Dispatches from Dakar #2

Writing in Wolof                                                       

Boubacar Boris Diop

Conference on Writing Wolof at UCAD

Mamadou Ba, Professor of African Literature at Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD) teaches the APA Contemporary Francophone Literature course, focusing on written literature. On Thursday, June 7th, he invited his class to a conference organized at UCAD for the release of Boubacar Boris Diop’s latest book, Bàmmeelu Kooc Barma.

A French language writer, since 2003 Boris Diop has also been writing in Wolof, claiming the right and the duty to write in the first language of Senegal, which was the subject of this conference. We would love to read this last book by Boris Diop, but we will have to wait for his translation into French or English or to make greater progress in Wolof!


Concert at Almadies: Ma & Cie.

(Vocals, Piano, Bass guitar, Acoustic guitar, Electric guitar, Calabash)

For our first show of the program, we chose to attend a coffee-concert. Few people in attendance during this period of Ramadan, but a very festive atmosphere! Dr. Daniel Bitty, ISM International Relations Director and teacher of the Economics and Development course and just off the plane, Carina Yervasi, teacher of the African Cinema portion of the Contemporary African Arts course, were among us.



Ma & Cie with special guest, Kemit the Slammer


Daniel Bity, Carina Yervasi,  Julia and Cecile.


On the menu: Afro-jazz and pop ambiance with a hint of traditional. The singer and her five musicians have enchanted us! We were even able to enjoy the guest star of the evening: Kemit, the Slammer and Gabonese author, who we will see again on stage at the French Institute to celebrate the Festival of Music on June 21st!


Homage to Sembène Ousmane:

in the presence of friends and filmmaking specialists, professors Samba Gadjigo and MagueYe Kassé.

Sembene Ousmane homage

Homage to Sembene Ousmane: Viewing of Xala

A screening and debate at the West African Research Center (WARC) on Senegalese filmmaker Sembène Ousmane’s 1975 film, Xala, launched the second two weeks of APA’s inaugural Dakar Summer Program and the African Cinema portion of the Contemporary African Arts course. Known for its sarcastic wit and commentary of corruption in the decade after independence, Xala reflects on the problems of the new postcolonial elite in Senegal and the economy by depicting lead character El Hadj’s impotence at the onset of his third marriage. In Xala, we find many of Ousmane’s thematic preoccupations – gender relations, generation gap, and religion. Xala is essential viewing for understanding how manipulations of both religion and financial policies hindered national development on many fronts.


Meeting with Carina Yervasi

Carina is a professor at Swarthmore College where she teaches French and Francophone studies. A major specialist of African cinema, she accepted APA’s invitation to come and share her research and teach this segment of the Contemporary African Arts course to our 2018 cohort.


APA: “Carina, what is the reason behind watching and studying African cinema?”

 Carina: “It’s important to watch and study African cinemas for many reasons: It offers an historical overview on the development of a national cinema in each country. It permits a better understanding of cultural and social aspects represented on the big screen. It shows how hard it is to make a mark in a globalized film industry, especially with the internet. It creates an opening to see other visions of the world as counterweight to the influence of American cinema.”

 APA: “How are African films doing today?”

Carina: I think that depends on who is being asked the question. I can respond to the case of films from the so-called Francophone countries… It will remain difficult to get local financing for full-length feature films.  It’s clear. Due to the lack of national film industries in many countries, filmmakers remain independent and turn to international co-productions often with private cable TV stations; with organizations (like the Organisation international de la Francophonie – OIF) who want to promote the French language or other structures, with North-South financing, which allow filmmakers to make films, though perhaps shorter or only documentaries or reports for webTV – new media outlets on the internet. A big supporter of Sub-Saharan cinema comes from Morocco, a country which finances projects and some of the biggest African film festivals in the world. I think it’s important to note that digital technologies have brought costs down, but filmmaking is still a very expensive enterprise.”

APA: “What are 3 movies you can recommend for discovering the Senegalese culture?”

