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World Class

A semester in France

By Chris Murphy
Globe Staff / June 27, 2010

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With 13 years of French under her belt, Anne Rosenblum, a sophomore at Dartmouth College, had long dreamed of studying abroad to achieve true fluency. For a “quintessential and authentic French experience,’’ she chose a Paris-based program. She takes grammar, history, and literature classes in French at Reid Hall, which belongs to Columbia University and is used by several US universities.

CHEZ MOI: “All of the students in my group live with host families. I grew up in suburban Connecticut in a Colonial-style house, so my apartment in a small modern building is quite different. I have come to appreciate the home-stay aspect of my program, because the opportunity to practice my French through conversation with my host parents has been extremely valuable.’’

ON THE MENU: “I eat dinner with my host family at night. One night my host-father made an incredible veal dish called blanquette de veau. I also enjoyed possibly the best duck confit and tarte tatin (caramelized apple tart) I will ever eat. Classic French dishes abound in cafes: onion soup, croque monsieur (grilled cheese with ham), and omelets are always on the menu.’’

METRO NO-NO: “There are two bakeries conveniently located on my four-minute walk to the Metro in the morning, so I thought it would be a good system to grab a croissant and eat on the ride to school. After noticing some pointed glances, I quickly realized that no one ever eats on the Metro. It seems that the idea of meals-in-transit does not appeal to the French.’’

ATTENTION, PLEASE: “Having two two-hour-long classes each day was a major adjustment. Other than giving my attention span a workout, classes aren’t all that different from those in America. They’re pretty standard, small seminar classes, just taught entirely in French.’’

BOOK WORK: “I do sometimes feel that there is too much to achieve a good balance between going to school and taking advantage of living in Paris. And there are assignments that would be unreasonable in any country: 300 pages of reading in a week?’’

MISTAKE DU JOUR: “Menus have been an unexpected challenge. I’ve had numerous mistake meals, such as a dish of whole chickpeas adrift in a sea of oil when I was expecting hummus. I also ordered ‘andouillette’ for lunch, excited to try the sausage until my teacher warned me that it was filled with tripe. The phrase ‘I’m full’ happens to not translate easily into French. The literal translation, ‘je suis plein,’ implies that you are pregnant.’’

CHRIS MURPHY