They said enjoy Paris, right? Well, I sure have been doing so! Thank you again for taking the time to read our 2018 GW UNESCO Fellows Cohort Blog and please continue to support the work we are all doing in our various placements. I am thrilled to be writing once more from la ville des lumières ou en anglais, the city of lights. This has been an especially exciting time to be in France because of the wonderful revelry that took place over the weekend. There was no shortage of amusement, given that we celebrated both la Fête Nationale/ la Fête de la Bastille [the national holiday/ Bastille Day] on le Quatorze [Juillet July 14th] and la victoire historique Franco-Africain du Coupe du Monde 2018 [the historic French-African World Cup 2018 victory]. It was truly a spectacular and rare occasion. I can’t reiterate how blessed I am to have witnessed all of it firsthand. I look forward to sharing more details about the experience with folks when I return to DC and to telling my children vibrant stories of the events in the future! Anyone who happened to be in Paris for the festivities, including my college companion, Marvin (who visited all the way from New York) and my fellow GW UNESCO colleague, Meng (who visited from Germany [ check out her first post here ] can attest to how very special it was. She brought tea from Hamburg and attended church with me at l’Église Americain de Paris/ The American Church in Paris, where I have made a number of truly wonderful friends, who I will forever cherish. The cherry on top of this spectacular weekend was the Beyoncé and Jay-Z concert, which Michelle Obama and Nick Jonas also attended. Michelle Obama even sat right next to Tina Knowles (Beyoncés mother) at the Stade de France performance. Apparently, Sir Elton John, Kris Jenner (Kim Kardashian’s mother) and Bono of U2 were also in town for the performance in Nice (ville du C’ôte d’Azur au Sud de la France/ city on the Blue Coast of the South of France).
The Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées during Bastille Day
Michelle Obama and Tina Knowles (Beyoncé’s mom) in the VIP suite at Stade de France
Meng Zhou, 2018 GW UNESCO fellow in Hamburg, Germany visiting Paris for the festivities
1. Fête Nationale/ Fête de la Bastille
Bastille day was oodles of fun! There was a huge military parade on the Champs-Élysées and lots of folks crossed the avenue to celebrate. Here’s some background information on the history of Bastille Day from Time Magazine. In 1789, French citizens stormed the Parisian Bastille fortress that formerly held prisoners. Bastille day is known for igniting a series of seminole occurrences, including the infamous assassination of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. I fondly remember learning about all these historic elements in my French classes at the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate student circa 2008-2012 so the day elicited much nostalgia. We ended the evening by watching a display of feux d’artifices/ fireworks from the Jardin de Tuilleries/ Tuilleries Garden by the iconic Musée du Louvre/ Louvre Museum.
View of the annual Eiffel Tower Fireworks on the Eve of Bastille Day near the Musée du Louvre
2. Coupe du Monde 2018/ World Cup 2018
I still can’t believe how blessed we were to witness France win the world cup! Marvin and I watched the match from Stade de France/ the Stadium of France outside the city. There was a GIGANTIC crowd and stadium officials broadcasted the amazing victory on the grands écrans/ big screens at the venue. What most interested me is that the win was significant not only for France, but for Africa. The overwhelming majority of players on l’Équipe football Française/ the French national soccer team are of African descent. Namely, Paul Pogba (Guinea), Blaise Matuidi (Angola & Congo) and Kylian Mbappé (Cameroon & Algeria) hail from the rich, vibrant continent. Kylian happens to be the youngest player to score in a world cup final after the world renowned Brazilian player, Pélé). At 19, Mbappé is now considered the best young player in the world. As a native Nigerian, I was thrilled to celebrate on behalf of my people. Screams and chants erupted as the entire stadium rang in the victory. Les joueurs/ The players even threw their coach, Didier Dechamps in the air to celebrate! Moreover, the GW UNESCO Fellows from other regions made sure to send me photos of global celebrations from their respective country placements. Right here in Paris, I managed to find a gentleman donning a red white and blue shirt featuring a Thai elephant. That was especially exciting for Courtney, our fellow in Bangkok [ click here to read her first post ].
The roaring crowd of proud Francophiles during the World Cup 2018 celebration at Stade de France
Gentleman sporting a red white and blue shirt, featuring a Thai elephant
World Cup 2018 victory celebrations throughout the world from current GW UNESCO Fellows (top to bottom), Matt Brady in Jakarta, Indonesia [ View his first post here ], Nelsy Affoum in Dakar, Senegal [ View her first post here ] and Rebecca Johnson in Santiago, Chile [ View her first post here ]
