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Posts under tag: Lyon

February 24, 2016

Sheela Hadjivassiliou wins scholarship to spend a semester in Lyon, France

In August of 2015, I was selected as the Graduate Teaching Fellow that would spend a semester in Lyon, France. I was awarded the Beall Scholarship which enabled me to undertake this fantastic experience. I am grateful to the Romance Language department and to the faculty that supported my candidacy for this position. I was aware of this unique program for graduate students studying French at the University of Oregon, but I had no idea that I would be able to profit from this opportunity so early on in my PhD program. I completed a Masters in Romance Languages (French and Spanish) in June of 2015, and I embarked upon my adventure in Lyon for the first term of my doctoral studies.

Sheela Hadjivassiliou in Lyon, France.

Sheela Hadjivassiliou in Lyon, France.

While in Lyon, I lived five minutes from the Rhone River and would often walk along the river path in the evening. My studio was centrally located and I took full advantage of Lyon’s excellent public transportation system to explore the city. My job was twofold: similarly to being a GTF at the University of Oregon, in Lyon, I was both a student and an employee. As an employee, I worked as the graduate assistant for the Centre Oregon. I assisted the undergraduate students with practical details—getting cell phones, calling utility companies, etc.—and I helped the students navigate the French university system and create their class schedules. I also planned cultural events that we attended as a group. I met amazing people, saw incredible museums, gazed at fantastic architecture, shopped at open air markets, and scoured the city trying to find the best boulangerie. I was in Lyon with a remarkable group of undergraduates, and together we went to the theater, film festivals and museums. We saw plays that ranged from the Geneva Ballet’s futuristic interpretation of the Nutcracker to a modern playwright’s interpretation of classical Indian epic mythology.

Sheela in Lyon with students

Sheela in Lyon with students

As a student, I pursued my own research interests while taking classes. I study India’s French colonial past; specifically, the history of the French colonization in southern India. My research interests include: Indian diaspora and migration studies, Indian identity in Caribbean and Mauritian Literature and dramatic stagings of “India” in contemporary French theater. I attended two plays that portrayed “India”—one at the Lyon Opera and the other at a small experimental repertory theater— and my current project involves analyzing the manner in which both of these productions choose to represent “India”. I examine temporal and spatial factors in conjunction with other formal theatrical elements, and I consider structures of meaning in both plays to interrogate the ways in which “India” becomes homogenized and exoticized.

Although I had many positive and wonderful experiences in Lyon, I was also there during the November 13th Paris attacks. I felt somewhat removed geographically—Lyon is two hours south of Paris—yet the attacks impacted my time in France and marked a change in my experience as an American student studying abroad. The attacks themselves were horrific. They seemed to provoke reactions that were divisive and unifying—bringing out both the best and the worst among the people I encountered in both Lyon and Paris. On one hand, I witnessed disturbing and violently racist reactions to the attacks—fear inspired Islamophobia that I found more terrifying than the attacks themselves. On the other hand, I was able to witness extraordinary unity in the face of extreme violence. For example, I attended a vigil at the Lyon 2 campus at which the university president called for tolerance and peace. He condemned the senseless violence of the attacks while at the same time stressing the diverse and vibrant nature of the university’s student body. I travelled to Paris two days after the attacks and was struck by the surreal sense of normalcy superimposed upon a city in mourning.

Memorial for the Paris attacks in Lyon

Memorial for the Paris attacks in Lyon

Despite the attacks and subsequent state of national emergency that prohibited large public gatherings, I was able to experience Lyon’s famous festival of lights, if in a much more subdued form. Instead of four days of music and festivities, the 2015 Fête des Lumières was observed just the night of the 8th of December. Thousands of candles were placed in window sills, they were carried through the streets and then many were placed in front of a memorial to the victims of the attacks.

I am now adjusting to life back on campus at the University of Oregon and pursuing my first year of coursework as a doctoral student. I am currently the secretary of the Romance Language Graduate Student Association (RLGSA), and together with my colleagues, we are planning our annual Works in Progress event and various other professionalization workshops for the graduate student body. It is only now that I have returned to Eugene that I can fully appreciate the wealth of both cultural and linguistic experience that I gained in Lyon.

lyon beaujolais 1

October 27, 2015

Learning la science politique in Paris, Lyon and Washington, D.C

Lisa Smith in front Le Louvre

Lisa Smith in front Le Louvre

“Will you bring this amendment to the Senate floor?” This request came repeatedly to Lisa Smith over the summer. C-SPAN captured the moments when Lisa would approach Senator Jeff Merkley on the Senate floor to hand in documents. A double major in French and Political Science, Lisa secured a two-month internship in the Washington, D.C. office of the Oregon Senator. Her work involved researching various bills under consideration, screening phone calls for Senator Merkley, and lots of writing to different constituents. Running into Elizabeth Warren, attending a talk by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Lisa simply said “I was just star-struck…” Associate Professor of French Fabienne Moore, who has known Lisa since she took her FR 301 course on “La France contemporaine” in winter 2014, recently sat down with her for a conversation on her combined passion for politics and French.