Carina : “I recommend three (maybe four) Senegalese films:

  1. The docu-drama by Khady Sylla, Colobane Express from 1999, but which still offers a reliable view on the importance of urban « public transportation » in Dakar.
  2. Sembène Ousmane’s Faat Kine (2001) that depicts the powerful role that women have in the growing economy of Senegal.
  3. Two films on the stakes of displacement from Senegal to new frontiers : Yoole (2010), an experimental documentary by Moussa Sene Absa (2010) and La Pirogue, Moussa Touré’s 2014 full-length feature film. “


Feast of the Korité

Our program started in the middle of Ramadan. Dakar, being 90% Muslim, lives for 29 days at the rhythm of the fasting. Working hours have been modified to allow everyone to get home early in order to prepare the Ndogou (breaking of the fast: Coffee or tea, a date and then bread, cheese, sliced beef, then an hour or two later: dinner.) The Ndogou is traditionally shared on the ground on a mat with family and friends, this is the real moment of sharing. During these days of Ramadan, the city lives in slow motion.


Feast of the Korite

Korité: Festive meal with our director, Sophie’s, family, Kinka And Pape Ndoye, who have so kindly received us!


On Thursday, June 14th the city was buzzing: we ran every which way to finish the preparations for the feast. Most important was the trip to the tailor to purchase a new party outfit as everyone was wondering if the sages were going to announce their observation of the moon, confirming the end of Ramadan and validating the date of Korité. At 10:30 pm on Thursday, the news arrives, Ramadan ends on Friday, June 15 and all of Senegal is celebrating Korité with their family! On this special day, each of us has celebrated Korité with family or with friends. It’s impossible to be alone on this day of feast!


Next week, highlights from Sine Saloum, Fashion week in Dakar, World Music day and more!

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Dispatches from Dakar

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News of our inaugural launch of APA Dakar 2018

Welcome to the APA office hosted at the Superior Institute of Management (ISM). We have been welcomed by ISM with generosity and support. Sophie Corbeau directs this first edition of the program with the support of Cecilia and Edward, two graduate students in Project Management at ISM, overseen by Dr. Daniel Bitty, ISM International Relations Director. Aside from her support role, Cecilia accompanies the students on all the cultural events and manages the French conversation meetings while Edouard produces the Dispatches from Dakar and carries out the Wolof conversation workshops.


Let us back up for a moment to May 23rd, the arrival date of our three students, Brooke, Julia, and Tanisha who were welcomed by APA Founder Claire Suraqui. For three days, the students stayed at an inviting hotel, Casa Mara, located in the Sicap-Amitié neighborhood, two steps from the ACI Baobab Center. Our partners at the center covered questions on health and security, toured the neighborhood, and covered sessions on host families and Senegalese values over the three-day period.

On May 28th, Julia, Brooke, and Tanisha met ISM students Yvanna, Safiatou, and Julien. All six will take two courses from the following options:

  • Contemporary Francophone Literature- Oral and Written
  • Contemporary African Art (Part 1 is dedicated to visual arts in conjunction with the 2018 Dak’Art Biennial)
  • Economics and Development
Eco class ISM

Dr. Daniel Bitty, ISM International Relations Director teaches the Economics and Development course.


dak art palais de justice

The former courthouse hosts the main exposition for the 2018 Dak’Art Biennial. This space serves as the classroom for the Contemporary African Arts course taught by Malick Ndiaye, art historian and curator for the Theodore Monod Museum.

Homage to the Senegalese sculptor Ndary Lo—2018 Dak’Art Biennial

Thursday, May 31st, our students had their first lesson in African dance and djembé (drums) with Dame Kassé, dancer and choreographer at the Dakar Cultural Center—a true incubator for artists!

Saturday June 2nd: Discovering Gorée Island

Twenty minutes from Dakar by boat, Gorée is a captivating island that one can discover by foot, walking through the narrow streets lined with houses sporting bougainvillea flowers. It is also a place preserved to reflect on the slave trade.

Top to bottom: Gorée Island, Walk through the streets of Gorée, APA students visit the slave trade museum and memorial.


Next week, we will put the spotlight on one of our professors, meet one of our host families, and discover the Dakar nightlife!

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Clara’s Guide to Paris

Today while I was procrastinating starting one of my five (five!!!!!!!) papers due next week, I decided to instead start writing a guide to the city of Paris. And now I share this list with you, cos I love you.

