve begun to pick and choose what I want to follow. I don’t believe in shunning members of the LGBT community or stripping them from their rights. I believe in women having an equal right to pursuing dreams and succeeding. And yet, I support my friends who belong to these groups, champion for equality, and continue to wear the “Our Father” prayer around my neck. To some, I may not necessarily be considered a religious person, but I am a faithful one.
Walking through the streets of Paris, the most secular industrialized country, I searched for any answers or signs of faith. Then we entered Sainte Chapelle and the hairs on my arms stood up. Yes, it’s beautiful from first glance with the high-vaulted ceilings, decorative altar where the Crown of Thrones once stood, and of course the incredibly intricate and stunning stained glass artwork (despite King Louis IX’s appearance in the biblical timeline). It made my heart grow thinking that something so beautiful can be created as a reflection of God’s love. But the more you dive into what makes up the church, you find yourself surrounded by an unquenchable thirst for power and greed beyond compare. Churches across Paris such as Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame, Eglise Saint-Severin and even the churches of the world put forth a sense of community, faith, and hope. When in reality, the entire foundation is tainted with centuries of lies, war, and corruption. Despite this, I continue to hold onto my hold onto my faith. But the moment I become ignorant or unaware of the church’s problems, I add to these issues. Being blind to the flawed foundation will make me a part of the problem.
All in all, the thought-provoking statement made me interested in becoming aware of these flaws and understanding that it does not make me a bad Catholic if I continue to practice my faith. I do still consider myself Catholic, as does my eighty-three year old abuela (which is especially important).
VERSAILLES AS TEXT
What if? by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Versailles on 7/7/19
What if Versailles was never built? What if, in an alternate universe, King Louis XIV remained in Paris and never converted the hunting lodge into the greatest palace on earth? And how would the timeline between the 17th and 18th century differ?
As we walked through decorated corridors and elaborate rooms, this thought continued to bounce around. Trillions of dollars were spent to expand the distant lodge and make it what is today, all while the rest of 17th century France was out of resources, adequate amenities, and proper care. Was the exorbitant palace more important than the people, who eventually died of sickness and starvation? To Louis XIV, the answer was clear as day. But if he would have not been as determined and passionate for Versailles, many of the major events of the 17th and 18th century that shaped France as a nation would not have taken place. For starters, the French Revolution would not have been sparked by the huge investment that took to construct Versailles.The monarchy may have stayed standing for a longer period and not have been executed as they were. In an alternate timeline, the revolution might have happened later in history. Without the French Revolution throughout the 18th century, the march of over 6,000 women to Versailles, the Reign of Terror, and the attempt to completely destroy the Royal lineage would have been an distant thought.
This alternate universe would be nowhere near as socially advanced as France or the world is today. Because of the French Revolution and King Louis XIV’s dream of a palace, I, as a woman, can vote, get an education, and speak my thoughts due to the advancement of human rights.
France without Versailles would not be a dominating and progressive country in the 21st century. Louis XIV was dedicated to its expansion, whether or not that meant that his people were dying. This outlook allowed for a palace of this stature to come into being and put an entire country on the map for centuries to come. Versailles showed the world that France was not only wealthy, but was a powerful and dominating state. If the idea of constructing a striking and influential palace would have never crossed the King’s mind, France would have remained behind and would not have grown culturally, socially, or politically.
To think, a hall of mirrors that takes breaths away, vast gardens that seem infinite, and extravagant ceiling pieces that feel so real have all molded an entire country over centuries and will continue to do so. With the thousands of shoulders I bumped into today, I’m confident Versailles will never stop impacting the state of France nor the world.
Lyon as Text
Paris’ Traboule by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Lyon, France on 7/10/19
When I picture the streets of Paris and its people, I find myself walking onto a movie set surrounded by never-ending sunsets, dreamy background music, and magical days. All of what makes it the most visited city in the world.
Instead, I was hit in the face with chaos and turmoil. A constant rush, being pulled in different directions. All of what makes up any metropolitan city.
Sure, Paris is magical, but it’s pockets of magic you’ll find. Scattered around the city like whispered conversations behind closed spaces, or in this case, traboules.
A traboule hides courtyards and gardens from the outside. They are intimate and unique. They bring people home and allow for an escape
2 hours south, you’ll find Paris’ very own traboule. Although third most populated city in France, it’s a gem between rivers.
The city of Lyon is bursting at the seams with vivid architecture, treasured experiences, and a history so powerful, it hits emotions deep enough to leave a mark.
Each building is colored with the shades of a sunset, which express the beauty and age of the glowing city. Cobblestone roads form twisted paths that lead to a church, so gracefully positioned, protecting her city at the very top. All of what makes up the beauty of Lyon.
Individuals seated near and far from us, holding stories that impact generations. Lyon is home to a community bound together by its past. A past so crucial, it must never be forgotten. Stories and experiences that must live on forever. All of what makes up the history of Lyon.
Like Claude Blonch, who at the age of 15 was catapulted into the horror that was the Holocaust. And at 91 years old continues to tell his story for all who listen.
Like Laurent’s mother, Denise Vernay, who played a major role in the French Resistance. A female, Jewish resistance fighter who was determined to put an end to the ongoing nightmare or die trying.
Their stories, much like others, is an important message to the future, not just in this city but throughout the world. Lyon, with its buildings made from the gold mountains, winding rivers, and significant history make it that much more magical. All of what makes Lyon Paris’ traboule.
Izieu as Text
To Izieu by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Maison D’Izieu on 7/12/19
I cannot fathom what you went through on April 6, 1944. The amount of fear and terror that went through your mind. When just a few days before you were running around the lawns, picking flowers, and getting raspberries on your knees. You were splashing each other by the water, making water bubbles with your mouth. Picking out costumes for the upcoming play and rehearsing lines outside. Your hands were busy coloring in backdrops, deciding what crayon to choose next. Yellow or blue for the pirates coat? You were learning how to read and write, learning math and history. And on the days you yearned for the loving embrace of your mother and father, you wrote to them. You wrote about what you were learning, what you were doing. You didn’t want them to worry, but you missed them more than anything in the world, with every fiber of your being.
And then the trucks came and you were taken away. You were sent to Izieu to be protected, but instead were stripped from the place that kept you safe. You were stripped of your childhood and your innocence. You were considered resistance fighters when in actuality you were too young to comprehend the meaning of those two words. Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, is responsible for the tears you shed, the fear you felt. There was absolutely no point in your arrest nor was there a reason for your death.
The light that radiates from you will never burn out, for it is our responsibility to hold your story close. Your story of courage, strength, and resilience. I’ve seen the photos, drawings, and the letters. And I want you to know that I see you and I hear you. And I know that it is within my power to share your story and never let it become someone else’s reality.
