World class

A semester in Paris

Rachel Polan's time in Paris educated her palate to include foie gras, French cheeses, and red wine.
January 11, 2009

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Rachel Polan spent half her senior year at the Boston University Paris Center. She studied, lived in a French household, and worked as an intern with the Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group, planning events and helping with ad campaigns. Read about her adventures in Paris on her blog,

RIVER DANCING: One of the coolest places I have been to is called the "Batofar"(, a boat in the Seine that has concerts ranging from dub to indie, with four floors of dancing and music. The boat is old and rickety, and the stage for concerts is technically under water.

VINTAGE EXPERIENCES: I was lucky enough to befriend a group of French students. I learned that the real thing that students do is have dinner parties, drink wine, dance, and smoke all night. They like to play music together and then maybe drink some more red wine.

ALL SO UNEXPECTED: Everything has surprised me: the quality of the fruit and bread, my lack of apprehension to use French, and especially the fact that I actually like mussels. I have been surprised by the friendliness of French people in the workplace. I thought it would be much more formal; I was very prepared for an entrenched hierarchy. However, they are welcoming, have invited me to their house for weekend lunch, and want to know more about me.

SAY CHEEEESE: I actually used to HATE cheese; I never ate pizza because of it. French cheese is different. It is not a mound of yellowish substance piled on something to make it filling. It is something I can only describe as a "palate zinger."

FOIE GRAS AFICIONADO: It tastes like the chopped liver from my familial Rosh Hashanah dinner mixed with what I assume cat food tastes like. It's fatty and an odd pink color. I developed an insatiable desire for the stuff. It is illegal in the United States, so I think I may eat as much as possible before leaving.

FRENCH SOAP: My host mother is obsessed with a show called "Plus Belle la Vie," about life in Marseille. It is a soap opera that is on every night. There are hookers, policemen, policewomen that dress as hookers, and an innkeeper. I am still not quite sure what it is about.

BEING REAL: The biggest faux pas I have made is being worried that I am acting too "American." It is good to not feel like a tourist, but you cannot be ashamed of being from America. French people love to talk about politics with you.