Since 1994, the Graduate School of the University of Charleston, SC and the Université de Versailles-Saint Quentin have fostered an exchange program for graduate students to teach in Paris for a year while completing independent research for their respective programs. Check out the most recent blog post below from current Master’s of Public Administration and Versailles Fellowship student, Emma Cregg, as she rounds out her first semester in France!
The first month or so was definitely an adjustment with a steep learning curve, but I am loving the experience of navigating daily life in a foreign country. So many aspects of my daily routine have changed to adjust with Parisian culture, and I have realized how many of our habits aren’t right or wrong… just cultural. This experience is allowing me to think critically about what in my routine is important and healthy, and what is simply a learned action. Some things are simple, like buying less (and therefore wasting less) food because rather than carrying it from my car to the kitchen, I carry it from the store, across town, and up 7 flights of stairs. Others have been more complex, such as my views on capitalism or the validity of worker’s unions after living in a city that goes on strike for something every other week (ok, that’s not precisely accurate, but pretty close). This has been a way to expand my own world view, and sort of discover my personal “best practices.” As an MPA student interested in pursuing a public service career in local planning and/or administration, I’m really enjoying the process of seeing how my new sense of “place” is impacting my daily life, and learning from those around me. On a lighter note, I mean, its Paris! Beautiful places, people, food (and the lack of guilt from trying it ALL, as I’ve never walked more in my life). On the best day, Paris is magical and makes you feel like its all going to happen, whatever “it” is 🙂
Teaching English to French college students at the Université de Versailles has kept me on my toes! Being the “sole” representative of American culture, media, and politics has been a challenge, and made for great dialogue and thought-provoking conversation. This experience is also valuable to me, with future aspirations in academia. Although I do not plan to teach English, learning to navigate lesson-planning, grading, class schedules, and students, all while conducting my independent thesis research, is proving challenging but rewarding.
My research combines my interest in local governance with my passion for refugee relief work. My thesis research focuses on the question: what challenges do local administrators face when translating national refugee policy into a framework for facilitating refugee integration within their own host communities, and does their level of proprietorship throughout the process impact integrative efficacy? I am actually comparing U.S. refugee policy with that of the United Kingdom, an easy train ride from my home here in Paris. I am headed to the UK in a week to conduct my first round of interviews with local administrators in Preston and Sheffield, leading “Sanctuary Cities” in the UK, regarding their experience translating national refugee policy into practical plans of implementation within their own communities. I will then be comparing their responses with those from local administrators back in my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.
As I am wrapping up my first semester of teaching, I am grateful to be here, and looking forward to another semester of teaching, researching, and further expanding my world view… not to mention continuing to live off of great cheese, bread, and wine!