Eiffel Tower. Bir-Hakeim Bridge at Sunset.
Tour Eiffel. Pont de Bir-Hakeim au Coucher du Soleil.
INTRODUCTION/ DÉBUT: An [American] Nigerian in Paris
Bonjour, tout-le-monde… or hello everyone, for non-Francophiles!!! It is with great pleasure and excitement that I pen this blog entry from l’hexagone (aptly named for the nation’s 6-point shape). Let me begin by stating that I can’t express how truly grateful I am to be here. I am originally Nigerian and was born in Lagos, but my mom, brother and I traveled to Canada for a couple of years before settling down in a Maryland suburb near Washington, DC. During our time in Ontario, I was unusually eager to learn a second language. Folks often assume that I picked up French because I’m West-African but alas, my native Naija was actually colonized by the British. Unlike its many Francophone West-African counterparts, Nigeria is primarily Anglophone. We didn’t travel with my dad initially because he had to organize everything behind the scenes and ensure a smooth, long-term transition to North America. Our tradition dictates that I should have learned his native tongue (Ijaw) but my mom only spoke hers (Yoruba) and didn’t teach it to us. Since French happens to be an official Lingua Franca of Canada, (even outside Québec) one thing led to another and I began diligently studying the language. Because many of my childhood friends were bilingual, I of course became slightly jealous- Haha! 20 years later, I’m 90% fluent (according to DuoLingo and the many native speakers I’ve encountered 🙂 ) I waited nearly two decades to visit what I consider the best city in the world and I’m so deeply fulfilled. A big thank you goes out to my family, friends, mentors, [undergraduate and graduate] professors and advisors. I especially want to thank my GW/ IIEP-UNESCO family for helping to make this a beautiful experience.
Then and Now. From Lagos to Paris.
This summer, I have the honor of working at UNESCO’S International Institute of Educational Planning (Intstitut International de Planification de l’Éducation). IIEP facilitates the planning and execution of best practices in both the formal and non-formal education spheres. Some of its areas of focus include improved teacher management and professional development, generation and maintenance of personnel accountability, rectification of socio-economic inequity and the establishment of sustainable education systems [see IIEP’s website here: IIEP Website: English; Site Web d’IIPE: Français] It has regional offices in both Buenos Aires, Argentina and Dakar, Senegal. Like UNESCO at large, the institute is especially prioritizing gender equality throughout Africa in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. There are several reasons for this concentration, including the challenges associated with female teacher representation on the continent. According to The World Bank, Africa is the continent on which males most strongly dominate the teaching profession (source, The Atlantic, 2015). This phenomenon is concerning because countries with the lowest percentages of female teachers tend to have girls of all ages performing at the weakest levels. My goal is to shed further light on this issue by underscoring the correlation between high female teacher representation and improved learning outcomes for girls. Beyond this, I am also tasked with highlighting the beneficial impact that certain strategies, tools and resources can have in the classroom alongside female teacher presence. In particular, I seek to stress the importance of inspirational literature and character-building activities for increasing girls’ confidence (and, ultimately, their scholastic performance). I will produce a working paper on this subject matter as one of my summer projects. I have also had the opportunity to give a presentation on a paper I completed for my International Higher Education for Development Class at GW. This paper is about diversity, equity and inclusiveness on International Branch Campuses in the Middle East and in China.
Taking a selfie in front of the IIEP Office in the 16th District / 16ème Arrondissement
Summary of my Presentation on International Branch Campuses.
Percentages of Female Primary School Teachers by country. (World Bank, 2011 as cited in the Atlantic, 2015).
