2016
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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Passport to Academia

Look at that little academic go...courtesy of the Dubrovnik Media Days conference.

Who knew academia would require a passport so often? As my first term of teaching in London comes to an end, I finally have time to sit back and recap some of the highlights. The best part, besides having an actual teaching gig, has been my mini European adventures that were all part of the job. Really, it was work. Seriously.

Research is a large part of my job, and I should publish papers and present at conferences to continue staying in the good graces of my university. This was the somewhat happy revelation when I signed my contract at the London College of Communication. At first this seemed daunting, but once I realized that I wrote a PhD dissertation in French, writing a few thousand words in English didn’t seem so bad. I’m getting into it now and I have a list of topics that I want to address in papers once I catch up with all of the marking and planning that I have to through first. I’m hammering away at it as quickly as possible.

Research, however, has its perks. Over the past few months, I was able to make three trips across Europe to present my projects at various conferences. I had done this before in Paris, Strasbourg, and even Beijing, but to do three in one term was a mini shock. It made me feel, well, like a real academic. I grabbed my French passport and a carry-on bag with a nice shirt and slacks and learned very quickly all about London’s airports on my way to the continent.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Real High in Amsterdam Over 42 Kilometers

The reason for it all...the bling.

So close to a personal record! The Amsterdam Marathon, despite not scoring my best time to date, was one of the more entertaining marathons I’ve ever run.

I decided way back in February to run Amsterdam this year, with some 16,000 runners taking part. After running Lyon years ago and feeling totally alone out on the course, I only want to run marathons surrounded by hordes of people. It’s a lot easier to feel motivated when you have thousands of runners chasing you from behind. 

After some spotty training that began as I was moving my life to London, I still felt ready. Amsterdam brought out the sun at Olympic Stadium on Sunday as we gathered at the starting line. As the invited and elite runners took off, a rush of energy came over me (as did the urge to pee once last time) as I took off with the other runners.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Learning London: Columbia Road Flower Market

The blooms.
I love anything from the 19th century. Who doesn’t, really? London suffers no lack of history, but World War II took its toll on the city. It’s not always easy to know when you’re revisiting history or something from the late 1970s. But I’m managing well, so far.

The Columbia Road Flower Market, I learned, is one such remnant from the 19th century. So naturally I fell in love. While clearly a draw for tourists, I have no problem visiting the weekly market, playing tourist myself. Imagine the scents of fresh flowers and black coffee mingling with the intoxicating smells of frying bacon – what could be a better Sunday morning experience?

Monday, July 18, 2016

London: First Impressions

Welcome to London Saint Pancras Station...
As the French attendant at the Gare du Nord checked our bags, she said with a raised eyebrow, “You have too much baggage, it’s two pieces per person.”

“Oh really?” I said in my most incredulous French. I had a backpack, a computer bag, two crammed pieces of luggage, and a tote filled with baguette sandwiches and pastries. It would have cost me half a year’s earnings to get that sort of baggage on RyanAir, but this was a train. Weight wasn’t as much of an issue I thought. “Well we’re moving to London so we had no choice.”

“OK, well, I’ll let you go this time, but you’ve been warned for next time,” she said.

I smiled that sort of satisfied smile that you see in movies when the hero or heroine is about to walk off into the sunset, happily ever after. “There won’t be a next time,” I said, and we walked through customs, onto the Eurostar, and all was right with the world.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Cheerio Paris!

Surprise!



Every love affair has an end. Or at least takes a long break.

This time, it’s me and Paris. Though I never planned on creating a life in Paris, it appears that, well, I did. It’s been nearly eight years since I stepped off an Air India flight from New York – now discontinued – with two suitcases, a job, and absolutely no idea how to be an adult. 

Lessons were learned hard and fast in 2008, as I tried to get into my new apartment, only realizing that I was on the 5th floor and not the 4th, having counted the ground floor as “1” and not “0.” Rookie mistake. But many jobs and two degrees later, I find myself at the end of one spectacular journey and at the start of another.

I’ll be moving to land that is just as grey and expensive as Paris, but where, I hear, the scones and musical theater are much better.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Monkeying Around in Rocamadour

Come for the medieval village. Stay for the monkeys.

Ticking off bucket list items can be frustrating, because you always find new items to add. My France list included the pilgrimage town of Rocamadour, but it ended up including an encounter with some very unique French residents.

Rocamadour, known across France for its locally produced goat cheese, has been a pilgrimage site for over a thousand years. With churches, monastic buildings, and a medieval chateau overlooking it, the town clings to the rocks overlooking the valley below. Religious or not, travelers of all walks of life will have to pick up their jaws at one point.

Next door, however, we discovered the real show. While researching things to do around Rocamadour, I found what ended up being one of the kookiest experiences in France – and I’ve been seeking out weird stuff for eight years here.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Graduation Day at the Sorbonne

A diploma! Well, a fake one, but it looks good!

Defending a thesis in Paris is anticlimactic at best. When I became a full-fledged doctor in December, I celebrated with sparkling wine and cupcakes (courtesy of my pal Cat), but it lacked the pomp of my university graduation from NYU.

