France | An Idiot Abroad: From Paris With Love


The French do really operate on a more relaxed pace than Americans.

My host dad gets 9 weeks of paid vacation a year and my host mom gets 18 weeks. This sense of relaxation is extended in many areas of French life. The waiter takes his/her time bringing you the bill, the cashiers rarely have the codes of fruits and vegetables memorized so you spend some time waiting for them to look up the numbers, and the dinners last a minimum of 2 hours. While at times this lack of a sense of expediency gets annoying, especially when time is short, I have grown to enjoy operating at a slower pace and taking the time to soak everything in. For example, our first week of official class was canceled and no one told us beforehand. We essentially had our whole week freed up to do whatever we wanted. This occasional French dillydally-ing is something I could get very use to.

With the unexpected reprieve, my girlfriend and I took advantage of the time to plan our weekend trip to Paris. My host family was extremely helpful and offered us maps, guidebooks, and great tips for things to eat and see. We found some really cheap bus tickets that came out to only $30 roundtrip. Although the ride was close to 6 hours per way, we took advantage of the time to sleep and rest.

We arrived in Paris at 6:00 AM Friday morning and got to see Notre Dame and the Louvre before the waves of tourists. It was an incredibly sunny day and the sunrise hitting the stain glass church windows was a beautiful sight. We spent the rest of the day just wondering and walking around Paris. We did not really plan anything specific because when nothing is planned anything can happen. We ended up in the middle of a French protest (bucket list item check), wandered through the streets of Chinatown, and found a tiny French restaurant that had some of the best cheese and potatoes I have ever had.

We arrived in Paris at 6:00 AM Friday morning and got to see Notre Dame and the Louvre before the waves of tourists. It was an incredibly sunny day and the sunrise hitting the stain glass church windows was a beautiful sight.

Barry YangUCEAP Global Community Blogger

Paris differed from Lyon in many ways. There are a ton more people in Paris, and a surprisingly large amount of immigrants. Due to recent events, security is also incredibly high and we had to pass through metal detectors and baggage checks at every tourist attraction and train/bus station. The Eiffel Tower was especially poignant. The tower itself is completely barricaded and one must pass through security to enter. Arm military guards also patrol the entire park space. Besides the heightened security, the capital is also much dirtier and brusk than Lyon. People are a little less friendly, and there is a definite want of that “small town charm.”

Barry Yang studied abroad in Lyon, France, in Spring 2017:

France | An Idiot Abroad: March to Marseille



If you recall from last week, no delightful learning in the French style took place because all our classes were unexpectedly canceled (though some may say that was the French style in its truest form). This past week we had our very first taste of formal academia in the land of Francois Hollande.

A sunny day in Lyon. Auspicious sign of the great learnings to come.

Imagine an approximate 400 square feet room filled with 5 rows of long desks accompanied with your standard issue schooling chairs. At the front of said room appears a jolly English fellow approaching the ages of 60 or 65 undressing the various layers he had cocooned himself in to combat the Lyonnaise cold. As he hangs his colorful scarf and readjusts his endearing bowtie, one cannot help but see this professor as a harbinger for a grand old time. Professor Martin Porter is one hell of a man, and a great representative of Liverpool as well as England. His speech is the perfect amount of wit, charm, suave, sarcasm, and British accent. He understands the subject matter (Imperialism) masterfully and is a connoisseur at presenting his knowledge in a pithy and entertaining manner. Understanding perfectly well our penchant for travel and novelty of Europe, Porter does not try to make his class more serious than necessary. He avoids busy work and encourages us to live history by visiting various sights throughout Europe as much as read about them. A man who has no need to compensate for his knowledge or status by being pretentious or overtly domineering, Porter is simply a jolly man who has some serious chops and is incredibly fun to learn from. He earned everyone’s respect within the first 30 minutes of the 2 hour class, and is the clear and definite highlight of our weekly curriculum.

The rest of our professors were also overall great. Although some of them dragged on and were overtly biased in their lectures, they all introduced interesting ideas which piqued our attention. Almost none of the of professors had slides or lecture material prepared and simply just talked on and on for 2 to 3 hours. It’s puzzling why classes are not shortened, because no one has the attention span fit for a French lecture. I snuck a look inside some larger lectures with just French students and at least half of them were on Facebook or online shopping.

Morale of the story: no matter where you go, all students zone out the same way.

This past week was a lot of firsts. Besides attending formal French class for the first time, I also got sick for the first time in about a year. The trams get very crowded in the mornings and afternoons, and I have noticed many people coughing and sneezing. Such close quarters and nights at the friendly neighborhood discotheque prove unhelpful in warding off sickness. Thankfully I was only out for one day, and missed only one class. This class happened to be the French language class which is offered at only one level, and that level just happens to be 400 times higher than 0 (the level which I reside and belong).

Needless to say, my absence from that class was sorely missed by Professor Christophe as I’m sure he enjoys just as much not understanding what I’m saying as I do what he is saying.

Hard at work, or hardly working? Definitely hard at work as we search for relevant historical sights on Pinterest.

“Ahhh. Oui, oui c’est bon!”

– The words I use to respond to every question in French.

Barry Yang


There are many beautiful and famous cities in France that are worthy of visiting, at least according to my girlfriend’s Pinterest. Thus, we have made it a goal of ours to travel to as many French cities as possible during our time abroad. This weekend we got the opportunity to visit the port city Marseille. Armed with knowledge from a French TV show on Netflix called Marseille and a travel video about the city made in the 1970s, we set off to the beach by the beloved FlixBus. The FlixBus is actually not so beloved as it has been late every time we have ridden it and also the French police once forbade me from boarding the bus because apparently you needed a passport to go to Geneva (a fact that I’m not so sure is a fact because I had to go to Geneva by train after the 5-0 kicked me off, and nobody asked for my passport on the train or in Geneva). The ride was only 4.5 hours, which is child’s play when compared to the almost 8 hours we endured for Paris.