Nicole Avetrani is currently a student of the Honors College at Florida International University. She is an International Relations major, minoring in Communications. She will be a senior as of Fall 2019, and was fortunate enough to join the Honors France study abroad program as taught by John W. Bailly as the next step in her Honors FIU journey. These are her As Texts.
PARIS AS TEXT
Photo by Nicole Avetrani (CC by 4.0)
Photo by Nicole Avetrani (CC by 4.0)
Photo by John W. Bailly (CC by 4.0)
A Letter to Paris by Nicole Avetrani of FIU in Paris, France on 7 July 2019.
I met you 7 days ago. These days have been spent in Metro cars, cafés, museums, and castles. These days have been measured in miles walked, café crémes drinken, and 10 PM sunsets. All in daily attempts to explore and understand you. And yet, as of now, I can’t say that I do.
Prior to this trip, you have only ever been defined in stereotypes – wine and cheese, the Eiffel Tower in lights, people in love. It took very little time to come to the realization that you – a city previously unknown to me – are far too complex to be condensed into such simplified and superficial categories.
A semester’s worth of weekly classes could only scratch the surface of your complex and colorful past. Religion, revolution, and expression seem to be the catalysts of your evolution. You have been celebrated and manipulated by kings who share a singular namesake. You have been the battleground for wars fought by men with weapons and wars fought by people with ideas. Moreover, you are a place where men with weapons and men with ideas are equally catastrophic.
In light of these wars, religions, and ideas, your identity is in a constant state of evolution, and your streets are the evidence. The people, the store fronts, the brick-patterned buildings and the stands in the market places.
I find comfort in your complexity, because as I struggle to define my own identity I am beginning to learn that, like you, my identity can be multi-faceted; it is not exclusively what others are able to perceive on the surface, but the inward colors of the past that comprise the fabric of my identity.
I met you 7 days ago. And in my attempt to define the composition of your identity, I’ve been projecting my personal internal struggle to define the elements of my own. It’s only been a week, and I can say that I’ve been given the incredible opportunity to be able to learn these lessons about myself here in Paris. It’s been a week, and I can say with confidence that, while I still fail to define you, I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know you.
VERSAILLES AS TEXT
Photo by Nicole Avetrani (CC by 4.0)
Photo by Nicole Avetrani (CC by 4.0)
I Almost Had to Wait Once by Nicole Avetrani of FIU at Chateau Versailles on 7 July 2019.
A man with an idea. A simple sentence, but one with profound implications. Louis XIV was a man who made a decision to turn a hunting lodge into the heart of the French government, and justified using approximately 20% of the government’s budget in its maintenance, all the while in the firm belief that the legacy of Versailles outweighed his obligation to the people. In doing so, he set forth a chain of events that forever altered the landscape of not only French history, but the history of the world.
Visually, Versailles is inarguably stunning. The embodiment of Rococo extravagance and utter indulgence, the rooms seem to compete for your attention, and the gardens seem to never end. Impeccably detailed and meticulously designed, it becomes almost difficult to imagine such a place being the extension of a single man’s vision. Although deserving of the awe it receives from the twisting, infinite lines of tourists lined at its gates in the morning, one would be mistaken to leave their assessment of Versailles at its physical facade. Versailles was not built to be beautiful for the sake of beauty. Versailles is so incredibly impressive because it uses art and faith as mere tools — and Louis XIV was keenly aware of how effective of a tool Versailles could be. The Sun King’s face is mirrored in every piece of artwork — reimagined as Apollo or Mars, carved into marble busts, engraved in gold adornments along the walls and ceilings. Even in the Hall of Mirrors, where you expect to catch your own reflection in the specially crafted French glass, you find Louis XIV, in the smallest of details. Consequently, he is inextricably connected to the palace for as long as history will allow it to stand. In doing so, he has cemented his place among the most successful kings to have ever ruled. He has negated every argument challenging the morality of the construction of Versailles by succeeding in doing exactly what he intended — using wealth and power to manipulate beauty, religion, and art, all to serve as a permanent monument to his legitimacy as a king and the position of France at the peak of European culture and power.
IZIEU AS TEXT
Photo by Nicole Avetrani, CC by 4.0
Photo by Nicole Avetrani, CC by 4.0
Photo by Nicole Avetrani, CC by 4.0
La Prière de Liliane Adressée à Dieu by Nicole Avetrani of FIU at Izieu on 12 July 2019.
The last week has brought many things into question. At the forefront of these is religion.
It is easy to understand those who question the existence of a God in a world where something like the Holocaust can happen. It is especially easy when you walk through the empty rooms of a building that was once a home to 44 children. 44 innocent, unassuming lives, first separated from their parents and families and then separated from the last place that stood a chance at being somewhere they could call their home. 44 flames, all between the ages of 5 and 17 on April 6th of 1943, when the Gestapo decided, against all reason, to extinguish their light from the world.
But then there is Liliane. Her letter, both a plea and a reaffirmation of her faith in God’s will. How could you deny the existence of a God she so assuredly placed her faith in? A child who, left with nothing at just 9 years old, still had faith. A child who, after April 6th 1943, ceased to exist except in photographs, drawings, and a prayer addressed to God.
These children were flames, lit by hardship, perseverance, and hope. At the end of their rope, feeling defeat in its rapid approach, the Gestapo made a desperate attempt to further plunge the world into their darkness by targeting places like Izieu, that stood as a shining beacon of hope and refuge to so many. The tragic irony is that, in spite of their senseless and unwarranted murder, the Gestapo ultimately failed.
April 6th: the date in which the Izieu children left and the day that the Gestapo thought their humanity had been erased from the face of the world, because they were sure to leave no trace of them behind. July 12th: the date in which 20 students (from another continent, another state, another school, another culture, another era) participated in the remembrance of the Izieu children by immortalizing them in their memories and in their words.
LYON AS TEXT
Photo by Nicole Avetrani, CC by 4.0
Photo by Nicole Avetrani, CC by 4.0
Photo by Nicole Avetrani, CC by 4.0
Photo by Nicole Avetrani, CC by 4.0
Photo by Nicole Avetrani, CC by 4.0
Photo by Nicole Avetrani, CC by 4.0
Passant Ua Dire Au Monde Qu’ils Sont Morts Pour La Liberte by Nicole Avetrani of FIU in Lyon, France on 10 July 2019.
The Resistance was far larger than the people who partook in it. This much is evident from a walk in the streets of Lyon.
