Clarke studies in Paris

Published 3:04 pm Friday, September 11, 2009

Study abroad offers more than just a chance to visit a foreign country and discover a new set of cultures. It is rather a personal journey during which students get to learn about themselves.

Indeed, students do acquire a wide range of skills when they shift to new environments and the experience gained through transferring from one culture to another enhances their academic achievement and increases their career potential.

Shari Q. Clarke is a junior in the College of Liberal Arts at Wesleyan College in Macon Ga.

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There, she is double majoring in philosophy and rhetoric communication. Along with nine other students, she participated in a study abroad program to Paris, France, in the summer. When she first heard that the French Department was launching its very first study trip to France; her fear to leave the country for the very first time did not stop her from pursuing her dream to see Europe. She knew that it was now time to express her desire to study abroad to her family. Her thrill was such that it quickly won over her family’s fretfulness and her journey also became theirs.

Clarke is the daughter of Quantara Clarke. Her grandparents are Dorothy Phillips of Faceville, Ga., and the late Illinois Phillips Jr.; and Susie Buggs of Attapulgus, Ga. She is the great-granddaughter of Ruthie Chavers of Faceville, Ga.

Once in Paris, she experienced culture shock as she learned how to adapt to the French lifestyle. The Byzantine city of love and fashion slowly became home to Clarke, who was not just a tourist since she was actually living with her French host family, which permitted her to be fully imbedded into the French culture.

Little by little, Clarke discovered her new strengths and abilities, conquered new challenges, and solved new problems. Just like the Parisians; Clarke took the metro to school, walked the Paris’ streets to go buy her coffee and croissant chaud, enjoyed eating at trendy café-terraces and shopped at the Paris famous Champs Elysées and Rue Rivoli.

There was something new to do each day and it soon became evident to Clarke that her four weeks in Paris were too short of a time to get to explore the city to its fullest extent. Nevertheless, Clarke enjoyed her many cultural and social activities on afternoons and weekends.

She visited other French cities; such as Chartres where she was absolutely amazed by the beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame. Besides, she took part in an optional trip to Saint-Malo city in the northeast region of France. During this long weekend in Brittany, she walked along the beach; took a boat shuttle to explore the island of Saint-Dinar; and enjoyed a bus tour throughout Normandy where she discovered the splendid Mount Saint-Michel.

“It was so magical, I really want to go back to Brittany” she said.

She studied “French Political Cultural and Modern Issues” in her Paris class and got to observe these same issues for herself as she was entirely immersed in the culture.

“My class was difficult, but it was a stimulating course” she said. “Even when I was listening to the French radio stations, I realized how France was in every sense of the word—multicultural.”

Clarke is the president of Créatik at Wesleyan College; a French Music and Art Club in which she also composes music and supervises significant performances. As she was studying in Paris, she related her passion for music, her interest in philosophy and social studies; to the new topics she was learning on France.

“For my class project I decided to focus on an artist from Maghreb named Khaled, the sounds of unique North African rhythmic drum beats and melodies mixed with the sounds of reggae, R&B, blues, hip hop, and pop music reach people of different races and cultures, for me that’s what France is about: a land of democracy and acculturation.”

Going to France allowed Clarke to reevaluate her stereotypes on French people as well.

“French people are actually found of American culture. They naturally spoke English to us even if some of us were speaking French to them. I was not expecting that.,” Clarke said. “I believe that I returned home with new ideas and perspectives about myself, my own culture, my beliefs and values.”

While in Paris, Clarke pushed her opportunity to travel farther by venturing out to explore London, England, for a few days. Finally, the time to draw to a close the shopping extravagance had arrived and it was already time to go back to the United States.

“I miss Paris so much, but it feels good to see my family and friends” she said.

The taste of Europe enchanted Clarke to the extent that she will once more study abroad next year with another study trip organized by the French Department. This time she will leave Bainbridge for five exciting weeks split between Paris, France, and Valencia, Spain. As she waits for her next grand voyage to Europe, she will be taking some French classes at Wesleyan College and will continue to impress her family and friends with her French chic!