How I Ended Up in France For a Semester

It’s actually a pretty wild story.

At the University of Puget Sound, it is required to submit application to study abroad by January 31 of the year preceding the one that you desire to study abroad. What this means, of course, is that if you want to spend Spring 2016 in a far off country, you better know by the January of 2015. And, if you are anything like me, asking questions about the future up to and including “What are you wearing today for your class in an hour,” “What time do you want to meet up for today,” and “Do you want to go out tonight” result in mostly in blank silences and mild panic.

So, although, I did want to study abroad, in theory, when January 31, 2015 rolled around my head was filled with such problems such as:

  • I don’t even know where I want to go.
  • Do I still want to continue studying French?
  • Do I have to go to France to study French?
  • It’s kinda expensive to study abroad.
  • Shouldn’t I get a job instead?
  • My parents studied abroad and met while studying abroad what if this is a gigantic plot to find my One True Love.
  • Also I can’t do anything they ever did, right???
  • I’m pretty sure my friends will die without me.
  • I still don’t know where I want to go
  • Whoops, there goes the deadline.
  • Nevermind then.

I thought this was the end of the tale.

Obviously, it was not.

The French department at UPS runs a program to study abroad in Dijon each spring. (Most study abroad programs run through some outside body, like SIT or some other ones that I def cannot remember anymore.) It is the French professors who review the applications and decide who gets to go, and it is also the French professors who pull strings to get people who maybe have not done any official paperwork into the program.

I received an email on the last day of school of Spring 2015 from one of the French professors (Salut, Diane) who asked me if I wanted to study abroad in Dijon. After about three seconds of hemming and hawing, I said yes.

What followed was a whirlwind of subverting a lot of school bureaucracy (Merci, Michel)—and then dealing with a lot of French bureaucracy. Honestly, it would take about four blog posts and a lot of censorship to document just how much the process to getting a French visa sucks—and yes, you do need one, for which we may thank George W. Bush.

Anyway, this was just the set-up. In the following weeks, I’ll be covering some of my school-approved (and school-funded) adventures in France.

Because yes, I am now in Dijon.

it’s not just four years, its for a lifetime

On January 27th, 1870 four women named Bettie Locke, Alice Allen, Bettie Tipton and Hannah Fitch founded the first women’s fraternity, Kappa Alpha Theta at DePauw University, an organization I am a proud member of. This year marked 146 years of friendship, scholarship and women empowering women and it was a wonderful experience  to attend the Seattle Alumnae chapter’s Founder’s Day lunch. Especially after completing formal recruitment this past Tuesday and welcoming 30 amazing women into the fold, the lunch & time spent with women who share the same values of Theta throughout their life after college and meet other Theta’s wherever they’ve lived.

Boycott Driscolls and the Power of Protest

driscollls berries

One thing that we emphasize here at Puget Sound in our course work is Social justice. This is particularly true in the department where I focus, Sociology and Anthropolgy, where discussions of privilege and power relationships are the building blocks of our discipline. But reading about injustice in a book only goes so far, and part of a liberal arts education is acting on what is learned in the classroom to support activism in the wider world. Universities are bubbles, and staying inside them is safe but also silly-and a disservice to those beyond the bubble who need support.

This weekend, Puget Sound students had the opportunity to step outside their own lives and support others by collaborating with Familias Unidas por la Justicia, a farmworkers rights union formed by farmworkers who labor for Sakuma Bros. farms, a corporation that supplies berries for big name brands like Driscolls and Haagen Dazs. Famillas Unidas is a coalition of farmworkers striking for better wages, humane hours, and saner working conditions and encouraging others to boycott Driscolls to force change. Advocates for Detainees’ Voices had the opportunity to bring representatives from Familias Unidas to campus for a panel on Thursday evening, and then we organized a protest on Saturday at the Metropolitcan market to protest the sale of Driscolls berries there despite continued requests from community members to pull the berries from their shelves.

The panel was a truly amazing experience, with Puget Sound students getting to speak with inspiring labor leaders and hear about why they are striking, and what they hope to achieve. As the president of Familias Unidas said, “We aren’t trying to get rich. We just want to live like you all, to live like people.” The bravery and intelligence of the Familias Unidas representatives–and the clarity of their mission–was impactful for me and I am sure for others as well.

Having the chance to take the message that Familias Unidas shared with us in the panel to the streets Saturday morning–to feel that we were doing somehting concrete, small though it was, to fight Driscolls–was affecting for all of us. There is such dynamic energy when a large group of people comes together, especially when they are doing so for a cause they believe in. None of us felt the cold Saturday, and none of us felt our throats becoming raw. Because protest is powerful, and protest is important. We were yelled at by a Met employee and had our fliers handed back to us by a few disgruntled customers, but most people stood with us, cheering for our message and beeping from our cars. So maybe, when they parked those cars and went into the store, they thought about the men, women and children who grow their food, and maybe they bought the other brand of blueberries.

Our protest didn’;t change anything major. It didn’t move mountains or even hills. But I think it shifted a few boulders, and maybe, as Familias Unidas continues to fight for their rights, we’ll see a landslide soon.