Prior to 1942, Lyon was the heart of the Resistance. With the invasion of Germany in 1940, there was little time wasted in developing a network dedicated to the liberation of France from Nazi control and the Vichy government enabling their oppressive regime. Lyon became a bustling center of clandestine newspapers and winding traboules, unique passageways that are hidden within the city’s buildings, courtyards, and alleys.
With November of 1942 came the takeover of Lyon by the Gestapo. Klaus Barbie sought to not only invade the city, but transform it into their headquarters. In this city, Barbie personally enacted the intimate tortures and interrogations of thousands of individuals earning the moniker, “Butcher of Lyon.”
Evidence of these conflicting roles – both as the heart of the French Resistance and the headquarters of the Gestapo – can be found throughout the city. There are the traboules, each unique in their composition of color and combination of passageways and staircases, reflective of their individual histories and uses in regards to the Resistance. There is the monument located in the center of the town, a grim man crafted in stone and bearing a shield with the symbol of the Resistance, in a constant mission to serve as a reminder of the Resistance fighters who were executed in that very street. There is the Hotel des Celestines, owned by a man whose mother – a woman who served as a liason in the Resistance – is survived by her poems and her son’s intimate words. There is the Montluc prison, a somber and uninviting collection of buildings that was home to the suppression of the Resistance and the persecution of the Jewish in Lyon.
Lyon is teeming with history and life, and at the center of it all are the people who, everyday, maintain the legacy of those who sacrificed in the name of a liberated France.
Maria Cruz is a senior at the Honors College at Florida International University majoring in International Relations and minoring in Marketing. She is looking forward to graduating in the Spring of 2020 and furthering her education at a graduate school. Currently, she is in the midst of completing her Honors study abroad program in France – below are her reflections of the trip.
Paris as Text “A Foreigner’s Haven” by Maria Cruz of FIU in Paris on July 2019
Paris is a mystery I have been attempting to solve since my adolescent years. I spent countless hours watching couples falling in love in front of the Eiffel Tower, reading about artists emerging themselves in the stimulating art scene, and just overall compelled by all the stories of those who were once lost and came to find themselves in one of the most enriching cities in the world. Hoping that I, too, could one day visit this wondrous world of art and culture and emerge from this glorious trip as a new person. However, no amount of fictitious images I conjured in my head could prepare me for the reality of Paris.
Being completely honest, while this was not my first visit to Paris, it is my first time truly getting to experience all the wonders and magic held in these cobbled streets and stone buildings. Many wrongly think that Paris is just the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Notre Dame — a mistake that my young and naïve self once made. However, the “real” Paris is afternoons spent having a picnic along the banks of the Seine River, crowding around a map of public transportation routes to figure out how to get to our next destination, walking in the middle of the night to the crêpe place in front of the student dorms and make small talk with the chefs as you sip their homemade tea. These experiences, from just the first week of this trip, are a small portion of what has elevated this program and my enjoyment of it. In contrast to my hometown of Miami, Paris is a place where the past and the present intertwine, making it easy for you to get lost and find yourself again in the remnants of centuries-old locations.
Versailles as Text “Opulence in the Face of Destitute” by Maria Cruz of FIU in Versailles on July 7, 2019
In 1742, Louis XIV embarked on the one-man journey to bring France to the full glory of a leading power. In doing so, he made the once hunting lodge the height of French culture and the downfalls of the state. For many, Versailles has become the epitome of opulence. For others, it is a symbol of a violent and tyrannical line of rule.
Have you ever felt so regal and holy? Stood at the very place where centuries ago a god of his own making watched over the daily proceedings of his dominion? Strolled through the gardens whose designs were compiled from his very own dreams? Walked through a hall dripping in gold and seen your glittering reflection mirrored in its grand details? The ability to see such grandeur in person was nothing short of a religious experience for me. To my amazement, physically being in the presence of these visions of luxury was far more compelling than any recreations made for shows and films. However, upon further reflection, I could not help but be disappointed in my initial reaction.
The questions posed over the sociopolitical implications of the making of this site has challenged my very morals and values. As someone who has rigorously studied global affairs of the past and present, I am quick to denounce all rulers who retain such power and authority over their government and people as Louis XIV did. Moreover, his actions are perceived as the catalyst for the extremely violent and radical French Revolution. Thus, one would think I would be in complete opposition to Versailles and everything it stands for; yet, after my visit, I can not hold these sentiments. It is evident to me, and the millions of others that have made the journey to this location, that despite the transformation France has undergone since his rule, Louis XIV was successful in his original endeavor.
Lyon as Text “France’s Past, Our Present,” by Maria Cruz of FIU in Lyon on July 2019
With its golden houses and hillside views, Lyon represents the splendor of “deep France,” or as our professor referred to it, “what Paris once was.” From my first walk through the city, it became quite evident to me that the leisure lifestyle of its residents made for a very different environment than what I had been accustomed to in Paris. However, none of my original observations could have prepared me for our week of discovery in the city, wherein we got to explore some of its most important historical sites and analyze their relevance to France’s plight for freedom in World War II. The historical value of Lyon allowed me to have a deeper understanding of the city’s beauty, and made for one of the most impactful trips of my life.
Our journey to the past began the moment we settled in our hotel room. The story of Laurent Vernay, the owner of Hôtel de Célestins, and his family was the start of our lecture on the persecution of the Jewish and Freedom Fighters by the Vichy government (in collaboration with the Nazi’s). The anecdotes Laurent shared with us of his family were some of the harrowing accounts of the crimes perpetrated by the fascist governments of Europe. This sentiment is not merely based on the brutality of the treatment his family faced, but more so on the fact that he was the first person I ever met who has a direct connection to the Holocaust. No longer is my knowledge of the horrific events that unfolded during this era from history books and lectures, but after those mornings sitting in the plaza in front of the Célestins-Théaâtre de Lyon as we attentively listened to Laurent talk, I now hold the memories of his mother and her family. However, this was not the last time we were personally confronted with the reality of the Nazi’s ravaging of Lyon.
It was only 2 days after we arrived that we visited the prison Montluc and its former prisoner, Claude Bloch. Objectively, hearing Bloch’s testimonial was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. As all 20 of us huddled in that hot and stuffy room for two hours our view of humanity was radically transformed. Coming out of that afternoon we spent with him, I knew we had an obligation to ourselves, Bloch, and the 7 million other innocent victims of the Holocaust to never let such a tragedy occur again. As history has taught us, actions committed by groups and individuals must be explicitly documented so that future generations remember and learn from the mistakes of the past. However, the current sociopolitical conditions of the West, from America to Germany, seem to heed no attention to this advice. When the Nazi’s met their demise, the international community promised they would never allow for this level of rampant devastation to happen; however, they have greatly failed in their efforts. From Rwanda, Syria, Venezuela, and even the borders of America, millions have suffered due to the failures of governments to protect their citizens. No matter how physically detached a person may be from the locations of these events, it is the living legacy of people like Claude that reminds us to reach into the most humane parts of ourselves and find ways to be sympathetic and understanding of other’s pain.
