The 16 students who attended the first St. Thomas liberal arts semester in Paris from February to May have become strong believers in immersion learning. The semester, created and implemented by Dr. Mary Swanson, Art History, and the International Education Center called for students to "illuminate your mind in the City of Lights."
St. Thomas students examined world-famous art close up at the Louvre and the Musee de Picasso. Instead of viewing slides of Impressionism, students took study trips to the countryside to look at the scenes painters worked on, such as Monet’s Gardens at Giverny. They relived the history of French kings and queens in the Palace of Versailles and practiced their French at sidewalk cafes once frequented by Hemingway, Sartre and de Beauvoir. They studied theology within walking distance of some of Europe’s most beautiful cathedrals.
St. Thomas students also could fulfill their general requirements while studying for a spring semester in Paris.
The Paris semester begins at the same time as spring semester in Minnesota. Students must have sophomore or junior status and a minimum GPA of 2.5. Students must have completed FREN 111 or FREN 112 or taken a placement exam showing them eligible to take advanced French language in Paris.
Students take courses in art history, theology and history, earning from 14 to 18 credits during the semester. In this way, all courses meet general graduation requirements.
Students live and study in a dormitory-like setting in the center of Paris, within walking distance of parks and museums. Students reside at the Foyer International d’Accueil de Paris (FIAP), a facility with classrooms and meeting spaces, restaurants and cafeterias and double rooms with bath. The FIAP is located in the 14th Arrondissement on the Left Bank, just around the corner from the Metro stop Glaciere, on Boulevard St. Jacques. Some meals are included at the FIAP; students may choose to take additional meals there, or eat in local restaurants.
A St. Thomas faculty member directs the program and teaches one course. Dr. Mary Swanson, art history, supervised the spring program. English-speaking faculty, hired in Paris, teach the remaining courses.
Dr. John Kronen, who has taught philosophy at St. Thomas for 10 years, will lead the 2002 program. Kronen is a specialist in late medieval and Renaissance philosophy. He has traveled throughout Europe and has visited Paris several times.
The Paris semester costs about the same as the St. Paul campus tuition, room and board. This includes tuition, orientation, required site visits and excursions, a double room, all breakfasts and five additional meals a week, local metro or bus passes, insurance and a 24-hour emergency service. Students’ airfare, passport/visa costs and personal expenses are not included. Financial aid (grants, loans and scholarships) normally available to eligible students may be applied to the program fee. Loans may be available to students who do not normally receive financial aid.
Ever since I returned, people have been asking me about my experience and my favorite things in Paris and about the trip. It’s really hard to pinpoint just one event, but when I look back on the semester it is the everyday things that I think of and miss.
I miss chatting with the girls in the hallway and having dinner in the cafeteria with the group. I miss acting silly and putting off homework. I miss staying up late with my roommate and talking about class, professors and our new friends.
I would never trade the Seine boat cruise or the ballet at Opera Garnier for anything, but what really made my semester in Paris special were those everyday things I experienced with the group. That made me realize how lucky I was to be sharing these moments with people I care about.
Jessie Kluntz ‘03Majors: Communication and Spanish
My trip to France this semester was amazing! It was an experience I shared with my fellow students who accompanied me on this journey and whom I now call friends.
We rode the Metro daily and each time we seemed to run into interesting people. I guess this would be the same in any large city, but this was the biggest city I had ever lived in. On the metro we met fellow Americans, Europeans, pickpockets, helpful French people, rude French people, crazy people, the homeless, the poor, street musicians, and more.
Together the group of us from St. Thomas lived in the FIAP, went to school, explored Paris and Europe, entertained each other, worked on homework, shared stories and jokes, laughed, cried, missed home, made new friends, and grew together.
We had the opportunity to do so many amazing things. For example, in our art history class, we traveled weekly to various museums. This is not an opportunity many students receive; we actually saw the art we were studying. In our French Life and Culture class, we had weekly speakers explaining different parts of the French culture. One of our first speakers was an American author who has been living in France the past 30 years. She writes about the differences and misunderstandings between the two cultures.
As I look back on these months, the people I spent my time with allowed my experience to be so wonderful. We spent so much time in the FIAP bar. Many of us would congregate there to discuss our daily experiences, problems, and funny stories. The differences between France and America were a common topic though it seems like we touched on every topic possible. This trip taught me a lot and I gained great friends that I look forward to seeing plenty of in the future.
Michelle L. Laughlin ’03Major: Social Work
For further information, call the International Education Center, (651) 962-6450.