Tag Archives: pre-France

M & M

I would like to dedicate this surreal evening, waiting for our flight to Paris at gate E06, to the two people who will be in my thoughts throughout this journey: Malinda and Marshall.

Malinda Blustain was the Director of the Peabody Museum of Archeology at Andover when this program was born.  She had the idea of asking the French Department to help her translate a long letter she had received from the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale in Saint-Germain-en-Laye near Paris.  I will never forget this casual lunch we shared at the dining hall in late 2009, thinking about how to deal with this very long letter.  She suggested involving students.  I replied enthusiastically that I happened to be teaching advanced courses that could accommodate such a project easily.  A year and a half later, she and I were flying to Paris to return two precious Piette pebbles to the French museum and imagine how to bring students there.  A year after that, the idea of the Piette Program was born.

Marshall Cloyd has been an extraordinary steward of the Peabody Museum for a long time.  He picked up immediately on the idea of a collaboration between the Peabody and the MAN in France.  He enthusiastically supported and advocated a student trip to France.  It was thanks to his generous funding that Malinda and I were able to go to Paris in 2011.  It was thanks to his enthusiasm and support that I continued working on this project.  So, in many ways, it is thanks to him that we are at gate E06 tonight.

Thank you, Malinda.  Thank you, Marshall.




Reporting live from Terminal E

Before I had even stepped onto the PA campus for new student orientation and classes this fall, I had already encountered Piette. During the summer before this year, I would scour the Andover website in anticipation of my new school. In my Internet surfing, I glimpsed the “off-campus programs” page. I have a rather large case of wanderlust and so the link piqued my interest. I clicked the page, wanting to see if Andover would satiate my love of travel. A quick scroll down the page not only assured me that Andover could do so but also that there was an upcoming trip to France. At the time, the trip was a faint possibility but I am now sitting in the International Terminal of Logan Airport awaiting our (delayed) flight to Paris.

I was initially attracted to the Piette program for many reasons: I’ve been taking French for the past five years and wanted to practice my skills; I took the full-year art history course at Andover and the interdisciplinary aspect of Piette included this subject; I took AP European history at my old school and the trip would provide real-world exposure to what I studied in the classroom. My Piette project is going to incorporate my interest in art as I will be reimagining an exhibit at either the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay with a gendered perspective. I also hope that I can explore how museums as an institution are affected by gender through interviews with staff at some of the other museums we are visiting. Maybe the interviews can test my French skills!!

I’m most excited to visit the art museums in Paris and the 16th, 14th, and 12th centuries villages and castles. And while the last portion of our trip, where we spend four days looking for fossils at a real archaeological site, does not completely excite me (I’m not a big dirt person), I am looking forward to the new experience.

A new experience

Believe it or not, I’m not nervous at all yet.  I’ve never been out of the country before, today is the big day and for some reason, I’m not nervous about anything right now.  I’m more excited than anything else actually.  I’m excited to finally be going to France.  I’m excited to learn more about a culture that I honestly don’t know that much about.  I can’t wait to get involved with archeology, which is another experience that I have never had before.  The idea of visiting all of the marvelous museums in France, two fourteenth century towns, and a twelfth century castle absolutely blows my mind.

I’m even more eager to work on my history project throughout the course of the trip.  My project will consist of developing a journal from the perspective of a time traveler from the future as he visits each time period that we visit.  This is not the typical format of a history project, so the fact that I am able to work on a more creative based project makes this a different challenge for me than what I usually encounter at PA.  The challenge of this project is just one of many experiences that I am more than ready to gain.


I first heard about the Piette program in the closing weeks of fall term. It was a particularly hot Friday, seventh period. I sat in Dr. Blunt’s history 200 class as the horribly configured Sam Phil heating network was continuously blasting hot air into the already sticky room, making all of us forget about the advancing winter… But as soon as he pulled out the poster I couldn’t believe what an amazing opportunity this was… I knew, no matter what the outcome, I had to try and apply. Remarkable chances such as this do not present themselves very often, and looking around the room between one kid falling asleep and another not-so-stealthily packing up his bag, I saw Ashley and Michaela light up as much as I did. The more information I got about the trip, the more excited I became, and with such a great group of both students and teachers, this is going to be an unforgettable experience.