Izieu as Text “The Greatest Tragedy of All: Lost Innocence,” by Maria Cruz of FIU in Izieu on July 12, 2019
50 engraved names and an empty house are all that remains of the victims of one of the greatest unknown tragedies of World War II. The morning of April 6, 1944, was supposed to be like any other for the children and caretakers of the Maison D’Izieu. Since the building’s inauguration in 1943 by Miron and Sabrine Zlatin, it served as an orphanage for children of the Jewish families that faced prosecution by the Nazi government. Families and parents alike believed that here, hidden away in the French countryside and far from the direct sight of the Vichy government, their children would be safe. However, under the rule of Klaus Barbie no one, no matter their age, race, or gender, was safe. Thus, the inconspicuous site my class and I visited on an early morning came to be known as the location where the Vichy government of France committed one of its worse crimes against humanity.
It was with heavy hearts and teary eyes that we heard of what became of the 44 children that were apprehended and deported that April morning. They were innocent kids, full of life and love, with hopes for good futures and praying for the wellbeing of the families they were cruelly separated from — what “threat” did they pose to the government? Why were their brutal and vicious deaths at Auschwitz rationalized? Why was the memory of them concealed for decades until Barbie’s trial in 1987? These are just some of the questions that ran through my brain as we walked through the abandoned building that previously was a safe haven for kids that were victims of the war. However, now all that remains are the vestige of their second lives (letters, drawings, photographs) and an exhibition in their honor. Throughout all my history classes I have been told of the tragedies of WWII; however, no lesson can ever be as impactful as getting to visit the actual sites of these events and standing in the place of those who were subjugated to the most inhumane conditions. They were only children, like Claude Bloch when he was 15 and was also deported to Auschwitz, why were they not spared?
Jessica Ann Horsham is a currently studying international relations at Florida International University, and entering her senior year as an FIU Honors student. She is heavily interested in pursuing a career in law, with current aims to focus on human rights and injustices within the justice system. Though her career will eventually divulge her in tons of paperwork, Jessica loves to explore the outdoors, exercise, and be near the beach; traveling is one of her favorite things to do as she loves to emerge herself in different cultures and truly learn about what makes each place special.
She is currently completing the 2019 France Study Abroad as taught by John W. Bailly and these are her “France As Texts.”
Paris as Text
J’existe. I exist. By Jessica Horsham of FIU on the Champ de Mars on 3 July 2019.
Paris, France simply does not exist, one does not simply exist in Paris, France. Despite being the world’s third most visited city with over 17.4 million visitors each year, they never seem to truly be able to emerge themselves in its culture or connect with the people. People come to Paris to free themselves yet only get surrounded in the same guided paths as the other tourists around them. In a city rich with history and art from nearly 2000 years ago, people seem to step over it constantly. Everywhere in Paris tells its story of how it got here. One can travel from a university that was established in 1925, where some buildings are a tell-tale sign of its date and travel over a system that stretches more than 100 miles circling above and below the city to only ever land at the same three spots. Despite, the century of history in one pivotal square across from Louvre that held some of the most cathartic decisions to change the entire world or the now distinguished public green park that stretches for miles surrounding an iconic building, one cannot equate the tourist paths to nothing, as the stops along their general paths were unprecedented or found anywhere else in this world. However, many will lose themselves in this façade of Paris and simply drift though. This is not enough, it is not enough to simply exist in this city; Paris calls on you to engage with its people, the buildings, and its parks, it is all beautifully crafted to foster these interactions—bonjour does take you very far. Those who dare to be bold, adventurous, and different will only find that Paris offers plenty to those who are even willing to dip their toes in it. Shrouded in its vastness of beauty lies a city with dark secrets and a history ready to be uncovered.
Fictionally written through the hands of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France.
To my evermore loyal subjects,
As we begin the trillion-dollar expenditure of the new royal home, there have been grievances expressed and some of you may be skeptical of the necessity of this palace. Allow your king as appointed by the one, true God, to ease your worries and suspicions; you are all allowed to speak with me one on one, following proper paperwork and approval, and are allowed to enter for multiple occasions. Thereby, this palace does not belong to one person nor one family, it belongs to France.
This palace is simply not a place for the nobles to indulge, Versailles will place France as a leading power in the world. This palace will attract foreign dignitaries from all over the world and I will be able to negotiate treaties on your behalf with all corners of the world to help place France in stability and prosperity. Versailles will intimidate and frighten our enemies, as it helps me to hold our nation together to remain the largest state in Europe throughout all of our time. For the next 400 years, Versailles will host over 10 million people each year and it will have attracted the most powerful people in the world, in addition to common folk who will admire France and look to it for inspiration. We must distinguish ourselves from our neighbors and Europe, it is time to truly create our own culture and identity; we must not continue to live in the shadows of Italy or England, the time for France is now and Versailles will be France.
Tucked in behind the trees that
envelope the refuge, like blankets protecting a child from the night’s monsters
and cold air, the Maison D’Izieu welcomed dozens of children escaping the
persecution and camps of the Nazis and the Vichy collaboration.
Theo Reiss, 17.
The orphanage first opened in April
1943 to provide children made orphans by the Holocaust or those whose lives
were threatened, a safe place to escape from France to safe nations such as
Switzerland or with the hope of being placed with a family who would be able to
Marcel Bulka, 14.
The orphanage had taken great care
to establish itself as legitimate and went through the proper documentation and
paperwork, prior to its opening. It was approved by the necessary government
officials from the region.
Maurice Gerenstein, 14.
This refuge had taken in children
from all over Europe who were escaping persecution, from Russia to France to
Poland to even Austria; this home was simply for all children facing
persecution or deportation.
Henri Goldberg, 14.
As testified by the children
themselves in letters written to their families, each other, or their
caretakers, this home was a place for them to grow and experience the childhood
that they rightfully deserved.
Max Teitelbaum, 13.
While the children were not
oblivious to the horrors occurring outside of their little village, for the
time that they each spent there, they allowed themselves to embrace the
feelings of happiness and safety.
Otto Vertheimer, 13.
They attended school, celebrated
Christmas, as not all children were practicing Jews, participated in their own
plays, made up their own stories, rode bicycles, and simply played outside.
Jacques Benguigui, 13.
The children were free here, they
were safe. They had fresh water and food supplied by the surrounding village,
they were protected. While Sabine Zlatin would venture to find new routes and connections
to relocate the children with guaranteed safety until the war was over, the
camps were closed, and the killing of innocents had ended.