Things to see:  


  1. Museums
    1. Musée de l’Orangerie
      1. Giant Monet water lily paintings covering the walls of oval-shaped rooms
      2. Monet made these works as a gift to France and designed the rooms himself
      3. This is an incredibly beautiful reflective space, there is nowhere else like it
    2. Centre Pompidou
      1. One of the most important museums of modern art in Europe
      2. The modern collection is better than the contemporary collection and the rooms are organized into artistic themes rather than time periods or artists, which makes for a very cohesive viewing
    3. Musée Nissim de Camondo
      1. An 18th-century house decorated painstakingly with 17th-century beaux-arts furniture
      2. It’s never crowded and the entire house is perfectly staged so you feel like you’re walking through the house exactly as it was
      3. This is amazing and you could only see it in Paris
    4. Musée d’Orsay
      1. An old gare converted into a beautiful, airy impressionist museum
      2. Not overwhelmingly large, you can see the whole museum in an afternoon
      3. Houses all the Monet/Manet/Degas masterpieces that you can imagine
      4. Sculptures down the center of the museum when you walk in so that sculpture doesn’t get forgotten
    5. The Louvre
      1. This museum is huge and overwhelming so you must go in with a plan and a specific wing you want to see
      2. The hall of Greek and Roman sculpture is amazing — it has super high ceilings and trees planted inside
      3. Look for a painting called “Gabrielle Estrées et une de ses soeurs,” it’s the most iconic painting in Paris
    6. Palais de Tokyo
      1. Contemporary art museum with really weird but really cool temporary exhibits
      2. It’s called Palais de Tokyo after the name of the street it used to be on, not for any sort of Japanese influence


  1. Monuments
    1. Arc de Triomphe
      1. It’s absolutely worth climbing up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe on a clear day
      2. You can see the entire city
      3. You will understand the plan of the city, with the six main boulevards branching off of the Etoile
    2. Eiffel Tower
      1. At night, the tower sparkles for 5 minutes on the hour until 1am
      2. The best view is from Trocadéro, where you can treat yourself to a delicious crèpe from one of the stands
    3. Sainte-Chapelle
      1. An insanely beautiful, completely stained glass chapel that makes you feel like you’re inside of a jewel box
    4. Hôtel de Ville
      1. I think this might be the prettiest building in Paris
      2. Right across the river from Notre Dame
    5. Rue Cremeuse
      1. A tiny street where all of the houses are painted bright pastel colors
      2. A nice change of pace from the beige and slate buildings you see everywhere
    6. Sacre Coeur
      1. Go in the morning when there aren’t a lot of tourists around and watch the sun rise
      2. Beware of any vendor who approaches you, especially if they’re holding bracelets or a Chinese finger trap


Places to study:

  1. Libraries
    1. Bibliothèque Forney
      1. Art history library that looks like a castle
      2. Pro: never crowded, outlets, pretty
      3. Con: limited hours, slow wifi
    2. Gaité Lyrique
      1. Free study space in Le Marais
      2. Pro: never crowded, good hours, free
      3. Con: no air circulation
    3. Bibliothèque Diderot
      1. Diderot’s university library
      2. Pro: free, right on campus, fast wifi, view of the Seine while you study
      3. Con: limited to Diderot students, far away from everything
  2. Cafés
    1. Anticafé Beaubourg
      1. Anticafé near the Pompidou
      2. Pro: awesome snacks and coffee, fast wifi, productive ambiance
      3. Con: costs 5€/hr




  1. Parc de Sceaux
    1. Beautiful chateau and grounds 40 minutes outside Paris on the RER
    2. If you go in the spring, there is a grove of thousands of pink and white cherry blossoms — les cerisiers
  2. Parc Montsouris
    1. A great park for hanging out or running
    2. Within walking distance of APA (20 minutes)
  3. Jardin de Luxembourg
    1. Another excellent picnic location
    2. Beautiful flowers and a giant grassy lawn
  4. Parc de la Turlure
    1. Tiny park in Montmartre
    2. Never crowded and full of tourists like the steps of Sacre Coeur usually are
  5. Tuileries
    1. The best example of a typical French garden in Paris
    2. The Louvre is on one end and the Orangerie is on the other
  6. Bois de Boulogne
    1. Come in the springtime with a picnic and rent a little boat to take out on the lake for 8€


Places to shop:

  1. Shakespeare and Co.
    1. The largest English-language bookstore outside of an English speaking country
    2. All of the great writers passed through here in the 1920s — Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Scott Fitzgerald
    3. The books are stacked to the ceiling in a labyrinth of tiny rooms, and there’s a cat that lives on the second floor
  2. BHV Marais
    1. Basically French Nordstrom — a bougie department store, but they’re guaranteed to have anything you could possibly want
    2. Go during the soldes in late January/early February and get amazing deals on shoes, wallets, and bags
    3. I’ve bought watercolor supplies, a wallet, books, sneakers, and stationary here