I am going to be documenting the adventures we have through a series of photos and poems, two of my favorite things, and cannot wait to get started. With such a busy year, I have not gotten to write as much as I would like to, so I am extremely excited to get back at it again. I have traveled to a few different cities in Europe and found each one more inspiring than the last, with amazing people, art and food. I’m ready to start exploring a new place!!

La destinée des nations dépend de la façon dont elles se nourrissent

When I applied for the Piette Program almost six months ago, the prospect of traveling to France seemed distant. Sitting in my creaky school-issued desk chair in Paul Revere dormitory, I scrolled through the document describing the program, lingering on the photographs of Normandy and gawking at the descriptions of the activities proposed in the itinerary. “I need to go on this trip,” I thought to myself. Or actually I must have been murmuring to myself, because just a minute later, my roommate yelled through the door, “Everything okay in there?!”

While I have spent much time this past term preparing for the program and attending seminars planning for the trip, actually disembarking from a plane in France is still inconceivable to me. Yet here I am, the day of departure, my bag (partially) packed in my room, passport carefully enclosed in a Ziploc bag (just in case, my mom said), and my French language book stowed in my carry-on.

I have been to Paris once before, in the summer before I entered the fourth grade. At that point, I had not yet begun to learn French, and so I anticipate that the France I will experience beginning tomorrow will be very different for me than that of nine years ago. Having just completed French 520 at PA, I hope to be able to communicate very well with the people we encounter on our journey and to better understand the French culture and attitude.

These next three weeks, I will be taking a break from my gluten-free lifestyle to enjoy the fabled French baguettes and to fully execute my research project. I will be studying how food and the culture surrounding meals plays into the lives of the French people. This will entail making careful observations at restaurants and markets as to the French attitude towards food and the role food plays in “la vie quotidienne” of the French people.As Brillat-Savarin said in Physiologie du goût: “La destinée des nations dépend de la façon dont elles se nourrissent.” Obviously, I have been prepping for this project for many years: here is a sampling of my Parisienne food research (2005):

IMG_1331 IMG_1299

France is also the country from which my name originates; consequently, I feel a special connection to the culture already. My brother, Malachi, was not particularly amused by my antics:

Café Camille
Café Camille

While I have never been outside of Paris, I am very excited to learn about the architecture we will be studying across the country. I have always been in awe of the French architectural feats:


Bateaux Mouches
Bateaux Mouches
La Tour Eiffel
La Tour Eiffel

Merci infiniment. A bientôt.


10h counting down

I usually never have any dreams. Last night, however, I had two. In one I was frantically packing right before we had to leave, and in the other, someone didn’t make it past the TSA checkpoint. As soon as I woke up I checked that I had packed everything and made sure I didn’t have any restricted items in my carry-on. Despite my subconscious perhaps revealing the two parts of  traveling that I am most worried about, I don’t feel too nervous about the plane ride to France. What I do feel nervous about, is speaking French. I just completed second-level French, but my speaking skills are sadly lacking. I am excited to be able to practice French, and hope that the trip will increase my speaking skills. I’m also interested in trying out French cuisine. Now that I think of it, I have never been to an authentic French restaurant here in the US. Even if I don’t like it, I am excited to have the experience of trying it.

Last summer I stayed in Colorado for five weeks with twenty four classmates as part of the ACE program run by Phillips. The trip to Colorado was the furthest and longest time I have ever traveled away from my family and my home. I know this is nothing compared to many of the boarders who journey to Phillips, but I include this to put into perspective what the prospect of flying across the Atlantic, to a country that speaks a different language and has a different culture, is like to me. I will be three-fourths further away than on the Colorado trip and in a completely different environment than I am used to. I’m not too nervous about being in France, seeing that I will be with friends and great teachers, but I am anticipating it. I want these next few hours to just get a move on so that we can leave.

For my project, I will compare the urban palaces of France with their rural counterparts, the châteaux. I will look at how the two types of buildings functioned differently, and I hope to take lots of great photos of them during the trip.

T-minus one (ish)

Writing about one of my reasons for applying and ensuing excitement also requires an admission of guilt: I am a news junkie. I don’t leave my dorm or house (whichever is season-appropriate) until I’ve checked each news app on my phone, followed by the latest edition of the Phillipian. This year marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and I have watched with piqued interest as various dignitaries have flooded the cemeteries of Normandy to honor the much-respected troops (although I’m reminded that the word “troop” is a placeholder and somewhat of a euphemism for “human being; person”) who lost their lives in France. This leads me to my second admission: I am also an enthusiastic fan of any Matt Damon or Tom Hanks movie, so I will openly state that the only thing that drove me to keep watching the heart-wrenching D-Day scene from Saving Private Ryan was the idea of Matt Damon on the other side. Even the opening scene from the ever-dramatic Steven Spielberg was somewhat horrifying—I’ve never seen so many graves before. I’m looking forward to seeing Normandy, but the excitement is also mixed with trepidation.