Raoul Bentitou, 13.
Many of the children also attended
local schools in the village and everyone was aware of their presence, this was
a legal orphanage in all of its means.
Max Balsam, 13.
On June 22, 1941, Hitler invaded
the Soviet Union, beginning the war on both fronts.
Esther Benassayag, 13.
On September 3, 1943, Italy’s
surrender to the Allied armies was announced.
Joseph Goldberg, 12.
On October 13, 1943, Italy declared
war on Germany.
Mina Aronowicz, 12.
The Germans then reclaimed this
“free” area of Italy and began to viciously hunt down all Jews throughout the
Jacqueline Luzgard, 12.
News of the raids began spreading
and many of the orphanages began to relocate and move children out as soon as
Paulette Mermelstein, 12.
Sabine Zlatin began to explore
different routes to smuggle the children away into hiding and safety— she began
her last exploratory route on April 3, 1944.
Suzanne Szulzklapper, 12.
The end of the war was near,
soldiers were tired, the resistance continued to rise exponentially, and the
Allies were closing in on the Germans.
Claude Reifmann-Levan, 11.
The Germans knew that they would
Armand Teitelbaum, 11.
On April 6, 1944, only two months
before D-Day, Klaus Barbie gave the order to arrest all of the people and
children at Izieu.
Jean Ament, 11.
A convoy of Nazi troops arrived in
the afternoon and detained all 44 children and seven of their caretakers were
arrested and sent to Montluc.
Edmond Gamiel, 11.
Only one caretaker, Lea Feldblum,
Isidore Kargeman, 11.
42 of the children were sent to
Auschwitz where they were murdered in the gas chambers.
Elie Benassayag, 11.
Arnold, Theo, and Miron were sent
to a labor camp in Estonia where they were shot to death soon after.
Jean Balsam, 11.
Sabine soon heard of what had
occurred and upon arrival discovered her worst nightmare, the entire little
village was abandoned.
Marthe Spiegel, 11.
These children were not resistance
fighters. They were not soldiers; they were not fighting in the war on either
side. Most were not even practicing Jews; they were only children.
Liliane Gerenstein, 11.
They believed that they were safe,
they should have made it out alive. Liliane wrote a moving letter to God asking
to bring back her parents, to protect them. She places their safety and their
lives above her own; this is the innocence and purity that was within each of
Jacob Benassayag, 10.
Their innocence, their rights to
live, the right to their childhood was viciously and maliciously robbed from
Charles Weltner, 10.
In heartfelt messages to one
another and to their caretakers, they express eternal gratefulness for their
current state of happiness. They acknowledge that though they may not have
much, they are content and full of life.
Gilles Sadovski, 9.
They wish one another happy
birthday, profess the sweetest wishes for one another, there is not a trace of
maliciousness in any one of them nor was it ever portrayed to any other person.
Max Leiner, 9.
They deserved to live, they
deserved to have a full life.
Georges Halperm, 9.
How can the same God I have known
all my life allow such a tragedy to occur?
Renathe Krochmal, 9.
A God who is just, fair, and
righteous— one who “rewards the good and punish the evil.” How did He allow
this to happen?
Mina Halaubrenner, 9.
How did He allow for an extra three
children that day to arrive to their ultimate slaughter?
Santa Spiegel, 9.
Despite all of the glory He has
bestowed upon us, this crime is of no contest.
Zygmund Springer, 8.
April 6, 1944, left many parents
orphaned— alone in a world without their only children.
Richard Benguigui, 8.
Those left behind were then shoved
into corners and silenced for years despite the screams of Sabine and those who
aided the orphanage.
Marcel Mermelstein, 8.
How cruel is it that the ones that
are supposed to be protected and saved above all else were the ones targeted by
Samuel Adelsheimer, 7.
The names of the children were
forgotten, only to be remembered by those whose families had survived, and by
Liane Krochmal, 7.
However, during Klaus Barbie’s
trials, in 1987, the children were an essential focus.
Emile Zuckerber, 6.
This heinous act was part of the
tragedies that finally condemned Barbie and created the statute of crimes
Jean Claude Benguigui, 6.
This proved that the actions taken
by Klaus Barbie and those soldiers under him were solely for the sake of being
Albert Bulka, 5.
This was a deliberate, vindictive
attack targeted to erase a whole group of people.
Lucienne Friedler, 5.
A five year old could not have
aided the resistance, fought in a war.
Claudine Halaubrenner, 5.
It was because of these 44 children
that Klaus Barbie was finally convicted. Many of their parents devoted their
lives to searching for him after the war. He was the one who gave the order to
arrest and deport the children, the hearts of society.
Fritz Loebmann, 15.
The Nazis were all too close to
success in erasing the humanity, the identity, and the presence of the Jewish
people. Fritz is a testament to that. His name on the plaque, commemorating the
children and adults that were stripped from the home and ultimately were
murdered, was added much later. In all of the commotion, he had not been
recorded as being present as he was not supposed to be at the home at that
time. They had only discovered his presence much later.
Moise Reifmann, 64.
Hova Reifmann, 60.
Suzanne Reifmann, 38.
Lucie Feiger, 50.
Marie Friedler, 36.
Miron Zlatin, 40.
That was the legacy that the Nazis had strived to attain: no recollection of these innocent lives. They did not succeed, as such, it is our duty and our responsibility to carry the names of those who suffered from Izieu.
Lyon as Text
B-3692, Claude Bloch by Jessica Horsham in Lyon, France
on July 10, 2019.