Lisa was actually in Lyon when she was interviewed via Skype from D.C. about her internship application. She was spending the year studying in France, but hers was a most unusual experience: Lisa had been selected as one of two UO students to attend for the first time the prestigious Institut d’Études Politiques, better know as “Sciences Po.”

In Fall 2014 she was enrolled in Sciences Po Paris, the flagship institution, then in Winter and Spring 2015, she moved to Lyon to continue her studies in the local Sciences Po. Why this geographical split? Professor Moore, who served on the selection committee, remembers how faculty agonized over the one and only seat available for the first time to a UO student and eventually compromised by awarding two equally qualified students one term each: Eugenia Lollini (double major French/Anthropology) went off to Sciences Po in Menton, while Lisa Smith embraced the challenges of settling into Paris.

Because the airline lost her luggage, the beginnings were rocky, but Lisa had managed to rent a typical “chambre de bonne,” perched on the seventh floor (also typically without elevator) in the 7th arrondissement neighborhood, from where she would walk daily to her classes, passing on her way the Invalides—Napoleon’s tomb under its gilded dome—and the Ministry of Education.

The focus of her seminars were the European Union, European and International Politics, a fascinating comparative course on Social Services in Europe, and a “cours magistral” in English on International Law with a discussion section (no less than 10 credits!) Lisa explained that the main challenge was less French proficiency than the format expected for writing assignments, which took a while to master. One class on the French Political System was taught by Marc Foucault, who was Chief of Staff for the mayor (then President) of Amiens Métropole; it included a tour of the French senate and interviewing a senator’s right-hand assistant—a unique opportunity.

Lisa Smith, accomplished dancer

Lisa Smith, accomplished dancer

Comparing the two cities, Lisa found Paris more expensive than Lyon (where students get a subsidized transportation pass). But she felt Sciences Po Paris was more organized and all course schedules and expectations clear. In Lyon, Lisa commuted to three different campuses to take 8 courses, one of which disappointed her as the professor went missing for 5 weeks (!) though the final grade relied on a single final exam. Fortunately Laurie Wilson at the Centre Oregon in Lyon was a great help in figuring out confusing credit issues. In Lyon, Lisa reconnected with a Franco-American friend from elementary school, and spent lots of interesting time with her and her French friends, “a nice difference with Paris” Lisa explained, where it had been more difficult to connect with French students. But living and learning in Paris won her over, as she recalled fond memories from Christmas markets to Eurodisney, interspersed by trips to Nice and Colmar (in Alsace). A globetrotter, Lisa also travelled to some gorgeous European cities: Dublin, Geneva, Barcelona, Milan and Cinque Terre. A Russian-American fluent in Russian, Lisa (short for Vasilisa) also had a chance to practice her Russian during a family visit in Moscow: “when I speak in French, words sometimes come in Russian and sometimes vice versa…” This exceptional year abroad was transformative: “now I have a lot more confidence. When I leave the UO, I’ll know how to do so many things after this real word experience!”

Back at UO this fall, Lisa is already dreaming about an internship at the State Department in the capital, her top choices being the Office of International Affairs and the Office of Education and Culture. Her experience last summer in the very masculine world of politics confirmed to her how much women are needed to bring positive change. Go Lisa! We wish you a great year back on campus!

February 25, 2014

Dr. Vincent Michelot speaks on the Freedom of Religion in France

Wednesday, March 5th, 12:00-1:30pm- Knight Library Browsing Room

The Secular State vs. New Religious Movements.  Ten years ago, France was often described as one of the most secular nations in Europe. The situation is very different today as hundreds of thousands of conservative Roman Catholics took to the streets to oppose same-sex marriage and other reforms affecting family models while a noxious debate festered on the “compatibility” of Islam with the French republican model. The time has come for France to reexamine its assumptions and practices in terms of accommodation which are based on a concept of “laïcité” which begs for a redefinition.

This event is free and open to the public.

Click here to view a full sized Vincent Michelot Poster


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