By Jason Vu

After a good night’s rest in my cozy new dorm room, I woke up bright and early to join my class for our first meeting together. Over the next two days, we would be getting to know Paris and specifically the area around us. At 9am, our class met in our residence’s lobby and began to head out on our very first trip. Led by Prof. Ali Behdad and our TA Mariam Rahmani, we headed out to get to know our home for the coming weeks.

La Maison Internationale, the central building of Cite Universitaire


Our first stop was to the central part of our campus, La Maison Internationale (“The International House”). Constructed in the 1930’s, the House was the first building of our campus and housed the school’s cafeteria, theater, and other student services. Prof. Behdad shared a bit about the history of Cite Universitaire’s founding as a place where scholars from around the world could gather and share knowledge in a spirit of peace and unity. For our class, the House would serve as a central meeting point whenever we had excursions into the city.

Prof. Behdad talks to our class in Parc Montsouris


Next up, we walked about ten minutes over to Parc Montsouris, a public park across the street from campus. As we walked down the windy roads and enjoyed the beautiful nature around us, Prof. Behdad talked a little about the history of Paris and the way the city was organized. Cite Universitaire and Parc Montsouris were located in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, one of 20 neighborhoods that divide up the city. To find our way around, we would have to learn how to use Paris’s complex metro system, but thankfully our program came with metro passes that were unlimited all month. With reassurance that we would (eventually) be able to understand Parisian public transit, Prof. Behdad then led us to a nearby train station to head into the city.

Place de la Bastille, major turning point of the French Revolution

Now in the city, we arrived at our first landmark—La Place de la Bastille. A giant pillar stands where, in 1789, French revolutionaries stormed the infamous Bastille prison to free political prisoners and arm themselves for the Revolution. After taking in the site of this historical uprising, we made our way down the street to the ACCENT Paris Study Abroad Center, where our regular class meetings would be held.

Courtyard of the ACCENT Paris Study Abroad Center


Once we arrived at the Center, we listened to a detailed orientation from the Center’s director on how to get by and behave in Paris. Information such as how to read Parisian transit information and order in restaurants was all laid out for us in an easy-to-digest manner to ensure that we would have the best experience possible in Paris. After the presentation, we had the rest of the daytime to rest up and get ready for the evening’s events.


Once evening came, our class regrouped for a quick picnic followed by a boat ride on the Seine river. As the central body of water in Paris, the Seine flows by some of the major landmarks of the city such as Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, making a boat ride on it an easy way of getting a preview of all the City of Lights has to offer. For me, one of the best things about this boat ride was noting all the locations I would have the chance to go to in the next month. There was a lot to see, but I was determined to see it all!

Jason studied abroad in France in Summer 2019.