  1. The boulangerie on Rue d’Alésia
    1. Not the one just around the corner from APA, but down the street in the opposite direction of the metro
    2. Amazing croissants and a delicious barbecue chicken sandwich
  2. Chez Justine
    1. Delicious thin-crust pizza in the 19th along Oberkampf
    2. Affordable pizza and drinks
  3. Rotisserie chicken from a boucherie
    1. The rotisserie chicken you can buy off the spit on the street tastes as good as it smells
    2. Make sure to ask for sauce to ensure that your chicken is moist
    3. Sometimes you can buy potatoes from the bottom spit that have been roasting in chicken fat all day




  1. L’Attirail
    1. Cheap bar in Le Marais
    2. Cocktails are 5,50€
    3. They bring you free delicious potatoes
  2. Rue Mouffetard
    1. Fun street to go bar hopping, lots of small dance-y bars
    2. Cute cobblestone street with a fountain at the end that you can sit at with a bottle of wine
    3. Entire street is lined with crepe stands so if you get hungry you’re all set!
  3. Faust
    1. Outdoor cocktail bar along the Seine, right under Pont Alexandre III
    2. Good music and turns into a club inside at midnight
  4. Wall Street Bar
    1. The drinks change prices on the board like stocks, so it’s fun to wait for things to get cheaper and place your order
  5. Mecano Bar
    1. Fun bar on Oberkampf that turns into a dance floor at midnight
  6. Le Perchoir Marais
    1. Bougie rooftop bar on top of the BHV
    2. Amazing views and nice ambiance
    3. Sheep shaped chairs and fun music at night
  7. Drinking wine along the Seine
    1. Cheaper than a bar
    2. If it’s nice out, a wonderful way to spend a night


Off to finish the remaining items on my Paris Bucket List!

Clara (or as the French still say when I try to introduce myself, “Ohhh, where are you from?”)



When I think of Paris, one of the first images that comes to mind is a picnic along the Seine. As the city turns to Springtime, that dream finally came true. Last Friday, some friends and I took a baguette, some chèvre, and a tomato to the banks of the Seine. We sat on a blanket along the river with a view of Notre Dame and listened to classic French music. Our baguette was still warm when we bought it, and the crust made the perfect baguette crackling sound that Ratatouille taught us to listen for.

As we were leaving the grocery store, we passed the fresh orange juice machine. Not only are these machines ridiculously fun to watch, they also produce some of the best orange juice I’ve ever tasted. And since no orange juice is complete without champagne, we also bought the second-cheapest bottle of sparkling white wine and made fresh mimosas.


Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, I’m keeping it short. Click the link to this music as you look at these pictures of us enjoying a just-baked baguette and fresh-squeezed mimosas.



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As we were walking home, we came across a man playing the piano in the middle of a bridge. I don’t know what song he was playing, but here‘s how it made me feel.


Catch me this week frantically trying to complete all the work I didn’t do because I was too busy picnicking! And since I know you want more, here‘s a link to the greatest beginning of Spring song ever written.


Curtain Call

Every week, APA takes us to see a “spectacle.” The spectacles are one of my favorite things about being in Paris with APA — if it weren’t all organized for me, I doubt I would take the time (or money) to go to a show every week. Paris has one of the greatest arts and culture scenes in the world and I love being forced (inspired!) to experience that. They spectacles can be anything from a cabaret to the philharmonic. We’ve seen indecipherable classic plays in a beaux-arts theatre, a Grammy-winning singer who performed with Mick Jagger, and a lights show based around juggling. But one thing they all have in common? The clapping. I’m here to give you my insider scoop on the best thing about french culture.

After an excellent show in the US, the audience usually cheers and gives a standing ovation. I never gave it much thought, but expected this to be the case everywhere. But in France, they do something so much better. After our first spectacle, I was surprised that no one in the audience was standing up to applaud while the performers took their bows. A few people yelled “Bravo!” but it was limited. But as the performers left the stage, I noticed something strange. All of the audience members began to clap in unison.