DAILY LIFE/ LA VIE QUOTIDIENNE: Day to day life in Paris is a dream! In the three weeks I’ve been here, I’ve adjusted really well. I was initially worried that my French wouldn’t be strong enough to permit me to converse quickly and fluently with native speakers (who sometimes speak faster than the speed of light lol). However, I’ve noticed that Francophiles love when you at least TRY and speak the language- no matter how silly your mistakes may be. I’ve done a fair amount of touring, so it was critical that I practiced specific types of requests, like asking for directions. I’ve only done this perfectly several times but I was able to make it to the Church of St. Augustin/ Église St. Augustin, Church of St. Eustache/ Église St. Eustache without getting lost. I also visited the dazzling Louvre museum, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Champs-Élysées among other sights. Tory McKillop (IEP GW ’19) interns for IIEP as well and has been gracious enough to serve as my personal tour guide. She continually ensures that I understand every detail of the rich history I’ve been witnessing. I live in the 15ème Arrondissement (15th District) of Paris and my day usually starts at 8:30am. I leave my house around that time to take Line 12 from the Convention metro stop to Pasteur on Line 6. I then take Line 6 to Trocadéro, which is where my beloved Tour Eiffel sits. I get to see the Eiffel Tower literally every day because Trocadéro is a 10 minute walk from the office. On warm, less busy mornings, I walk from Trocadéro directly to the office. On cooler, busier mornings, I take the metro to Rue de la Pompe station on Line 9, which is across the street from the office. Once I get to work, I often say a quick hello to my supervisor and a few of other staff members. Everyone at the office is friendly, jovial and supportive. I work from 9am until 12:30pm and then take a lunch break with my peers. We get lunch in the cafeteria everyday and it’s delicious, healthy and FREE for the interns/ GRATUIT pour les stagaires!!! Lunch usually lasts an hour and we chat in English most days, but sometimes we switch to French. After lunch, I continue working but every now and then, one of the interns completes their period of service and we meet in the late afternoon to have a mini send off celebration. These are especially fun because everyone brings a yummy dessert! Outside of work, I’ve been socializing through use of several apps (yay, millennial power) including the ever popular Meet Up app, but also through the InterNations app. InterNations is a networking group tailored towards helping expatriates (usually from the US) who live abroad to convene and support one another. I also had the glorious opportunity to attend a Hillsong Paris church service! This was truly enriching because for the first time, I participated in a service that was run primarily in French (with translation). I look forward to returning during the rest of my Sundays here.
Lunch in the Cafeteria
Tory and I at Trocadéro in front of the Eiffel Tower
Church of St. Eustache/ Église St. Eustache
Church of St. Augustin/ Église St. Augustin
Joan of Arc/ Jean D’Arc Monument
Musée du Louvre
HEALTH & WELLNESS/ SANTÉ & BIEN-ÊTRE:
France is the perfect country to practice healthy living and wellness. The primary reason for this is that French food is made with high quality ingredients. Even the McDonald’s here is edible because the burgers, for example, are made with real meat. Speaking of which, McDo (as it’s referred to in French) offers a vibrant dessert selection that includes macarons, flan, cheesecake and other treats. Aside from the food quality, the fact that Paris is a walking city inevitably leads most folks here to stay in shape very easily. I effortlessly achieve an average of at least 12,000 steps per day on my Apple health tracker. Some people drive, but I honestly don’t think there’s a point to owning a vehicle in the city. The metro system is highly efficient and at most stations, trains come every 3-5 minutes. Because the conductors are protected by labor unions, (yay Socialism!) there may be strikes/ grèves causing delays from time to time. In my experience, this hasn’t really impacted the general daily commute.
Dessert in McDonald’s/ McDo
Metro in Paris. 1st Train arrives in 2 minutes but the next arrives in 4
I’m happy to note that running is quickly becoming popular among Parisians! I’ve been fortunate enough to complete two 10Km races in the city and although a 10K should technically be around 6.2 miles, we ended up reaching 7.5-8 miles (7.5 at the Dix Kilomètres Pour Elles/ La Parisienne & 8 miles at the Adidas 10Km Paris race). There are also several breathtakingly beautiful parks throughout the city, including Parc du Bercy and Parc Monceau. The French really appreciate nature, so these parks are very well maintained. Non-runners also frequent the parks for walks, picnics, etc. Overall, I think that the French are some of the healthiest people around and with the exception of smoking, (which is very common throughout the city) these folks practice very healthy habits.
