May Term in France

by Joe Webb ’03
Photos by Professor Bob Blackman 

From May 26 to June 13, fourteen HSC students, including myself, spent May Term in Paris with Professors Joan E. McRae, Ray Kleinlein of Davidson College (husband of Professor McRae), and Bob Blackman. The purpose of this May Term experience was to learn that the French really do not despise Americans, only the rude ones. With that in mind, everyone got the chance to learn about French culture, history, and art. 


The culture part, which was taught by our fearless leader, Dr. Joan E. McRae, was a means to experience the ways of the French. We were encouraged to use as much French as we possibly knew in our dealings with the locals in places like the train station, the cafes, and the post office. The French really appreciated our effort, and they provided us with the best possible hospitality, and we enjoyed our stay. We experienced some of the fine French wines and foods that cannot be purchased in the United States. We also got a good understanding of French labor unions and their willingness to go on strike to press their demands. While we were in Paris, the metro workers exercised that right to strike, which resulted in the trains not running as often.

From Professor Ray Kleinlein, we viewed and came to understand some of the best of the art in which the French take a great deal of pride. We saw some of the principal works of Monet, Inges, and David at Versailles, the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Pompedieu, and other great museums. It was clear that when major events changed the political, social, or cultural life of their hexagon-shaped nation, French artists had something to say about it in their art. 

 As for the history, Dr. Bob Blackman shared his knowledge of France from the Revolution of 1789 to the 1960s. To complement our readings, we visited many historical sites including Omaha Beach in Normandy. France has a number of fascinating and controversial historical figures such as the Bourbon Kings, Napolean Bonaparte, and Charles de Gaulle.

Overall, May Term in Paris was a huge success. On behalf of the students who participated, I would personally like to thank Professors McRae, Kleinlein, and Blackman for their patience and efforts to make the experience an outstanding one. From this experience, I personally learned that the French can and always will be friends of the United States as long as we speak and walk softly within the realms of their great nation. After all, let’s not forget that they helped us to become a nation free of British rule.

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