Granted, those ceremonies took place at Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium – I couldn’t expect the same thing from the Sorbonne. But not even a cap or gown? Come on now.

This year, however, for the first time, several schools within the Université Sorbonne Paris Cité system got together to celebrate Paris’s newest doctors. (I was channeling some major Love Actually: “And it’s the first time all the local schools have joined together, even Saint Basil’s.”) The result was a very, very good showing for the Sorbonne. I was extremely proud to be a part of it, and I consider it a worthy send-off after five years.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Louis Vuitton in Paris for Under 15 Euros

Seen from the Jardin d'Acclimation...


I had very little interest in whatever was inside of it. When I hear the words “contemporary art” in Paris, I immediately lose interest. The Fondation Louis Vuitton, despite opening in late 2014, never made it to my list of priorities. Last week though, that finally changed.

I like being efficient, so when I had to go pick up a race bib for the Bois de Boulogne 10k, it seemed like the right time to check out this fancy Frank Gehry building. It’s located in the park, not far from the pick-up spot, so I planned my route.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Paris's Little-Known Cabinet of Curiosities

Oh...hello...

Eight-legged lambs? A two-headed cow? A baby mermaid? It may sound like some sort of freak show, but it’s actually just another day at a Parisian museum. 

The veterinary museum, the Musée Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire – also known as the Fragonad museum, but no, not the perfume one – has been on my list of things to do for a while. This month I finally visited it, and it was worth the trek.

Located towards the end of the metro line 8, the museum is just outside of Paris’s city limits in Maisons-Alfort. It began in 1766 as a way to educate the students in the veterinary school, and today, after renovations back in 2008, it’s one of the quirkiest and most interesting museums that Paris has to offer.

Monday, March 7, 2016

French Student Visa Perks

Check out that vintage early 2000s photo...
Many people come to France on a student visa, thinking it’s some sort of foot in the door to a fairy tale life in France. Well, that’s only half of the truth. Yes, getting a student visa gets your foot in the door, but it’s not a foolproof solution for staying in France beyond your first year. There is a healthy dose of effort involved. But the effort pays off, if my experience is any proof.

I was lucky that I already had a short-term job in Paris, so my visa procedure was a bit different at the embassy in Washington DC., where I had to apply. Still, the first time I came as an undergraduate student in 2006, I went through the consulate in New York. The part I don't remember ever having to do was creating an account with the Campus France service, which provides you essential papers for getting your visa. It's straightforward, but I hear it can be a little temperamental at times.

If you’re already here in France, maybe as an English teaching assistant, you can change your status if accepted to a school into a master’s program for example. And then once school starts, you’ll actually need to go to class (at least a little) to keep up appearances. Buy a file box, as well, to give all of your fancy paperwork a new home. It’s a solid investment.

Despite the hurdles, getting a student visa is a great start to a life in France, and there are definite  perks beyond obviously letting you live legally in the country. Let’s take a look.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Experiencing Paris through TripAdvisor

When Heather Stimmler-Hall published her recent article on Medium, it really made me think. I had been researching travel media for a while, including TripAdvisor, but it was refreshing to get someone else’s opinion on it.

I try to give the website the benefit of the doubt. Really. I still am trying. But after a lot of discussions, it’s clear, painfully, that TripAdvisor is really just a mess. A mess that once held promise, but that today is really kind of worthless.

Casual tourists don’t see it, however, since they don’t know a destination as intimately as those who live there. But if you know Paris at all, then a quick scan of TripAdvisor’s rankings will give you a good laugh. Here are some of my recent favorites.

Monday, February 15, 2016

One Hour and Ten Minutes from Paris


Off to the train station!

I love a good train. In the past few months, I’ve taken advantage of the French rail system for some fantastic day trips. I’ve written about them for various publications (like Thrillist and EuroCheapo), but it had been a while since I’d taken a proper cheap train ride outside of Paris. Orleans in 2014 was actually the last real day trip, or at least memorable one.

Over the past few months, I made it a mission to get out of the city. These three destinations were all perfect for a day of wandering and exploring, but I wouldn’t go too crazy trying to spend too much time. 

Plan on about one hour and ten minutes to get to each, but be sure to book a direct train. And pack an umbrella, because if you have my luck, you'll visit all of these places in the rain.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Paris Travel Writing Workshop Launches

Paris: Creating world-class writers for centuries...

My dad always told me that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach. I assumed this to be a subtle jab at some high school teacher he didn’t like that much. When I decided to go into academia, with visions of being a university professor, I thought that this was my chance to surprise dad and prove him wrong.

I teach journalism at the Sorbonne to French students, but I still keep one foot in the profession, and I always have. I still write and publish for outlets, even if it’s not always hard-hitting political analysis. I’m in the loop. I’d like to think I practice what I preach, and, while I may overuse idioms at times, these professional experiences have been a touchstone of my academic career.

While 2016 holds a big old question mark for my future teaching prospects, I decided to take it into my own hands. I’ll be finished my teaching at the Sorbonne in May, but the educational adventures aren’t about to end. Along with perpetual running buddy and colleague Heather Stimmler-Hall, we’ll be offering our new "Travel Writing Workshop" to educate those who always tell us, “Your life sounds so amazing.”