Upon seeing him for the first time, our hearts collectively ached for this gentle old man who was in such great shape that he was passing us on the stairs. Despite his great physical condition, this was not always the case for Bloch as we would soon come to find out. has one of the most moving stories—he is a Holocaust survivor. Claude Bloch was only fifteen when he was arrested alongside his grandfather and mother in France, within the first few minutes of being held in the Gestapo headquarters, his grandfather was killed. The Nazis main mission was to exterminate this group of people, one Bloch never really was as neither he nor his family were practicing Jews, to erase all Jews from the Earth and from history. B-3692 was their first way of doing so, by giving them this number, as Bloch said, you exit the realm of humanity; without your humanity, what’s left of you? They treated them as if they were not people and, in these camps, the only true way to resist was to survive, to keep fighting every day for your breath—even at 100 pounds, Monsieur Bloch never gave this fight up. Throughout this time, Claude Bloch also lost his mother, who up until their last interaction was always protecting him, shoving him in the right direction even if he did not know what it meant at times. Despite surviving Auschwitz, Monsieur Bloch was thrown back into society with little to no help from the French people nor the government. Thankfully, he was reunited with his grandmother in the same home he had lived in, yet it was a lot emptier than what he had remembered. Though he was one of the few lucky enough to grow up and out of this era, find love, and start a family, the repercussions of his experiences followed him all throughout his life. Despite being urged to speak his testimony of his time, Bloch was silenced and forced to continue his life as if his deportation had been a vacation or trip away. He was initially refused reentry to the school he was wrongfully torn from, there was no one to help him through the relentless and repeating nightmares, no one had wanted to hear or know about any of his experiences. Unlike many of the survivors, Bloch did not attempt to move away, instead choosing to stay in Lyon even after his beloved grandmother had passed. Bloch had no option but to stay and work, move on with his life, as if these great crimes against humanity had never entirely touched him or been carried out directly against him. He was forced to continue onward. During my time with Bloch, it was ridiculous to imagine how he was silenced and forced to battle his demons alone, his tattoo never fading just like the scars on his heart from his losses and all that he witnessed during camp. At 15 or 16, you are not thinking about whether or not you are going to be called to your execution nor should you be, however, Bloch experienced this a handful of times—each list, each name casting more anxiety than the last. Justice for Bloch had not been served until decades later and Bloch acknowledged that his nightmares followed as well. How is it that even after all he has been through and seen throughout all of his life that he is yet again worried for the state of our future, that he is not optimistic about it? A man who should not have survived in those conditions, where everything was against him, yet he overcame, is not optimistic about our future. After liberation and generations of peace, love, and family, he is truly fearful for the future, how can this be? The current state of the world politics, oppression, racism, and segregation has succeeded into mimicking that of the past as Monsieur Bloch expressed. These conditions have only fostered great tragedies to occur and if we cannot learn from the past mistakes of our parents and their parents and those in our past, we will only arrive at the same inevitable destination. To resist is not enough to abstain from, that is not the only option nor is it the right one. The state of nonactive voters and those who simply choose not to participate in politics is no longer acceptable, this is how those who stood with the Nazis were able to gain power and silence others, silence is not resistance. We must use our voices and stay vigilant and loud, otherwise, we will have once again failed Claude Bloch and the other 6 million people who died because people remained silent.
Gianmarco Agostinone is a senior at Florida International University pursuing a combined Bachelors and Masters degree in computer science. It is his second study abroad, the first being Italy 2018. He plans on going into fintech (Financial Technology) after he graduates at a major banking institution.
Paris As Text
Paris, A City Like No Other by Gianmarco Agostinone of FIU in Paris on July 7th 2019
CC by 4.0
Paris, a city of great power and rich history. Founded over 2000 years ago by the Romans, it went from a weak and unorganized settlement to the cultural powerhouse it is today. It is the birthplace of many of today’s ideologies that we find to be basic rights. Documents such as Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen showed the world that the times of Monarchies stripping the rights of the many for the privilege of the few was over. This city lead the revolution not only in France but in all of Europe.
These achievements have neither been forgotten nor have ended in this city. As it is still recognized by the world for its triumphs, evident by the fact that over 40 million people visit the city a year to see for themselves the greatness it has become. Monuments such as the Notre Dame, are a testimony for Paris’s strength. It was built to show Paris’s power and beauty and today is still seen as such an influential monument that when it caught flames it was not just a tragedy for Paris but for the world.
But Paris is not only revered for its past but also its present. It leads the world with progressive ideas on improving the overall quality of life for its people. It provides amenities such as Universal Healthcare, free education, vast amounts of public parks, vast investments into the arts, affordable and good public transportation, and more. Paris has out shown, and will continue to outshine, cities around the world.
Versailles As Text
The Sun King by Gianmarco Agostinone of FIU in Versailles on July 7th 2019
CC by 4.0
Who was the Sun King?
Was he a power hungry dictator?
A man who wanted nothing else but to fulfill selfish and personal goals at the cost of his people?
Or was he a visionary?
Someone who knew that he had to put the immediate needs of the people second to the greater good of the country?
To understand this we must look further than his reasons and reflect on the outcome of his actions.
For when we look back at history, intent is always triumphed by the result.
So who was the Sun King?
He created a palace like no other.
One that strikes awe in friends and foes alike.
One so grandeur and magnificent that people from all over come to see it for themselves.
With a garden so vast that one could visit it a thousand times and it will never grow old.
He conquered his enemies.
Crushed the foreign legions who threatened his reign.
But he also waisted away his people’s coin.
Spent them on lavish things and unnecessary wars that although brought prosperity to France, took from the pockets of its people.
Yet they never ceased to adore him.
So who was the Sun King?
He was feared by his enemies.
He was envied by his allies.
He was loved by his people.
He was more than a man.
He was King Louis IV and he was a god.
Izieu As Text
Maison d’izieu by Gianmarco Agostinone of FIU in Izieu on July 15th 2019
CC By 4.0
The Maison d’izieu was a unique place.
One where children, who were persecuted and hunted down for nothing more than the religion their family practiced, could seek shelter.
Parents from all over France, sent their kids there in hope that they can have a better life and make it through this genocide their people were undergoing.
And it did work, for a time.
The Maison d’izieu was like an unaffected bubble in the war zone that surrounded them.
The kids their were able to attend classes, partake in activities, and enjoy life without the constant overhead threat that in any second all of their joy could be taken away.
They could live their lives as the normal kids they are and should be thought of as.
But one day that all changed.
When Klaus Barbie ordered his Gestapo thugs to raid the refugee.
Where they kidnapped 44 of the children and their 7 supervisors to send them away to camps.
Where they sent them to murder them.
It is a sick and disturbing idea that someone can justify to themselves that butchering children is okay.
There is no cause that should condone that.
Because children can’t harm anyone.
They don’t fight wars or commit crimes or join resistance fighters.
They just want to play outside and go to school and be with their friends and family.
So what happened at Maison d’izieu was more than just a thing that happens in war.
It was a crime against humanity.
And should not be forgotten.
Lyon As Text
The Letter by Gianmarco Agostinone of FIU in Lyon on July 15th 2019
CC By 4.0
I write to you, hoping that one day you will be able to read this. Hoping that one day we can reunite and live the rest of our lives together. Everyday I stay in my this hell hole they call Montluc, I feel my despair grow inside me. All day I am stuck in a cell with 7 others, never seeing the light of day, waiting for something, anything to happen. My cellmates and I pass the time talking of our families, our pastimes, our memories, anything to keep the reality of where we are from overwhelming us. Everyday I replay my memories of us together, wishing we can make new ones soon. Everyday I think about how this could have happened to us. How people let these men take us from our homes because of the religion we practice and the ideologies we preach. How do these things justify our imprisonment? If I could go back in time and change my beliefs I would if that meant I would be at home with you and not here in this hell. But here we are. Today they called my name out from a list, and that we were to leave in the afternoon. No one knows where, or why they told us to leave our belongings behind, but we can only wish for the best. And wish that one day we will reunite, and forget these horrible days.