French Players tossing their coach in the air after the historic victory
3. Beyoncé and Jay- Z take Paris!
Immediately after the match, we watched Beyoncé and Jay-Z give a STELLAR performance. They donned French world cup jerseys during the On the Run 2 concert and stole our hearts, as usual. The dynamic Bonnie and Clyde-èsque duo filmed the music video for one of the songs on their new album, Everything is Love, at the Louvre a few weeks prior. I have seen the two perform previously, but this was honestly the best concert (including those of other entertainers) I have ever attended. Perhaps the most special components of the movie-themed show were Beyoncé’s performance of the song, “Flawless”. This song has a strong pro-feminist message (especially to uplift Black women who have been belittled). It includes a monologue by the famed Nigerian author, (and another of my sheroes) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Chimamanda is known for shedding light on many issues we as females (and, particularly, Nigerian women) have undergone and continue to experience. This performance conveyed a strong message regarding the need for drastically improved gender equity in France and around the world. I have personally experienced much sexism during my time in Paris and elsewhere throughout my 28 years. I have also unfortunately experienced much racism. Jay-Z addressed the equally critical need for increased race and class equity. He performed a controversial song titled “Still N*****” , which highlighted the fact that regardless of the success many individuals of African descent have attained, rampant anti-Blackness is still prevalent around the world and the message that Black Lives Matter is critical. Beyond this, Paris faces severe challenges regarding homelessness. I have not found a specific organization to volunteer with that addresses the issue of abject poverty but I have taken it upon myself to carry extra food with me on every metro journey and to give it to individuals in need of support. I was inspired by my maternal grandmother who, according to my mom, regularly distributes food to poverty stricken citizens of Nigeria’s rural neighborhoods.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z in French World Cup 2018 Jerseys at the On the Run 2 concert
Beyoncé & Jay-Z performing Forever Young at the On the Run 2 Tour in Stade de France following the World Cup 2018 Win
4. Defilé du Victoire Coupe Mondiale 2018/ World Cup 2018 Victory Parade
The French World Cup 2018 Victory Parade took place on the Monday following the grand weekend. All of Paris celebrated the historic win by once again crossing the Champs Élysées to chant and hail the victory bus carrying the honorable players. Things were a little crazy throughout the city and upon leaving the IIEP-UNESCO office after work, I witnessed some truly special, memorable moments, including planes leaving a bleu-blanc-rouge/ red-white and blue streak across the clear skies. Children and adults alike gathered to welcome the players home and to demonstrate la fierté d’être bleu/ pride of being blue (French national team color). Overall, I am very grateful to have been a part of quite possibly, the most EPIC weekend in Paris in years. Bravo, les Bleues! Bon travail/ Great job, Blues! Good work!
The Bleu Blanc Rouge airplane trail in the sky at the World Cup Victory Parade
Kiddos during the Parisian World Cup 2018 victory parade (2)
Being a rebel during Coupe Mondiale 2018 #BreakingAllTheRules … *shh* lol
Me posing with a proud fellow African at the Franco-Africain World Cup 2018 Victory Parade
Proud Parisians on the Honoré de Balzac monument at the World Cup 2018 victory parade
French World Cup 2018 Players aboard the Championship bus at the Victory Parade on the Champs- Élysées
Google Doodle honoring the World Cup 2018 victory
5. IIEP-UNESCO Affairs
I figured I’d save the most important part of my post for last! Believe it or not, I have been able to get some great work done and participate in some phenomenal activities at the IIEP office. We have had several great initiatives take place, including a week-long Technical Roundtable Diversity and Inclusiveness Conference to support students and other individuals with disabilities in the global education sphere. The conference began on July 18th and representatives came from various countries, including Sénégal. I had the unique opportunity to meet Mr. Beïfith Tiyab, Adjunct Coordinator at the IIEP-UNESCO Pôle de Dakar office, in person!
During the weeks before the conference, we also held a strategic debate titled, “It Takes a Village- and Technology- to Educate a Child” featuring Dr. Madhav Chavan, who founded the Pratham Education Foundation to use digital tools to supplement instruction among disadvantaged children in India. Emily, our GW UNESCO Fellow in India, [ read her first blog post here ] informed me that Aishwarya, our 2017 GW UNESCO Fellow in India, has a twin sister named Aashna, who has worked for Pratham. What the organization is doing is remarkable and I was truly honored to attend the event in person, as I was previously limited to streaming previous strategic debates remotely from the US.
Bryan Witmore (Georgetown University), a fellow IIEP-UNESCO intern, and I at the Strategic Debate
IIEP also held a closing ceremony for the 53rd annual completion of the Advanced Training Programme (ATP) by educators throughout the world. The ATP provides teachers and other stakeholders in the academic landscape to gain top notch professional development. During the ceremony, we recognized the service that Ms. Michèle Delaygue has provided to the ATP and to IIEP at large for a remarkable 50 years!
