The Participants

Cristian Cadar 
Class of 2003, Major in Computer Science & Mathematics, Minor in French

"For me, these two weeks in Paris have represented a unique and unforgettable experience. Since my first years of high school, French culture and civilization have attracted me in a special way. However, all these last seven years combined can't equal the magic, the beauty, and the intensity of these two weeks spent in the heart of France, in a city whose beauty and charm hopelessly seduced me.


"For fifteen days, I relived the history of France, following the steps of Henry IV, Louis XIV, and Napoléon; I let myself be conquered by the beauty of art while walking through the galleries of the Louvre, Museum d'Orsay or Museum Rodin, or while attending the plays of Ionesco and Feydeau; I confronted my own prejudices while meeting and interacting with French people, and  I appreciated the French cuisine while dining in all sorts of Parisian restaurants. This extraordinary program offered me a total immersion into French culture, and also helped me discover the present French society and its attitudes regarding friendship, family life, work, class structure, religion, and other social phenomena. I would like to thank everybody who made this dream become a reality, namely to the organizers of this trip, to the extraordinary people who accompanied me, and to my professors and my parents who have taught me to love France and its culture.

"When I think about this two-week trip to Paris, I inevitably remember a passage I once read in Hemingway's biography, in which the writer declared that 'if you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.'" (CC)


Stephanie Claussen
Class of 2005, Major in Electrical Engineering, Minor in Material Science

"In the future, I am convinced that I will look back on these two weeks as the time I fell in love with Paris. I had visited a few times before, but those times, I was just a tourist, set on visiting the most popular sites. This time, I came as a student of the culture, determined to learn about the city as much as I could, in the only way possible: by experiencing it.


"Being in Paris just made me so happy. How can anyone not be happy, living the life we had? Everyday, it was like I woke up and asked myself, "What amazing experience do I want to have today?" We didn't have to worry about money, or our lives at MIT, or any obligations other than that of enjoying Paris. There is so much to do, so much to explore. It was such a simple life we lived, and the city is so enchanting and willing to fill up your time with simple discoveries. Every morning, we would each make the daily pilgrimage to Miss Manon, one such discovery, and buy a demi baguette for 35 cents, and of course it would be unbelievably good. 35 cents of pleasure. 

"Much of what I gained from this trip came from when I was on my own, wandering around where I wanted to go, at my own pace and observing the daily life of a Parisian. The florists were unbelievably beautiful; Andy began to make fun of me because from every one that we walked by, there emanated the fresh smell of flowers, and I would force him to stop in front of the window with me to gawk. The babies were delightful and the historical monuments that existed on each street were free to walk by and observe.

"So, at the end of my two weeks, I was not ready to come back to all the worries of MIT and leave the simplicity of my two weeks in Paris. It wasn't that I didn't want to return to Boston, I just didn't want to leave Paris. I fell in love with the streets and corner stores and bustling businessmen and tiny poodles on the sidewalks. I did not want to leave behind, or forget, a single thing." (SC)


Caglar Girit
Class of 2003, Major in Physics & Mathematics

" Physics majors at MIT have to write a senior thesis. I finished mine moments before boarding the plane to Paris. I had spent the preceding four weeks mired in equations and theorems, writing page upon page, day and night. Imagine my state of mind as I stepped out of the taxi in front of our hotel in the Marais. Tired, yes. But elated as well. Although physics still lingered in my mind, I was finally free of the thesis. And the dry, shriveled, sponge that had been my humanities side was ready to absorb from the vast reservoir of culture that is Paris. 

"Within a week, that sponge had burst. The reason: an excess of sensation. I had never thought it possible, especially for me, a post-MTV generation hedonist. But it happened. So many sights, sounds, and tastes. So much history, theater, and cuisine. So much humanity. The scheduled events, in addition to those I attended in our free time, quickly blew the sponge apart. By the end of that week, I was literally, as well as metaphorically, sick. Something I ate at Sant Antonio's (a pizza place on the Rue du Roi de Sicile), and probably other factors, resulted in a night of horror, spent in the bathroom: an expurgation, a flash wringing. 