Stephanie Brito is a student at Florida International University Honors College. She is double majoring in Biological Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies. A Venezuelan girl who came to the United States, with the hopes of building a better life for herself. Looking forward to graduating in Fall 2019.
Below you will find her reflexions throughout France Study Abroad 2019 program.
PARIS AS TEXT – PARIS THE CITY OF LOVE💕
by Stephanie Brito of FIU Honors in Paris, France on July 7th, 2019
First day of what it felt like it took an eternity to come, finally I was in Paris, the city of love… without my love (how ironic). I didn’t let that determine what I would feel about the city, excitedly I ran to my first lecture. Oh wow! That was all I could think about as we walked to the streets of Paris. I was surprised how detailed and old the city was, little houses in between big houses, some harmonic with one another, some so different it looked like a badly solved puzzle. The Arc Of Triumph, a demonstration of faith and loyalists. Amazing how something that was once meant to honor troops and valiant soldiers ended up being a monument to honor Napoleon Bonaparte. Paris and it’s charms, many places to go, many places to admire, its streets full of history. Nevertheless, the day had finally come, I was going to visit the famous Eiffel Tower always heard of, always watched in movies. However, nothing compared to what I felt when I saw it. For some a piece of iron, for others a piece of art, some look at it taking it for granted, I looked at it with awe. Many things came to my mind at that moment, I wished to be with my boyfriend, I wished to be with my family, I wanted to show everyone what they’re missing, I wanted for everyone to see this magnificence. Impressive how Gustav Eiffel could have such a design, but even more impressive what a demonstration and embodiment of power a structure can have. Meant to be destroyed, it is now standing tall and beautiful, being the emblem of the city of love, showing the world who France is and what France stands for. I’ll never be able to describe everything I felt, but I must say it was a one in a lifetime experience and everyone should live it.
VERSAILLES AS TEXT – Versailles the living dream ✨
by Stephanie Brito of FIU Honors in Paris, France on July 8th, 2019
As every aspect of our lives and in history, there is always “two sides of the coin”. There’s the good and the bad, but in the case of Versailles: the royalists and the peasants. When I think of Versailles, I must choose to see it from the royalist point of view. From the moment you’re approaching the castle you’re already mesmerized. It’s royal structure has a magnificent facade that calls you to explore it. Once you enter, the palace makes you dance through its halls, constantly in awe and without even realizing it you follow though its veins. You feel like you can live history again. You can imagine how Loui XIV invited his special guest to the private room, away from the crowd. He will follow through his tour, showing the special guest all his “simple and humble trinkets.” Once he thinks the moment of sealing the deal has come, you could see them approaching the big room. He is sure he will get what he wants, with confidence he asks his servants to remove the curtains. There it is, he sees his guest blinking, maybe even slightly pinching himself, just making sure it’s not a dream. He knows he has it inside the bag, he sees it taking unsure steps inside, amazed, mesmerized, scared … He knows he has lost, whatever the king wants he will get, more now than ever. Seeing how the light enters the windows from the garden, meet the glass and bounces into the room hitting everything in its path. The chandeliers shine like they are on fire. That’s it, the deal is sealed. Once again Loui has won. Even today, his legacy remains, he wins once an ever again, he gets what he always wanted with every time a person steps into his magnificent palace. One can feel much more than what words are able to describe.
IZIEU AS TEXT – “Feelings”
by Stephanie Brito of FIU Honors at Maison D’ Izieu, France
Peace; A little save haven for children, Well aware of what’s happening on the outside, However trying to keep the innocence and purity alive. Beautiful; Children playing, Children laughing Children living. Terror; April 6th, 1944, Evil spoke, Klaus Barbie acted, Darkness came lurking Izieu, Devouring all the peace, Devouring all beauty. Emptiness; There were no more children, There were no more people, Desolated hallways, No fireplace to turn on. Sadness; No people acted against it, Fear would take over, Innocence was turned to threat, Gestapo officers did not care. Justice; There was none, Children were forgotten. Death; Children died at concentration camps, Innocence died, Purity died, Parents soul’s died. Remembrance; After years they are now remembered, They are now faces in a wall. Shame For those that killed For those that never acted For those that forgot them Honor; For all the children that died, For all the professors that died, For all the people that brought their memories back. Life, Because even in death, those children will live in our memories, and they will never be forgotten. Understand, That history should never repeat again.
LYON AS TEXT – “I survived thanks to my mother” By Stephanie Brito of FIU Honors at Montluc Prison, Lyon, France.
“Imagine that the last memories you have of your mother are her pushing you the other way,” professor Bailly said. Those words kept spinning inside my head, I could not imagine a world without my mom and my dad. If my parents are my world, how can there be a world without them? That I kept asking to myself. That is the story of many of the Holocaust survivors. Mr. Bloch’s story is one not only to remember but also to pass on. Visiting the Montluc prison before hearing Mr. Bloch’s story made me relive everything he was telling. Montluc prison was first opened in 1921 as a military prison. In 1942 free France was invaded by Germans. By then, this prison started being controlled by the Gestapo officers and used to keep their prisoners while waiting for trial or deportation. It is estimated that at least 10,000 people passed through Montluc, many were executed, many were deported. Mr. Bloch himself passed through here. He was held inside what was called the “Jews Barrack.” In which about 200 Jews were cramped were you could barely fit 80 people. This prison became so overcrowded with prisoners that they came to a point where they even used the showers section to imprison civilians. Prison cells meant to fit up to two people were used to fit between 8 to 10 prisoners. With the arrival of the Gestapo to Montluc, this prison became hell on earth. Mr. Bloch emphasized the anxiety it gave to him and to all other prisoners when every morning an officer would come into the barrack and call a list of names. The list would end with “with baggage,” (to interrogate/kill) or “without baggage” (to deport). A confusing thing of course, since none of them didn’t really own anything anymore. One morning, Mr. Bloch’s turn came, he was on the list; he had to wait until the last name was called to know if that was going to be his last day on earth. “Luckily” his name was on the “without baggage list,” meaning that he will now be deported. Days passed, he had finally arrived in Auschwitz. That concentration camp was known to be the worst of the worst, very few people went there and came out alive to tell the story of the atrocities committed there. The thought of being so young to die and the hopes of finding her mom or any family member again was what kept him going. Surprisingly, the little fifteen years old boy who was captured and separated from his mother was able to survive not only Montluc, but also Auschwitz, another camp near the Baltic Sea, the death marches, the brutal work, and the horrible living situations he went through. Weighing only 30kg and having sixteen and a half years old, 1944 little Bloch was finally free. Once at home in Lyon in 1945, he found his grandmother. After some time passed he realized he wasn’t ever going to see his mom again. Today, he attributes being alive to his mother, “My mother gave me life three times, the day the she brought me into this world, the day that she told him to wear long pants (because if he had been wearing shorts he would have been classified as a child, and therefore killed), and the day she brutally pushed him away from her into the line of men, because if she had gone with her he would have been killed too.” He was able to form a beautiful family and now he has many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Reflecting back on Mr. Bloch’s life story, we need to not only pass it on but also do whatever is in our power so those dark ages never repeat again.