Additionally, I got the chance to participate in sessions promoting the launch of our new IIEP Learning Portal and of the upgraded, newly minted MyProjects 3.0 project management tool. The learning portal provides IIEP and its affiliates with a forum to improve, plan and monitor international education efforts. Students and Faculty from Teacher’s College at Columbia University in New York also use the portal for professional development purposes. In fact, I will be featured on the Learning Portal and the IIEP website in a blog post and video to discuss my work [ learn more about the research I’m doing in my first blog post if you haven’t yet read it!] . Look out for that soon! The new My Projects 3.0 system helps IIEP employees to track progress to goals and increases accountability/ transparency by providing means to estimate the time it will take to complete various operations.
Furthermore, we held a celebration to officially unveling of our new Bibliothèque/ Library on the quatrième étage/ 4th floor of our office! Learn more about the wealth of knowledge and resources that the bibliothèque provides here.
Unveiling of the Bibliothèque at the IIEP-UNESCO office
Outside of the office, I had the chance to witness a powerful discussion led by the accomplished economist, Jeffrey Sachs, at one of Paris’ Grand Écoles/ Big Schools (French equivalent of the Ivy League). My fellow IIEP Intern, Min Ji (from Korea by way of Canada) invited me to watch Sachs visit from Columbia University and discuss the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He addressed the poignant need for increased equity and access in international education while emphasizing several key points surrounding progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. One statement he made that really resonated with me is that his “Number one recognition for transforming society is for EVERY STUDENT in to Africa attain at least an upper secondary education”. *Mic[rophone] Drop*!!! He stressed that the global knowledge deficit is directly tied to additional issues of sustainability, including agriculture, environmental degradation and conflict. He also highlighted the positive influence that many institutions of higher learning, including Paris Sciences et Lettres, are poised to have on the improvement of these circumstances.
As my time at IIEP comes to a close, I feel a mixture of bittersweet emotions. I must say that I am eternally indebted to Ms. Camilla Petrakis (Research Program Assistant and my faithful, warm-hearted interim supervisor), Mr. Hugues Moussy (my brilliant thought partner and formal supervisor), Ms. Mioko Saito (Gender Program Specialist and genuine Fashionista), Ms. Jimena Pereyra (IIEP Training Specialist and an absolute sweetheart), Ms. Frédérique Rouxel (HR Administrator who was responsible for keeping me happy, organized and efficient), Ms. Barbara Tournier (Research Program Coordinator who graciously loaned me her office space while she was on maternity leave 🙂 ), Mr. Tuân Trinh (Lead Receptionist who constantly “gassed” me up by never missing an opportunity to complement my outfit selection) and, of course, Dr. Sue Grant Lewis (Director at large of IIEP- UNESCO and benevolent mentor) for their constant and critical support in compiling this research and for making this an unbelievably valuable experience.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t express profound gratitude to the other stagaires/ interns at IIEP, who have offered a great wealth of insight. Special thanks to Darshana (India), Chandni (India), Pablo (Spain), Marie (Guinea), Mouha (Sénégal), Phillippa (Portugal), Joyce (China by way of Australia), Bryan (South Carolina, USA), Franzi (Germany), Sandra (Germany), Phoebe (England), Min Ji (Korea by way of Canada), Tory (Texas, USA) and my office mate, Ioanna (who is actually a full time employee from Greece and a source of sound advice and delicious chocolate) for their friendship, insight and kindness. I must, must, MUST shoutout my dear colleague and friend, Kelsey Sherbondy (last year’s IIEP GW UNESCO Fellow in Paris) and the all around amazing Kemi Adegoroye (fellow Nigerian, Sciences Po University alumna and American Church in Paris member) for providing me with strong direction. I would finally like to extend a great deal of gratitude to the ALL of the IIEP technical and logistical staff members, as well as the cafeteria staff for keeping me plugged in and well fed!
Me posing with fellow IIEP-UNESCO intern, Min Ji Kim (University of Ottawa)
******** Thank you again for taking the time to read my blog post and to virtually accompany me in Paris! Sidenote- I am thrilled to report that my French language skills have significantly improved from the beginning of the summer! I attribute this to discussions with friends at some of my favorite Parisian spots, including the American Church in Paris, where I was welcomed into a home away from home and gained a family outside the office. Special thanks to Pastor Kim, Victor, Pierre, Nadya, Erin, Rossi, Biko, Teresa, Anna and Yoann for genuine kindness, companionship and partnership in both faith and fun. I enjoyed getting lots of writing done at Alchimie dans la quatorzième arrondissement / 14th district, Black Pearl in the dix-hutième/ 18th, Frog XVI dans la seizième/ 16th district and Café Za Litteraire in Forum des Halles dans la première/ 1st district.
Mes Amis/ My friends from l’Église Américain de Paris/ the American Church in Paris and I watching the Tour de France 2018; “BEAT”: Biko (Kenya), Erin (North Carolina- USA), Anna (South Sudan), & Tamara (Nigeria/ Silver Spring, MD- USA)
Paris, je t’aime/ Paris, I love you!! Au Revoir à tous/ Goodbye everyone! Love and Light! Bisous/ Warm Embraces & Bénédictions/ Blessings!
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.