" I recovered slowly, missing some dear events including 404, a super-hip Moroccan restaurant. I couldn't touch traditional French cuisine for several days, even opting at times for sushi. But then art healed, dismantling and processing the surfeit of sensation that had accumulated. Painting, sculpture, installation art, etc., brought me back. What I enjoyed most, what affected me the most on this trip, were the museums: Musée de Picasso, Musée de Rodin, Centre Pompidou, Musée d'Orsay, Musée d'Art Moderne, Palais de Tokyo. I understood the various artworks as acts of creation, as expressions of ideas. I laughed, I stumbled, I stood perplexed in front of the works. And in general, I found inspiration. I discovered that I too had ideas, that creative works of my own had lain dormant for the sparking. 

" Now I have a notebook with sketches, and the determination to actually realize, instead of just conceptualize the works. Sometimes I ask myself, is a physicist/mathematician allowed to do this? Sure; there are no rules. I can make my own path. All I needed was to be a January Scholar in France, to discover winter in Paris, la bohême. " (CG)



Orlando Jaquez
Class of 2005, Major in Biology & Management Science, Minor in French

"Hi! My name is Orlando Jaquez and I am a sophomore at MIT. I am majoring in Biology and Management Science, and… I love French!


"At our first January Scholars in France meeting, I had no idea what I was in for. I knew that I would have the opportunity to visit museums, palaces, and monuments in Paris but I didn't know that I would become a Parisian myself. No, I'm not exaggerating. The opportunities offered by this program were sans égales, simply unequaled. Words cannot describe how much I gained from these two weeks.

"Through JSF I discovered who the French really were. I was able to interact with Parisians everywhere I went, whether it was a museum, a play, or even a pâtisserie. I managed to soak in French culture from every street on which my feet walked, from every café in which I sat, from every brasserie in which I ate, from every club in which I danced, and from every person to whom I spoke. I breathed in French life! If you asked me, I learned more from these two weeks than I did in all of my years of French study.

"I found it particularly enriching to interact and get to know the people in France. I feel it is the best way confirm or refute any stereotype that we come to hold as truths in the US. I was happy to learn that while these two countries are governed by different cultures, we all worry about the same issues and often share similar opinions. I can safely say that interacting with Sophie and her friends was definitely a highlight of my trip.

"All in all, I feel this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really discover France and its wonders, and for that, I am forever grateful. My only regret is that it had to come to an end. But be assured, if I could do it again, I wouldn't think twice about it." (OJ)


Tiffany Kanaga
Class of 2004, Major in French & Management Science

"My name is Tiffany Kanaga and I'm a junior at MIT, majoring in Management Science and French. I've studied French since junior high school, and I've taken an assortment of classes at MIT, Harvard, and abroad at the Université d'Aix-Marseille III. Whenever I share this information with a new acquaintance, however, he inevitably asks why I picked French. The answer? The best I can say is that it's a certain je ne sais quoiabout the French language and culture. There's a sing-song beauty in all the words; phrases like crotte de chien(a piece of necessary vocabulary in Paris) sound elegant, even if their topic is not. Likewise the culture is ultra-sophisticated. Fine food, wine, and entertainment are, after all, integral to the French way of life.

