Looking Back at Our Trip…

After visiting Paris I miss the city intensely, but I am also extremely glad I am back home. Paris has its highs and lows, as does every city, but the City of Light was a truly unique experience itself.

I was able to see the tourist attractions that children point out in books, like the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa, and I was able to experience rare monuments dedicated to the tragedies and sacrifices of WWI and WWII.

It is hard to believe that I stood on the same beaches that thousands of soldiers marched on to liberate France while we enjoyed a tour of the area and ate at a local restaurant as if nothing happened. The eerie peacefulness of the area and the horrific photographs that you know were taken at the same spot where young children now swim and build sand castles is eye-opening.

At the same time, you realize how small you are during such an experience. It is amazing that in an 8-hour plane ride you can travel half a globe and experience a completely different culture.

My favorite place that I visited was the Louvre, and the second was the Pantheon, where I saw the final resting place of Rousseau and Voltaire. They wrote some of my favorite books, and I didn’t even realize I would see them! As for the Louvre, the amount of tourists was overwhelming. At the Mona Lisa, there was at least 100 people crowded in front of the work trying to get as close as possible. I was able to fight through the crowd, and I saw the masterpiece for the second time of my life. It was worth the crowd.

Mona Lisa You would never believe how much I had to fight to get this picture!!

Overall, the experience was amazing. I am extremely glad that I had the opportunity to learn about WWI, WWII, and French culture at the very heart of Paris and Caen! The most important thing I learned, besides that my knowledge on WWI and WWII was very rusty, would be that the City of Light is nothing like you read in the picture books. The city is even more beautiful than any picture you can buy, the people are not as arrogant as we think they are (but they are a little bit at times) and the monuments they create are timeless, peaceful, beautiful, and breathtaking.

My opinions of French culture never really changed, but I learned that they are very nice. I only had two people be rude to me, and I was lectured once on how could I visit Paris without learning French! I did get the occasional “sniff” when I asked if they spoke English, but after seeing how many tourists they get, I can understand their frustrations.

I miss Paris, but by the time I left I was sick of French food (shhhh, don’t let them know). I hope our blog gave you an idea of what it was like, and hopefully it will encourage others to visit!


Reflection on France: Study Abroad Experience

After arriving back in the U.S. this past Saturday, I’ve come to realize a huge gap in both social and historical culture between America and France. The experience has really impacted my views in a nearly indescribable way. It was almost an experience of going to another planet instead of just another country – a revelation of how diverse the world is in operation though everyone is effectively living similar lives. Not just now, but in contexts of the past – such as during the world wars – we share the same values of freedom and preservation of human life, paying the ultimate price to gain these basic rights. Every day spent in France, the overwhelming feelings of camaraderie in the face of adversity surfaced. Every location the students of Missouri S&T visited only served to peel the lid back on emotional barriers for us, with several students breaking out into tears – myself included – when taking in the gravity of standing on Omaha Beach in Normandy where thousands died on D-Day.

The American Cemetery

The American Cemetery

Taking a class at the university could never prepare someone for the things they might experience and feel when standing at the historical monuments in person. Yes, America has quite a few historical monuments that bring about similar feelings, but for France, World Wars I and II took place on their soil while we were an ocean away. Today’s American citizens could never compare such experiences of having their home country invaded and occupied, but for France the past still remains in the everyday of the citizens’ lives. Social order was heavily changed once France was occupied during World War II, with the weight of events still dictating how people act in social situations today by trying to have the utmost respect for another person despite differences so as not to repeat the mistakes made by others in the past.

Sky View from the top of the Eiffel Tower

Sky view from the top of the Eiffel Tower

In total, the experience of studying abroad has really changed my thoughts on several issues here in the U.S., and though it is a bit hard to explain the feelings one might gain through studying abroad, I insist everyone take the leap of experiencing another culture at least once in their lives. The world, as it turns out, is much bigger and brighter than one could ever imagine, and the past memories that mold our world can turn every thought around the minute you learn how oddly similar yet different we are.

Making globes during World War 2 - Caen Memorial Museum

Making globes during World War II – Caen Memorial Museum


Artillery damage on the original columns outside the Pergamon Museum.

Artillery damage on the original columns outside the Pergamon Museum.

This past weekend, the students had a break from coursework to explore Paris or other European cities. I traveled to Berlin to see a friend of mine who now lives there. It was my first time in Germany, and like Claire, one of our students who also visited Berlin this weekend, I found the differences from Paris striking. You can read about Claire’s impressions here.

[Read more…]

My Europe Experience

WWI Memorial in Rome

WWI Memorial in Rome

It is the end of week 1 in France. I came to Europe early and my first stop was Italy. The trip to Italy was not what I expected at all. In places where there seems to be a lot of tourism, people tend to speak English. This was not the case in Italy. The public transportation in Italy is also not as expansive as in other major cities. These were the challenges Courtney C. and I took head on.

We did prevail and manage to see some pretty amazing things! Even things that would pertain to our class in Paris. In Italy they have memorials set up around the city just as they do here in Paris. [Read more…]

La Somme–by Zackery Thompson


A trench at Beaumont-Hamel

On our tour of the area involved in the Battle of the Somme we learned a lot about the events leading to the Great War, the daily soldier’s experience, and the various armies that participated in the battles. The amount of blood shed, life lost, and fierce, violent combat was shocking to learn about outside of a classroom. Throughout school we learn about several key battles of the War, and we always read that they were bloody battles, but being at the actual battlefield, seeing trenches, and craters brings a whole new reality and appreciation for the nature of this War.

[Read more…]

Trench Warfare-by Bob Alexander

The ways of war were changed forever with the advent of trenches.  Trench warfare came about during WWI and with it also came new threats and challenges to soldiers on either side.  The trenches allowed each army to hunker down and take a strong hold on their position.  Neither army was able to effectively push the other off the field.  This resulted in a long stalemate which lasted months.