I’ve been to Paris twice before, and we just went to Courchevel over spring break. Still, these are relatively isolated areas of France and I’ve never traveled outside the United States without my family. I’m a regular traveler, but I’m usually surrounded by at least my mother and my sister. I was nervous about speaking French before spring break, but I managed to buy a pair of shoes and talk to a saleslady while I was in Courchevel. It may not seem like much, but since a major reason why I applied for the Piette Program was to work on my French, it made me a lot more confident that I could succeed.


Archaeology seemed like a new and exciting thing to try, and not something that I would stumble upon outside Andover. However, while archaeology was a reason for me applying to the Piette Program, it’s also an area of concern. The rocks that Professor Lacombe showed us were tiny, and I’m desperately hoping that I’m not the one that trips and displaces the artifacts that look, for all their importance, like small pebbles.

Right now, my idea for my project is a series of fictionalized journal entries about the trip based around useful French phrases or phrases that fit with the theme of the entry. While this is a creative writing project, I’m also waiting to see what happens on the trip to inspire the individual journal entries—so watch out!

Trip to France: The beginning

Considering we are leaving tomorrow evening, I am beginning to feel a bit nervous. I usually am nervous before I travel, so this is nothing new. However I have a new stress this time around. I am not only packing for Piette, but also for a cruise that will follow immediately. I am now, at 11:33pm, frantically trying to make sure I have everything in my suitcase and carry-on. I can only hope that once we get to the airport and take off I will have everything.  Despite the fact that I am in a bit of a panic mode, I am super excited for the plane we will taking to France. These planes are massive!!

While we are in France we, the students, are going to be working on individual projects to help enrich our experience. I am going to be exploring the world of food. I have already gotten the broad food cultures in each region we are going to. For instance in Normandy there is high quality seafood, apples and apple products (calvados, cider) and in the Loire Valley there is quality fruits, cherries, melon strawberries. They are also known for their fish and wild game. Food is my jam, so I am super excited.

Until next time…



So, we’re leaving for France. Tomorrow.

I can’t believe that I’m not going to be in the country by tomorrow at 9 pm. I can’t believe that I’m not going to be in Virginia by 9:15 am tomorrow. It hasn’t hit me yet that I’m going to be in a country that isn’t the United States. The most astounding fact is that I’m going to be in a country where the most common language is not my own. And although I’ve been taking French for four years now, I can’t imagine that I’m ready to travel to a country where I have to test my “skills.” And even though, I’ve gotten honors in French, I’m not ready.

Another thing is that I haven’t packed yet. All of my stuff is still sitting on the buffet in my dining room. I’m not ready to pack – I spent all of last week packing up my entire dorm room and I’m not ready to leave home again. Of course I want to go to France, but I also want to sit in my room, listening to music and watching movies. And I’m not ready to leave my family again after only 5 days. I hadn’t seen them for a substantial amount of time for 3 months and now, I’m about to hop on a plane and travel 4000 miles (I checked) to a country that they know nothing about, except what they hear in the news and watch in movies.

Speaking of movies, yesterday while my mom was cooking dinner, my dad decided that it was appropriate for us to watch Taken, which, if you don’t know, is about a teenager and her friend who get kidnapped in France and sold into prostitution. And, although this movie is the source of the line, “I will find you. And I will kill you” (which is hilariously used in memes all the time) I learned many important lessons. First, don’t talk to strange men in France. Second, don’t give people your address. Third, don’t get on Liam Neeson’s bad side (he’ll probably shoot you or your spouse). And finally,  listen to your parents (in particular, your dad).

So in conclusion, I have realized that I’m not ready to leave home or go to France (both mentally and physically). I have also realized that Liam Neeson has a weird accent and I’m smarter than those to girls in that movie.

Oh, I almost forgot. I wanted to tell you all about my project. I have decided on a historical project that compares and contrasts the differences in art or architecture (not quite sure yet) between the Renaissance and Medieval periods in France. I think that I’m going to present my project with photos and information about the art and architecture we see from those periods while we’re in France.