"As a French major, I liked to think that I was already fairly familiar with Paris. After all, I'd been there twice before, in addition to my two-month stay in the south of France, and had visited the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa just like everyone else. Needless to say, I was in for a pleasant surprise. The January Scholars in France program showed me Paris as I'd never seen her before: through the opera, the theater, and a diverse spectrum of museums, to name just a few examples. I developed a far deeper understanding of life in France, based not on tourist attractions but instead on the arts, the cuisine, and most importantly my daily interaction with native Parisians. I'm so grateful to have had this opportunity to complement my French education with such an extensive trip to Paris, and I would encourage all other MIT students with a serious interest in French studies to apply next year." (TK)



Josh Mandel
Class of 2005, Major in Computer Science, Minor in Brain & Cognitive Science

"I saw more of Paris in these two weeks than I've seen of Boston in two years at MIT. And we certainly visited more museums, monuments, and estates than I could ever have done on my own. My biggest regret, though, is not having a stronger background in history and art coming into the trip. I think that sort of background could have greatly enriched my experience in Paris. But the most important impressions for me were not made in the museums: even after I forget which artists' work we saw at the Centre Georges Pompidou, or after I forget the order of succession of French kings, I will still have the intuitive sense of Paris that comes from two weeks of complete immersion. In a way, one of the most educational experiences I had was just wandering the streets of the city: changing streets when I felt like it, walking into and out of stores, stopping at a restaurant or a cafe - and taking the metro to St. Paul to get back in time for dinner, or a play, or the opera.

"As a course VI sophomore, I sometimes see life at MIT from a pretty narrow perspective: the grind of coursework, the routine of papers and projects and exams can be hard to avoid. For me this trip was an eye-opening opportunity to share time with MIT students far away from Cambridge. It was refreshing to meet new students who shared my interest in France and the French language; I was actually surprised to learn how many there are. Living in La Maison Francaise at MIT, I had a vague impression that I already knew most of the people here interested in French. This was certainly not the case.

"January Scholars in France has been a learning experience academically, culturally, and socally. In many ways, though, the experience has shown me how much more there is to learn about France. Even on the heels of my return, I am eager to go back ; I want to continue exploring." (JM)



Anderson Nnewihe
Class of 2005, Major in Computer Science & Electrical Engineering

"Ever since freshman year in high school, I have dreamed of going to France - visiting all the majestic monuments, munching atpâtisseries and restaurants, and most importantly, speaking French daily. It came to the point where my vision of Paris was an idealistic dreamland, and I felt that I was bound to be disappointed when I visited. Not to sound corny or anything, Paris truly is a dreamland with des chateaux dans le ciel(castles in the sky). Versailles, Malmaison, Hotel de Ville - these are just majestic castles that dot the greter Paris landscape. Basically, Paris is an oversized museum.

"I also had the preconception that the French would be rather snobby and look down on us Americans. At first, I was a bit hesitant to speak French with the natives. Also, I would just let the other members of the group talk to the guides, servers, etc. Then, I decided to go out on my own and develop my own vision of Paris. So then, I was obligated to speak French with the FNAC clerks, métro guides, hotel maids, Roland Garros employees, and les serveurs de la brasserie (bartenders). I realized how kind and courteous the French are as a people. They almost feel honored that you're speaking their language rather than English.

"Simplement dit, mon voyage à Paris était magnifique!" (AN)




Professor Edward Baron Turk
Professor of French and Film Studies, Chevalier - Order of Arts and Letters

"My idea for this new program was quite simple. Choose a small group of our most motivated students of French at MIT and give them an opportunity to engage with French culture and life in an intensive, authentic, and undistracted manner.

"Of the seven students selected for the program, only three had previously taken courses with me. But within just a few days of our two week stay in Paris I felt that I'd come to know and admire each and every one of the participants. Their curiosity for things French was insatiable. I built into our schedule a fair amount of free time so that students could explore, on their own, sites and neighborhoods not on our agenda. Given the intensity of our schedule, I also thought it would be good to have time for students to just rest at our hotel, if they chose to. Well, except for an occasional quick nap, the daily energy level of each participant far exceeded my expectations! And their enthusiasm was infectious! I, too, spent more time out and about than I would ever have anticipated. And for me, too, it was a rare pleasure... almost like discovering Paris for the first time, with new eyes.