And the performers returned and bowed again, even more enthusiastically! I would attach a video of the applause, but I’ve already been yelled at once by an usher for taking photos at a spectacle. I’m not sure who starts the synchronized slow clap, or how people know when to join in and when to stop, but it’s so strange to me and so wonderful. At the philharmonic, the audience continued to clap in unison for so long that the pianist played an encore. After his encore, the synchronized clapping went on for so long that he played a second. After this second encore, as if by an invisible cue, the audience members knew to clap normally while he took his final bows. At a ballet we saw, the audience members liked it so much that they started stamping their feet, making a rumbling in addition to the synchronized claps. If any choreographers are interested, my proposal for the next big spectacle is modern dance set to the beat of recorded French applause.

Yours in applause,


Czech-ing out the rest of Europe

One of my favourite things about my semester in Paris so far has been the time I’ve spent away from the city. One of my biggest reasons for choosing to study abroad in Europe was for the opportunity to travel. Since European countries tend to be fairly small (and because of the Eurozone), travel through Europe is incredibly easy and relatively cheap. In the past three weeks, I’ve been in five countries. Last Friday, my friends back in New Haven were excited because they were going to the movies. I was going to Sweden.

Since study abroad is just an excuse to humble brag about your fabulous cosmopolitan life, I’m going to brag about what I’ve been doing lately.

Trip 1: Prague, Czech Republic

Some APA friends and I started flipping through our Google Calendars and came to a horrifying realisation: we’d been in Paris for over a month and hadn’t voyaged anywhere. Panicked about the passage of time, we immediately scoured the internet for the cheapest plane tickets that weekend. For just over 150 euros, we could get to Prague. Three days later, we touched down in the Czech Republic.


The view of Prague Castle over the river looks like the title sequence of a Disney movie.

For practical purposes, I would not recommend buying plane tickets three days ahead of time. They’re almost always cheaper if you buy them in advance, and the lack of foresight makes it much harder to plan your trips. But for the purposes of this weekend, we had a great time.

IMG_0643.jpg      IMG_0652.jpg

Trdelniks from Good Food Bakery. They were ~trdel-icious.~

Trip 2: Stockholm, Sweden

The next weekend, I went to Stockholm with one of my roommates from Yale who’s studying abroad in Amsterdam this semester. As you might expect from Sweden in the middle of the winter, it was extremely cold. But fresh cinnamon buns every morning made braving the snow worth it. And at the photography museum, the girl at the desk who looked at my student ID got excited and told me she was also named Clara. I too became excited, and said I never met other Claras. And then she revealed that the other girl at the desk was also named Clara! A very exciting series of events.


Trying to stay warm in front of the bank where Stockholm Syndrome originated.


One of the coolest hidden gems of Stockholm are the Tunnelbana (subway) stops. Each one was designed by a different artist to bring some art to people’s commutes.

Trip 2.5: Warsaw, Poland

On my way back from Stockholm, I had an eight-hour layover in Warsaw. I decided to leave the airport and go into the city for lunch. Warsaw was even colder than Stockholm, so I ducked into a cathedral to warm up and realized they were having mass since it was Sunday. I was still very cold so I sat in on the mass and ended up having a lovely morning there.


After mass I decided to sample some Pierogis, which I’d only ever tried from food trucks in Chicago. My pierogis were delicious, but definitely not photogenic. I also ordered a drink called “warming elixir,” which I think was slices of orange and lemon, ginger, and cloves in hot water. I felt warmed. Finally, I stopped for a mug of hot chocolate on my way back to the airport bus. I am not exaggerating at all when I say it was probably the best hot chocolate of my entire life. If you’re ever in Warsaw, I cannot recommend highly enough the bittersweet hot chocolate at Cafe E. Wedel.


Trip 3: Birmingham, England

Most of my extended family lives in Europe or Mexico, which is sad most of the time since we don’t get to see them very often. But it’s great for me this semester, because most of my family members are only a short plane ride away! This weekend I went to visit my aunt and cousins in Birmingham, England, a city a few hours north of London. When I left on Thursday, there was a massive snowstorm covering Great Britain and my flight was over two hours delayed, meaning that I had a lot of quality time in the Charles de Gaulle departures terminal. When we finally got airborne, we circled above Birmingham for half an hour before they made the announcement that if we couldn’t land within the next fifteen minutes, we would have to reroute and make an emergency landing in Manchester. Luckily that didn’t happen, and I spent a lovely weekend enjoying the Birmingham snow with my two little cousins.


Cooking a breakfast feast with Helena and Paola. Perks of hanging out with 7th graders:  matching dinosaur pajamas!