Dix Km Pour Elles/ La Parisienne & Adidas 10Km Paris
Parc du Bercy/ Bercy Park
Lastly, I decided to start using all natural products on my hair and skin. Paris has been the perfect city to aid in this transition because there is a vast assortment of fruit and vegetable markets. There are also many West African shops with shea butter/ beurre de karité 🌰 and other products from the Motherland. When I first arrived, I decided I didn’t want to spend money on expensive French shampoo, conditioner and lotion. I stopped an older woman on the street who had really long, thick hair. She happened to be from the Antilles and spoke no English at all, so we had a conversation entirely in French about hair care. She said what I was using so far (miel du romarin/ rosemary honey 🍯, des avocats/ avocados 🥑, huile d’olive/ olive oil 🕊 and vinaigre de cidre de pomme/ apple 🍎 cider vinegar) are great but she wrote down other natural products I could use— not only on my hair, but also on my skin and for cooking. I’ve been introducing huile du ricin/ castor oil and these super thin nets/ fillets from the Château D’eau area that prevent breakage. She typed all this into my phone and although it was a struggle because of my English keypad, her kindness was remarkable!
FOOD/ NOURRITURE: Where. Do. I. Start??? French cuisine is simply unmatched. Everything I’ve eaten over the past few weeks has been sumptuous. Before leaving Maryland, I met a really sweet woman who used to live in France. Her daughter also went to graduate school for international affairs in the Washington, DC area and studied abroad in Paris. The woman raved about the pistachio financiers at Eric Kayser and, of course, I had to sample them! When I got to the pastry shop/ pâtisserie, I let the bakers know it was my birthday and they also gave me a complementary chocolate cake/ gâteau au chocolat! That was delectable! Some of my my other favorite bites so far have been the melted Camembert cheese with honey/ Camembert fondue au miel at Ma Salle à Manger near Notre Dame; the Jollof rice, stew, red snapper, bœuf braisé (braised beef) and Aloko (fried plantain) at Les Délices du Sacré-Cœur; the rose shaped ice cream at Amorino near Rue du Commerce, the Canard/ Duck at Le Dalou in Place de la Nation and the fresh baguettes from Le Vrai Gout du Pain near Rue de la Convention. I’m excited to take future bites at even more restaurants, bakeries/ boulangeries, pastry shops, cheese shops/ fromageries!
- Attending my first IIEP all staff meeting
- Participating in a research lunch session at the University of Paris, Descartes
- Presenting my paper on International Branch Campuses during our first summer research lunch series at IIEP
- Sightseeing- Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, Île aux Cygnes (Island of the Swans/ location of the French Statue of Liberty), Church of St. Augustin/ Église St. Augustin, Church of St. Eustache/ Église St. Eustache, la Madeleine, Academie National de Musique/ the Paris Opera, the East Train Station, Gare de d L’Est, the North Train Station/ Gare du Nord…and more to come!
- Running both the 10Km Pour Elles/ La Parisienne and Adidas 10km Paris
- Getting a handy dandy Ankara print backpack from Château Rouge
- Ringing in my 28th with a picnic on the Seine River/ la Rivière Seine
- Ending the birthday festivities on a cruise liner in Boulogne – Billancourt
Île aux Cygnes
Paris Opera/ Académie Nationale de Musique
All White Celebration aboard Le Galion in Boulogne-Billancourt
My “birthday suit” for the boat cruise
Card from the other interns/ stagaires at IIEP 🙂
Tamara is a Master’s candidate in International Education at The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development with concentrations in both International Higher Education and Development in sub-Saharan Africa. If you would like to know more about her summer, please find her on LinkedIn.