"I think we established a great esprit de corps. And it was indeed a treat for me to share many insights about French history, arts, literature, cuisine, and daily life - acquired over decades of visits, starting when I was age 16 - with these relative "newcomers." I could see, day by day, how each student was growing more and more at ease with Paris, with French customs and colloquial speech, and with living independently abroad. Education, for me, means confronting and engaging with that which is different from what we're used to. This program exemplified, and I think confirmed, the strength of such an approach to learning and personal growth.

"These two weeks in Paris will remain no less memorable and gratifying for me, as a professor, than they will be, I surely hope, for the students!" (EBT)



Sophie de la Rivière
Major in Art History (Université de Paris X), Tour Guide

"Take the wonderful Amélie Poulain, add an extensive knowledge of art and history, sprinkle tons of hospitality, friendliness, and sweetness and then maybe you’ll come close to understanding how great Sophie was. She is an Art History student at the Université de Paris X(Nanterre), and the best tour guide you’ll ever have. But not only did Sophie do an outstanding job as a tour guide, she went out of her way to make us feel at home in Paris. For starters, she put together a general compilation of Paris events and places that was extremely helpful. When we first met her she gave us all a little gift pack containing other helpful information and even a travel journal! Sophie’s professionalism was unequaled. But it was her eagerness to make us feel special as friends that amazed me the most. On one of our last nights, she gathered her best friends and introduced them to us over dinner, and we had a great time. Before we left, Sophie told me something: “I don't want to be a tour guide anymore… because it is so hard to say good bye to people like you all.” The truth is, she actually made us feel like not being tourists either, because saying goodbye to her was even harder! Thanks Sophie!" (OJ)




"Je remercie le professeur Edward Baron Turk qui a donné à ce séjour toute sa grandeur en donnant à l’ensemble du voyage une atmosphère très chaleureuse. Je tiens aussi à exprimer toute ma gratitude aux donateurs généreux qui veulent rester anonymes, sans qui ce fabuleux voyage, ce « chef-d’œuvre » artistique, culturel et amical n’aurait pas vu le jour. 

"Ce fut un réel plaisir de guider les étudiants dans les rues parisiennes et de « remonter » le temps avec eux en découvrant les joyaux artistiques et architecturaux de Paris depuis le Moyen Age. L’intérêt, le sérieux et la pertinence de toutes leurs interventions furent très enrichissants et ont permis à toutes les visites d’être la source d’une véritable discussion ouverte et pleine de vie. Ainsi le dialogue fut vite établi entre nous et les échanges ne cessèrent de fleurir autour d’une grande complicité facilitée par nos 20 ans. Je garde en premier lieu le souvenir d’un groupe de sept étudiants d’exception qui savaient regarder chaque monument, ralentir le pas devant une maison, un jardin, une église, et qui appréciaient avec grand intérêt et curiosité la richesse du patrimoine parisien. J’ai redécouvert ma ville à travers leurs yeux émerveillés. J’ai été très sensible à leur grande ouverture d’esprit, à leur écoute respectueuse et à leur facilité à s’adapter à une culture différente. Ils ont su s’imprégner rapidement du mode de vie parisien : s’habiller à la française, manger à la française … « blaguer » à la française ! 

"L’ambiance si sympathique de ce voyage a permis à chacun d’entre nous de puiser de nouvelles richesses dans la différence de l’autre. Un soir attablé autour d’un grand festin, vingt-deux convives de nationalités différentes furent réunis. Américains, Français, Allemands, Japonais, Polonais, Dominicains, Turcs, Roumains se rencontrèrent et malgré toutes les différences culturelles et linguistiques, l’amitié et l’ouverture d’esprit de chaque personne firent le succès de cette soirée internationale au cœur du Quartier Latin ! 

"« Il n’y a pas d’éloge flatteur sans la liberté de blâmer » alors je m’appuierai sur notre cher Beaumarchais pour blâmer aujourd’hui votre départ. 

"Ce fut un merveilleux séjour. Merci à tous . Revenez quand vous voulez à Paris. Je vous attends. Avec tout mon dévouement et mon amitié, Sophie." (SR)