Marie-France Desir is currently a junior at Florida International University’s Honors college. She is currently pursuing a bachelor in businessess administration with a major in Marketing and a minor in Social Media Marketing. She is currently participating in the France Study Abroad 2019 to expand her knowledge of the culture, the history, and the art.
The following are her reflections during the France Study Abroad trip 2019.
PARIS AS TEXT
The Global Tower by Marie-France Desir of FIU in Parc Du Champs De Mars on July 3rd, 2019
Once upon a time, The Eiffel Tower was the tallest building in the world. Built in 1887, it was never expected to last over 100 years. It defied all expectations that were created for it, it defied all words that categorized it as ugly and not artistic, and it defied the religious notion that was the foundation of France during that time. Born in the age of the Enlightenment period, it was a sore for eyes for those who classified beauty in a different manner. It also created a controversial conversation that helped shatter the constricting religious boundaries that were faced during that time. It started a conversation that brought people from around the world just to see exactly what France and what Paris was doing to make a change.
That is exactly what I felt at the moment, sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower at 23:00, watching it glow and sparkle. It was also the first night that let me see exactly what kind of people came just see this magnificent tower that once upon a time, was just a scrap of metal to some. Around me where the people of Paris, the people of France, and overall just people around the world. Some people came with family, friends, or their lovers, sitting on the lawn as if it was just a normal Parisian night. While others came from across the world just to see this magical event that only last five minutes at the start of the hour. However, it is clear that those five minutes will last forever to them. Sitting on the lawn waiting for this tower that has brought hundreds and thousands of people every day from almost every part of the world to light up, I took a moment to appreciate the world shattering and defying change and statement the Eiffel Tower consisted of, on that one night in Paris.
Versailles as Text
Inside a Woman’s Room by Marie-France Desir of FIU in Versailles on July 7th, 2019
The most memorizing parts of Versailles were the parts that were especially influenced by some woman, such as the Petit Train and the Queen’s chambers. One woman who had taste and style, yet it destroyed her reputation with her people who would eventually hold such a grudge that eventually would cost her life. Marie Antionette was a decadent women who loved money and style. Some would say her taste was a little too extravagant, especially on the budget she was spending. However, as a Queen, Marie-Antionette did not care about such little matters such as money, and felt that it was her duty to live her lavish life to be able to be the best Queen she could be. Her taste and style is seen in her bedroom at Versailles and created a little getaway for herself with the Petit Trianon.
As soon as you walk into the bedroom you can clearly see that there is no wall that is left bare. The Queen’s quarters was created to highlight the style and taste of the queen. It was designed to make sure that each wall was covered with a design that was as out-going as her. There are two large chandeliers that loom over the room while the walls and ceilings are covered in a floral decoration and glistening gold crowns on the edges. The creation of Versailles was built by a man, but there happened to be small little getaways that highlight the artistic taste of the Queen’s who reside in them, such as a woman’s room.
IZIEU AS TEXT
The Children by Marie-France Desir of FIU at Maison d’Izieu
Throughout history, wars tend to consist of lots of death and in other terms simply just genocide. In classrooms, there are always mentions of the murders of women and children, yet their stories are never really told. Rarely are the names, photos, or stories of what occurred to the children brought to light. This could be due to the fact of the sensitivity of the subject because no one wants to imagine their children being murdered or tortured. But in most countries, where genocide has occurred, there are children whose lives were taken away before they have ever lived.
Growing up, I always knew the story of the Holocaust and understood the number of lives that were taken away, but never did I really encounter the story of the children. The Maison d’Izieu housed a little over 100 children during the time of the anti-semantic laws. Families all over Europe would send their children in hope that they were safe and would survive. This is similar to how my family came to the United States. When violence and corruption were engulfing Haiti, my dad sent our family to the United States to be safe while he stayed back until he could come and rejoin his family. Luckily for us, our dad did not have to find out that his children were arrested and murdered like the children in Izieu. Forty-four young and innocent kids were arrested and eventually murdered on April 6th, 1944. Their names and most of their faces are memorialized in Izieu, yet their stories are not as known as they should be.
Looking at their drawings and sketches inside the room, it’s clear that these kids were expressive, creative, and had a good heart. They clearly understood what kind of situation they were living in, but everyone still tried to make the most of a horrible situation. Everyone should remember the faces and the names of the children who were taken away. Not only to simply be more educated of time in the war but for their families and their memory.
LYON AS TEXT
Home By Marie-France Desir of FIU at the city of Lyon
The peaceful city in between the two rivers, its buildings made of gold rock, and arguably the city that host the best views of sunsets, led me to fall in love in just the matter of four days. However, it wasn’t the ice cream, the food, or the beautiful scenery that made me fall in love. It was its rich history and the people that fought for their lives that impressed me.
Meeting people such as Claude Bloch and Laurent and hearing their story and their family’s stories made me appreciate what the city of Lyon had overcome and how they have built something beautiful over their tragedy.
Both Claude Bloch and Laurent’s family stayed in Lyon despite the painful hardships they faced there. Claude Bloch lost his mother and grandfather at such a young age, while also managing to survive concentration camps on his own. However, he did not let them take his humanity and he held on to the idea that he was not the animal the Nazi’s claimed him to be. Now, he stays in Lyon, his home, where he created a large and beautiful family, and where he has been able to tell his story to people from all across the world.
Laurent stayed in Lyon, the place in which his mother ended up in Montluc after being an agent of the French resistance. His mother risked her life being a part of the French resistance due to her being a Jew, and the very active role she played in the resistance. The role she played as a woman in the French resistance is an amazing story that is being recognized in history and her story should be told over and over again. It is empowering to see how people of different ages and genders had come together for one common goal.
As I think about their stories and the situations they were in, I wonder if I could have stayed in a country in which I felt so much tragedy and pain. If I could still, consider that place my home. This is what amazes me about Lyon, the people there are so proud and are so a part of Lyon that no matter what, it will always be there home, and they will always fight to save it.