The city of Marseille definitely has character. While not the richest nor most beautiful city by any means, there is a certain aura about the city that one can respect and find even faintly charming. Prior to departing, my host dad warned me that Marseille was a very dangerous city with many thieves and that we must not wear any jewelry or watches on the streets; the same general thing was said by my girlfriend’s host mom. After going to Marseille, I can definitely see why my host dad and my girlfriend’s host mom said the things they did. The streets are much dirtier than Lyon and even Paris, and the buildings extremely dilapidated. There were parts of the city that were literally falling apart or had already fallen apart. However, given the lack of economic diversity in Marseille it is understandable why the city is at a lower socioeconomic strata.

For over 2000 years the city has been a trade port, and there is little other developed industry to this day. The city’s trade port history also partially explains the number of immigrants we encountered. During our stay we probably heard more Arabic than French, but that may have been due to the location of our AirBnB which felt very Moroccan.

Marseille was an overall good experience that was greatly tempered by the fact that we got sick halfway through the trip. There were many sights that we did not get to see in the city, but all in all we still had a great time. Week 4 in France has been filled with long long hours in the classroom as well as long long hours traveling. Some would say I am getting a very good handle on this work-life balance thing, and some would say I’m not even really in school. Whatever they say, I’am very fortunate and happy to be in France and look towards week 5 with unencumbered enthusiasm.

Barry Yang studied abroad in Lyon, France, in Spring 2017:

France | An Idiot Abroad: Yvan and Avignon



Throughout my years in school, I have seen and experienced my fair share of unique teachers. However, out of all these unique teachers, none have been as poignant as Madame Sophie. The professor for our 10 person Justice and Globalization class, Madame Sophie is probably one of the most confusing yet interesting teachers I have ever had. A non-believer of lecture material, she simply just talks for 2 hours and will actively think out loud and remind us to remind her to not to forgot to talk about certain topics. A enthusiast for books and authors that none of us students from the states have ever head of, Madame Sophie is constantly in shock when half the class responds with puzzled looks whenever she drops the names of supposed renowned modern day political thinkers.

The Tram station at Part Dieu. I make this stop everyday when I switch to my second tram to get to school.

This week was our second time with Madame Sophie, and although none of us really have any idea what is exactly going on in the class, the discussions she sparks are at times very interesting. There are students from Turkey, Finland, Germany, and Switzerland in our class. It is very eye-opening to hear the different perspectives that my classmates have and how their cultures have shaped those perspectives. For example, towards the end of the lecture, Madame Sophie posed a very interesting hypothetical and pushed us to consider the roots of fairness and how our views on fairness are shaped by our respective country’s political and cultural environment. The example was about 3 individuals (Bob, Tom, and John) and who should receive a flute. Bob made the flute. Tom is the only one who can play the flute. John is very poor and has much less than both Bob and Tom. I answered that Bob should have the flute because he made it, while the students from Finland answered that Sally should receive the flute. Madame Sophie then pointed out how my thinking was very libertarian and textbook American thinking whereas the Finnish thinking was more communal. I thought this exercise was very interesting and I am excited to see what other questions she brings up next week.

Madame Sophie is undoubtedly an expert in her field and very knowledgeable of the subject matter. I am very excited for the class to progress and for us to get a better handle on the things she talks about.

Our program has many interesting professors and I look forward to writing about the others in the blogs to come!


My host dad, AKA French Dad, is probably the coolest French person I have met in this country. Yvan is 43 years old and incredibly funny, kind, and genuinely caring. As a social worker for the French government, Yvan deals with many young people and the experience he has garnered from his job really shows when you interact and talk with him.

Always joking around with French and English swear words and not so PG jokes, Yvan is incredibly relatable and joyous. Although there is a pretty big language barrier between him and me, we still talk for hours about traveling, love, and sometimes his wife. He is an tremendously caring father to his kids and a great husband. Although he jokes around with his kids and wife, you can tell he takes his duties as a father and husband seriously. He is incredibly young at heart and thus very fun to be around.

Yvan has taken me on crazy bike rides around Lyon, shown me different types of cheese and wine, helped me find romantic restaurants and places to go with my girlfriend, and genuinely been there as a friend. I am incredibly happy I have this crazy French man in my life.

The rest of my host family is also very cool, and I look forward to introducing them in more detail in future blogs!

Yvan celebrating his birthday!


Unlike our trip to Marseille, my girlfriend and I had an absolutely amazing time this pass weekend in Avignon. Avignon is a fairly small city in the Provence region of France. It is to the south of the Rhone river and home to many medieval remnants. Everyone we met in the city was incredibly nice. From our Airbnb host, to Majib our new friend whose owns the local bakery, to just store owners who find my inability to speak French and my girlfriend’s smile incredibly endearing. Everyone in Avignon just seemed to be more relaxed and very unpretentious. The food there was also much cheaper than Lyon and Paris.

You can easily see most of Avignon in a day, so the city is a very good place to go for a laid back weekend. We saw many beautiful castles and churches and tried a bunch of foods from the various little shops in the city walls (the city is literally surrounded by the ancient walls from medieval times).

Avignon is definitely worth visiting. It is cheap to get there. Accommodations are very nice and reasonable. The people are incredibly kind and laid back. The sights are amazing and the food great. What more could you ask for. I also got the opportunity to fly my drone and make a video of the small town; the video can be found here:

Barry Yang studied abroad in Lyon, France, in Spring 2017: