‘Paris is a Classroom’: Students Study Revolutionaries and Rebels Through Summer Study Abroad Program

The group augmented their studies with visits to renowned art museums and historically significant sites, including the Palace of Versailles and Normandy
June 29th, 2018 by 

Professor Theresa McBride points out a painting to students at a museum in Paris.
Professor Theresa McBride points out a painting to students at a museum in Paris. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Yuhl

What do Les Miserables’ rebellious Jean Valjean, the writer James Baldwin and 11 College of the Holy Cross students have in common?

They know something about French revolutions and artistic rebels.

Stephanie Yuhl and Theresa McBride, professors of history, led a group of Holy Cross students though a Maymester study abroad program in the “city of lights,” titled “Paris: Revolutionaries and Artistic Rebels,” which focused on what constitutes the radical, what constitutes rebellion and how both have changed over time.

The underlying question of the semester was why change happens — why people rise up, Yuhl says. “French history is very complicated, so we went to a lot of different sites to try and root the story and the analysis in artifacts and spaces in the city. Paris is a classroom. The city and its environments are a text for us to analyze and experience.”

And there was plenty to explore. “The French went through five revolutions and two world wars in the course of a century and a half,” McBride says. “Paris was a refuge for political and intellectual ‘rebels’ from Europe and the United States, from composer Frederic Chopin to writer James Baldwin, so the theme allowed us to explore Paris’ history through its history of tolerance and encouragement to the arts and intellectual life.”

A trip to the most iconic of French revolution sites — Versailles — was a jumping off point for the roots of rebellion. For Maria Pishkin ’20, a political science and classics double major, seeing the palace in person was eye-opening, and not just for its beauty.

“When I saw how ornate Versailles was, it finally registered to me how many resources went into this place, while almost none were directed at France at the time. While walking through the palace with its high ceilings, rooms covered in mirrors and gold details, I felt small. I understood how Versailles truly operated as a symbol of power since it had the effect of making those inside feel astounded and insignificant.”

The group also traveled to Normandy, the site of the initiation of the Western Allies to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi Germany during World War II. As it happened, the timing was auspicious.

“We reached Omaha Beach on June 5, a stormy day, to discuss the American landing on June 6, 1944, and the weather added an atmospheric element to the huge American military cemetery above Omaha Beach,” McBride says. “We also visited a German cemetery nearby and watched as German soldiers lay wreaths in preparation for the commemoration. There could not have been a clearer demonstration for our contemporary world of the importance of the agreements which bound western European nations together after the wholesale destruction of two world wars.”

Of course, a trip to France included brushing up on language skills and students took thrice-a-week language classes, either at the beginner or intermediate level. Then to put their burgeoning history and language skills directly to use, the group traveled all over the city, visiting museums and other important landmarks, including the Musée d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, the Grand Mosque of Paris and the Museum-Memorial of the Shoah.

It was powerful, says Ben Marchand ’19, a physics and architectural studies double major, to study “rebellious movements in art history and get to see first-hand many of the masterpieces in the many museums.”

 Students stand outside of the Palace of Versailles. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Yuhl

Students stand outside of the Palace of Versailles. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Yuhl

Students saw democracy in action in everyday interactions around the city, too — starting on day one. “We arrived in the midst of a major transit strike, which made our journey from airport to dorm an adventure in itself,” says McBride.

The frequent demonstrations gave rise to spirited conversations. “It was interesting seeing the trains as the locus for protest,” says Pishkin. “In a course that focused on rebellion and revolution, it was hard not to think of the ways in which the metro as a target was significant. Trains are a place of mobilization and can be used for both physical and political mobilization and people were strategically targeting and delaying physical mobility in order to promote political measures.”

While the coursework focused on uprising and revolution, the mood among the group was all camaraderie and inclusion. Whether students were just hanging out in class, riding the Metro or eating Nutella crepes, they found their perspectives broadened. “In a majority of my classes at the College, the classes I took largely consisted of students within that major,” Pishkin points out. “In France, there was a mix including political science, environmental science, biology, English, anthropology, classics, art history and architecture. As a result, there was a wider range of perspectives that my peers had to offer.”

Now that the students are back, the learning continues. Not that there are immediate plans to storm the Bastille or its American equivalent, but studying the roots of rebelliousness and revolution helped the students reframe their thinking about living as engaged citizens.

“In the traditional classroom setting, it can be easy to forget that the material you are learning is supposed to carry on and alter your perspective,” Pishkin says. “Being able to interact with what you learn changes and enhances the experience. What I saw in France are now memories I can’t forget the same way that I could with traditional course material. I have an emotional and physical attachment to these places.”

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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/3/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
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Conference: Readings from the Roots, on Bible Translation and Its Impact
4/3/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Readings from the Roots is a new, historically-sensitive translation...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/4/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
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Ira Sukrungruang
4/4/2019
English
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Thursday, April 4thIra Sukrungruang (multi-genre)READING 7:30PM...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/4/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/4/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/5/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


MID Club
4/5/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/5/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/5/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/6/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/6/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/7/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
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Community Dance Workshop with Ronald K. Brown
4/8/2019
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
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COPE Well Week
4/8/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MPE Meeting (Event canceled)
4/8/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MPE Meeting
4/8/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
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Once in a Lifetime
4/8/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Hester/Craig Debate
4/9/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Kimball Hall Seelos Theater
Is theistic belief rational in a scientific age? Listen in on a conversation...
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COPE Well Week
4/9/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/9/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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COPE Well Week
4/10/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


City Year Info Table
4/10/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 4
Stop by the City Year Info Table for learn more about this...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/10/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Lecture: Glenn Loury on the Ethics of Affirmative Action Policies in Higher Education
4/11/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Glenn Loury, the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences,...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/11/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


COPE Well Week
4/11/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/11/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/12/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


MID Club
4/12/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/12/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/13/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


Holy Cross Jazz Ensemble Spring Concert
4/16/2019
Music
Brooks Music Center CONCERT HA
An evening of Big Band Jazz music that plays from the Classic to the...
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American International College Graduate Programs Info Table
4/16/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
Stop by the American International College Graduate Programs...
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Community Dance Workshop with Ronald K. Brown
4/22/2019
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(09)
Open to the Public
See More >>


Holy Cross Orchestra Concert
4/24/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
The Holy Cross College Orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s...
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Manusripts, Inscriptions & Documents Round Table Discussion
4/24/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 408(09)
Open to Campus Community Only
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Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Haberlin Hall 219
Open to the Public
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
O'Neil Hall 112
Open to the Public
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Smith Laboratories 154
Open to the Public
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Smith Laboratories 155
Open to the Public
See More >>


175th Anniversary Scavenger Hunt
4/25/2019
Featured Employee
Outdoor starting at Hogan
This Scavenger Hunt is being put on by the Mission and Identity Subcommittee...
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Perkins Human Services Agency Info Table
4/25/2019
Center for Career Development Categories: Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
Stop by the Perkins Info Table to learn more about this agency...
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H-CLEF Concert
4/26/2019
Music
Brooks Music Center CONCERT HA
Join the Holy Cross Laptop Ensemble Federation for an evening of silent...
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MID Club
4/26/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Holy Cross College Choir Concert
4/27/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Giacomo Carissimi was the first great composer of oratorios,...
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Chapel Artist Series Organ Concert - Pavel Kohout
4/28/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Pavel Kohout, OrganistInternational Concert Organist, Prague,...
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MPE Meeting
4/29/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(09)
Open to the Public
See More >>


Dance Concert
5/1/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Dance ConcertMay 1 at 7:00 PM and 9:00 PMFenwick Theatre – 2nd...
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Romantic Exile and Transnational Celebrity
5/2/2019
English
Dinand Library Levis Browsing Room
Omar Miranda, assistant professor of English at the University of...
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Food Truck Festival
5/3/2019
Featured
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Outdoor Oval
Join the Office of Student Involvement for a Friday Night...
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MID Club
5/3/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Sanctae Crucis Selection Committee Meeting
5/9/2019
The Sanctae Crucis Awards
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MID Club
5/10/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>

See All