Linfield’s study abroad opportunity to Aix is unique because they pay for pre-orientation (called early start), which means you arrive a week prior to the first day of class. Over that week you can take a cooking class, go wine tasting, visit nearby monuments, get a tour of town, and get extra French practice. I highly enjoyed my time at early start and met most of my friends here during that time. I especially appreciated the information we received regarding French and American cultural differences.
During pre-orientation, IAU Dean Leigh Smith said his advice for us was to get a perspective on American politics and to form that opinion now. Everyone from your French friends and host families to your professors want to know exactly what is going on in the United States. One professor, and head of the school of Business and International Relations, then reminded us of the prevalence of American politics and the power of our elections on other nations. He is an Arab Muslim and a journalist. He described how recent policies and statements from the United States government had impacted his and his family’s life. He reiterated the statement made by the dean: have an educated opinion. Understand how interconnected we all are.
During the study abroad orientation put on by IPO last year, we role played what it would be like to be asked about American politics so we had a semi-prepared response. I was reminded of this at early start. People are going to expect you to be an expert on American politics even if you aren’t.
Last weekend I was in Nice for the Carnival de Nice. The carnival is a 160 year old tradition that celebrates the city. It involves a massive parade with floats and entertainers. This year the theme was cinema. The culmination of the parade, the curtain closer, was a massive float of Donald Trump styled after Pennywise the clown from “It.” In his hand he held a figurine of French president Emmanuel Macron. Running underneath the float were entertainers wearing costumes of paper boats. The boats were made out of executive orders and international agreements Trump has either made or bowed out of. Marching alongside the Trump clown, were various dictators also dressed as Pennywise but not as large. Directly preceding this was a float of Russian president Vladimir Putin carrying what appeared to be Trump (dressed in drag) in his arms over the Kremlin.
It’s humbling to watch the president of your country act as the punchline of a joke while crowds of French people around you laugh. And he will be. American students studying abroad should anticipate this and know how they to appropriately react.
– Elin Johnson