Students walk through the trenches at Beaumont-Hamel

Students walk through the trenches at Beaumont-Hamel

Men could not leave the trenches and suffered horrible conditions.  It was very difficult to get aid and much-needed supplies to the soldiers in the trenches.  The soldiers suffered from thirst and starvation, trench foot, lack of ammo.  They froze in the winter and endured the heat in the summer.  The soldiers had nowhere to relieve themselves other than where they stood, the trenches were plagued by rats, and bacteria festered in every wound.  Many soldiers suffered amputations due to infections due to these unsanitary conditions.

Muddy trench coat at the Musée de l'Armée at Les Invalides

Muddy trench coat at the Musée de l’Armée at Les Invalides

New weapons were used with the introduction of the trenches.  Barbed wire, poison gas, tanks, machine guns, aircraft, and mines were used for the first time.  The use of these weapons resulted in mass casualties and the death toll count would reach into the tens of thousands on some days.  Artillery was responsible for the majority of the casualties suffered on both sides, but machine guns and gas played their part too.  Waves of oncoming troops would be mowed down by strategically placed machine guns and poison gas launched into the trenches flowed along, suffocating anyone unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity.  Tanks were introduced towards the end of the war and were designed to plow through barbed wire blocking access to the enemy’s trenches.  The Germans did not utilize the tank, which contributed to their defeat.

Fighting in the trenches of WWI was a nightmare.  It mentally scarred soldiers who fought and opened the eyes of the world to the horrors of war.  Many of the weapons and methods of trench warfare became the subjects of treaties and agreements of countries worldwide.  Many measures have been taken to try to prevent a repeat of events that occurred in the trenches.

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme

Photo2203On Tuesday, May 28th,  the Missouri S&T students and faculty visited various places that went over the entire Battle of the Somme, many of which included graveyards and memorials. One such memorial that was visited mid-morning was Thiepval, precisely, The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. Though we were only given a half-hour at the memorial, the impact of the site was still very heavy on us, as standing under the arches of the brick memorial and seeing every name of the nearly 72,000 missing men brought about feelings of intense loss. At the memorial, we visited the visitors’ center first and had an introduction to the Somme battles by our tour guide. We saw pictures of the men and  in the eyes of the soldiers one could see the horrors they experienced in war. Looking around the small visitors’ center could never prepare a person for the monument itself, even with the small model on display in the lobby.

[Read more…]

Let the Learning Begin!


All of our students have arrived safely. Just getting to Paris was a learning experience for all of them. The past few days they have begun exploring the city.

Our hotel is located in the 10th arrondissement in Paris, only a five-minute walk from the Canal St-Martin. It is a nice neighborhood, close to the Gare de l’Est (a train station) and many restaurants. But it is not surrounded by the iconic  monuments we associate with Paris.


Claire gives a talk on war propaganda

So when we took our first excursion on Monday, it was exciting to watch the students’ expressions as we came up out of the metro station and they got their first glimpse of Les Invalides, with its golden dome. We visited the World War I and II exhibits there, and Claire presented a talk on war propaganda.

Later that afternoon, we met the students at the Arc de Triomphe. While Shannon and I were walking along the Champs-Elysées, we ran into Dr. Dan Oerther and his family! They are in France for a conference.


It’s a small world! Here we are with Dr. Oerther and his family on the Champs-Elysées.



Courtney looks out over a battlefield in the Somme

Today (Tuesday) we went for an all-day tour of the Somme. The students will be posting more information about these visits in the following days.


Students contemplating the French side of the cemetery at Thiepval


Our guide teaches us about the Battle of the Somme

Second Day of Adventures

Today was an exciting adventure! A very – VERY – long adventure, but all us made it back safe and sound. Yesterday we visited the War Museum and took the WWI & WWII tour, then strolled over to the Arc de Triomphe for the afternoon. Today the students plus Dr. Fogg & Dr. Langston went on an 11 hour excursion to different war memorials, grave yards, and museums depicting World War I. Our first stop was the Australian memorial, Villers – Bretonneux, and the students actually got to venture up into the memorial tower.

British soldier's grave stone at Villers - Bretonnuex

British soldier’s grave stone at Villers – Bretonnuex

The main memorial building of Villers - Bretonnuex

The main memorial building of Villers – Bretonnuex

Our biggest stop of the day, after visiting various graveyards, had to be the trenches – we actually got to walk through the trenches along the soldiers path! It was very heart-wrenching thinking about how many men lost their lives in the very places we stood, but all the while an honorable memory.

The zig-zagging path of trenches at the Newfoundland memorial

The zig-zagging path of trenches at the Newfoundland memorial

Our last stop was the Historial de la Grande Guerre, where we got to see the uniforms of soldiers laid out in pits of the floor with all of their gear, propaganda posters covering the walls, and artifacts from The Great War. Seeing items that the men once used really strikes a chord in a person, it makes it hard to believe that the war occurred only ninety-nine years ago.

Uniform of a French Soldier - Historial de la Grande Guerre

Uniform of a French Soldier – Historial de la Grande Guerre

It makes you really think and feel the pasts setting, the feelings the people had to be experiencing in their time, and how those feelings echo into the present when we look back on our shared history. Everything we saw today brought to light the true meanings of memory and how those memories intertwine with history.

~Stephenie Lynch

Itinerary: Week 1

Group dinner restaurant

Group dinner restaurant

We’ve been planning for this day for 2 semesters. It’s the day that our students arrive to begin their study abroad experience!  We have a welcome dinner planned for this evening at a French café and lots of activities planned for the week.  Here’s a preview of our adventures.  Be sure to check back for student posts about the excursions! [Read more…]