We went sledding and built snowmen in the morning, and baked cookies and worked on my British accent in the afternoon. Overall, a jolly good time.

Coming to you cozy back in Paris,



Managing Expectations

One of the biggest tropes of preparing to study abroad is having incredibly lofty expectations about your time in another country. I had romantic visions of myself riding a bike with a baguette in the basket and picnicking in a different country every weekend.


Me as I imagined myself, very French.

When I got here, I remembered that first of all, Paris is incredibly dangerous for bikers. And while they may look have a nice aesthetic for photos, berets are generally a very unflattering hat. So this expectation was never going to come true. Here’s a list of some other expectations and reality checks I’ve had since coming here!

Expectation: I was going to live in a foyer with the other French students and make a ton of French friends.

Reality: After a month in my foyer, I decided it just wasn’t for me. It was hard to cook since the only kitchen in the building was down five flights of stairs, with no elevator. I didn’t have a mini-fridge so I was keeping my milk and cheese on the windowsill, and they blew off during a storm one night. And most French students weren’t that interested in befriending an American student who was only going to be there for a few months. The only friends I made in the foyer were exchange students from Minnesota (A true expectation: Minnesotan friendliness!). I had decided not to live with a host family since my aunt and my cousin lived in Paris, and it seemed weird to live with another family while my family was already there. Lucky for me, my family was very generous and let me come live with them! Living with my family has been excellent. Perks of living with them: a small dog named Garbi, a 10-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower, and a cousin who will let me pose her for pictures with the Galentines Day cake I baked.


Expectation: I was going to speak French all the time with my awesome French friends.

Reality: This one goes hand-in-hand with my first expectation. I spend most of my time out and about with American friends from APA, and when we’re together we speak English. At home with my family, we speak English and Spanish, so going to Paris for the semester is improving my Spanish a lot too. At first I felt like maybe I was cheating myself out of the true abroad experience — you hear stories of overachievers who didn’t speak English for the entire time they were abroad, and who came back totally immersed in a new culture. But I also realized that speaking English makes sense. It’s how we’re used to communicating with each other, and after a long day of French classes, it’s nice not to have to be “on.”


Me with APA friends walking across the Seine after a trip to the Assemblée Nationale.

Expectation: I would travel to a new country every weekend and see all of Europe!

Reality: Travel is expensive! Some people make entire careers of blogging about how they travelled to 15 countries for $100, but I’m not one of those people. I’m unwilling to give up my daily croissant, even if that means not being able to afford that 10-hour bus ticket to Vienna. Maybe it’s hypocritical to write this from my first weekend away in Prague (Czech me out!), but Paris is excellent. And it’d be hard to get the full study abroad experience of the city if I was constantly leaving to go somewhere else.


Who would want to leave a city that looks so pretty sous la neige?

Off to czech out some Czech cuisine! (And how many times I can repeat the same pun before Caroline leaves me here).


Une manque de comprehension, or how I ended up with a very short haircut

One of the things that made me the most nervous about study abroad was finding trusted professionals like my favourite doctor, dental hygienist, and hair dresser. After one fateful haircut that my mom and I like to call the “Christmas Tree,” I have reason to be suspicious. Away at school, I prefer to go months without a haircut than trust my hair in the hands of someone other than Alice or Rochelle. I’m perfectly willing to go after my friends’ hair in a dorm shower stall, but the idea of stepping into an unknown salon is terrifying to me. I considered never cutting my hair while I was in Paris, but I already had split ends. I considered cutting my own hair, but I remembered I’d promised Alice that I wouldn’t because I can’t see the back of my own head. Finally, I was forced to consider where to get my hair cut in Paris.

Christmas 2004-2 016                  Me and my cousins circa 2004 rocking very special hairstyles.

After getting a recommendation from a friend who had studied in Paris previously (thanks, Frani!), scouring the Yelp reviews for red flags (the lowest review was from a man who claimed they did a sub-par job massaging his girlfriend’s hands), and memorising French haircut vocab, I felt prepared to walk into Serge Estel and ask for a shampoo and a trim. So confident was I that when they asked if I preferred to sit and wait for the English-speaking stylist, I said I was fine with French. I sat in the chair and requested what I thought was a small trim.

I first noticed that something might be wrong when Claudia started rasping off the top layer with a razor. I’ve never had my hair cut with a razor but I thought maybe that was just the French way. Who was I to judge her craft? Big chunks of hair were floating to the floor but I decided to focus on the positives — the cup of tea the receptionist gave me was extremely delicious. She finished the trim and asked if I wanted it blow dried. It seemed short to me but I thought maybe blow drying it would make it look longer.

Obviously blow drying only made the hair seem shorter. Now my hair falls just above my collarbones, with shorter layers all throughout. A wash at home revealed that it’s also quite curly, the most confusing part of the experience. I’m not sure how, but I think she cut my hair curly.

I was extremely jarred at first, but honestly I think Claudia knew what she was doing. My hair is no longer frizzy from the Paris humidity and it fits much better under my giant scarves. Overall I would rate this experience 8/10. My hair is much shorter, but if that’s the worst thing that happened I don’t have anything else to be afraid of.


Saint Malo and Mont Saint-Michel

This weekend we went on our first APA weekend trip and visited the walled city of Saint Malo and the old abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. It was rainy and gray for most of the trip, but that didn’t stop us from having a blast! (A blast of wind, get it?)

IMG_9903Students accidentally reenacting a scene from Titanic.

A few years ago, I read a book called All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The story is set during World War II, and follows the life of a blind girl called Marie-Laure who moves from Paris to Saint Malo to stay safe during the war. Ever since, the city has held a strange allure to me. In elementary school, I read Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters, a book about a girl who lived in Morocco and desperately wanted to travel there to drink mint tea. A few years later, I read The Thief Lord, and felt that I desperately needed to visit the canals of Venice and feed the pigeons in Saint Mark’s plaza.  I had the same feeling about walking along the ramparts of Saint Malo and looking out at the sea. We explored the city on foot and went to a crèperie for dinner. I ate a delicious beignet filled with Nutella and on our walk back home, got splashed by the ocean, which can rise over 13 meters at high tide.

The next morning, we set off for Mont Saint-Michel, an old stone abbey on the top of a mountain in the sea. We were lucky to visit on a Sunday because we caught a bit of a mass being conducted in the church there. We rented audioguides and got to explore the entire island at our own pace, before meeting up at the bottom of the path for a delicious lunch. Even though we visited on a very gray day, I think the mist just made it more mysterious and otherworldly (mist-erious, I’m full of hilarious jokes today). I would love to be a monk here and sing Gregorian chants from my garden overlooking the water.

IMG-9920.JPGMont Saint-Michel looming in the distance.

Stalling inside to avoid the rain a little longer,



Dear reader,

My name is Clara and I’m a junior at Yale majoring in American Studies. I decided to spend this semester in Paris because study abroad has always seemed like such an incredible opportunity to me—the ability to spin a globe and put your finger down anywhere and say, I want to go there.  Paris seemed like the ideal city. It’s centrally located in Europe, meaning that other countries are just an EasyJet away; every corner of the city is beautiful; and the pastries are to die for. I’ve been taking French since seventh grade, but it wasn’t until I spent a summer in Senegal two years ago that I finally felt like I could speak the language.

Tomorrow will mark two weeks in Paris, and I’m finally starting to settle into a routine. The first week and a half was wild—APA took us on walking tours to get to know the city almost every day, and we had hours-long information sessions and field trips to learn how to set up a French phone number, enroll in our classes, use our metro cards, etc. I think we’re lucky to have a pretty big group—18 new students this semester—so there are always new people to explore the city with and talk to.

IMG_9533From a walking tour of Le Marais.

It’s also been a little over a week since I moved into my foyer (a residence for students and young professionals from 18-25 years old) and I still haven’t woken up in time for breakfast, which closes at 8:30am. A fellow resident tells me it’s pretty good, so wish me luck with my alarms tomorrow morning.  For some reason everything in my bedroom is decorated in lime green—I have lime green cabinets, a lime green headboard, a lime green desk chair, a lime green blanket, a lime green closet, and a lime green sink and bathroom floor. I think I can tone it down with a more neutral blanket and some posters over the cabinet doors. I also need to buy a mini-fridge from someone who’s moving out since right now I’m storing my yogurts on the windowsill to keep them cold.

IMG_1530A view of the 20th arrondissement from my window yesterday morning.

I leave you with a quantitative account of my time thus far in Paris.

Croissant count: 9

Times lost on Metro: 2

Store clerks who squinted at me and said, “English? English?” when I tried to speak to them: 3

Pairs of pants forgotten at home: 2

Pairs of pants borrowed from my cousin Maria: 2

Un bisou,