You had me at bonjour!

Senior reflects on Global Studies trip to France 

St. Mary’s senior Maggie Akers was one of 23 students who traveled to France recently as part of the school’s Global Education Program. St. Mary’s Global Education program encourages students to investigate the world, recognize perspectives, communicate ideas, and take action. Global Education is a multi-faceted program that includes experiential, school-sponsored travel opportunities, academic coursework, and special programming. Upper School students now have the opportunity to earn a Global Scholars designation at graduation by focusing their coursework and extracurriculars on international studies. Click here to learn more.

Read below for Maggie's highlights from a “truly unforgettable” experience.

Landing in France was a relief. Long flights are not my friend, so I was ready to land in Paris, and honestly, I wanted to nap. That was not an option. We landed in France at 9 a.m., and our first day began. After a long walk through the airport, our tour director, Fabien, was waiting for us. We first went to our hotel to freshen up. Then we were off. We took the metro to see the Arc de Triomphe. It was the most strange feeling in the world—looking at the gigantic monument I’d seen a million times in photos. This was a repetitive feeling throughout the trip. Before the trip, I had not had the opportunity to travel out of the country or see many insanely famous landmarks.

The second day was a day I will never forget. We went to the Musée du Louvre. Art is a passion of mine, and I was very excited to explore the world-famous museum. That strange feeling was still present as we walked through the Jardin de Tuileries to the Louvre. Once we were inside, I took off running so I could see everything. I saw some of my favorite paintings that day. The very paintings that inspired me to be an artist. I will never forget looking at The Death of Marat. I did not consider this piece one of my favorite paintings before, but my mind quickly changed after seeing it in person. I developed a similar opinion about many more paintings, such as The Young Martyr and La Sortie du Bain. My feet were aching by the end of my treacherous walk through the Louvre; yet, I would do anything to experience the Louvre again. The emotional experience I had at the Louvre completely outweighed any physical pain. After dinner, we stared at an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower as it twinkled in the night. 

The next day, we took a short but magnificent trip to Normandy. The drive was incredible. I sat on the bus listening to music and looking outside at the stunning views of rural France. One of my favorite things about Normandy was the insane number of cows roaming around. I also really loved the food in Normandy. It was by far some of the best in France, especially for a vegetarian like me.

Two things I enjoyed doing most when we returned to Paris were seeing Notre Dame Cathedral and the Palais Garnier, the Paris opera house. A running joke during our trip was that whenever I saw a cathedral in Paris, I thought it was Notre Dame—everyone was constantly correcting me. However, when I finally saw Notre Dame, I knew exactly what I was looking at. The cathedral was huge, much bigger than I had imagined. Fabien, our tour guide, explained that Notre Dame is not perfectly symmetrical because it was built during a period when they could not measure everything. He shared that many people say it can’t be perfectly symmetrical because God is the only perfect being. I loved viewing the architecture in this symbolic way.

Visiting the opera house, which inspired The Phantom of the Opera musical, was another experience I will never forget. At first, I was not particularly excited to go, but my opinion changed the second I walked in. My mind was blown by how grand and ornate it was. As we walked through the theater, I could hear The Phantom of the Opera theme playing in my head. That song perfectly describes the opera house. 

Saying au revoir to France was very difficult. The trip was outstanding. I was not ready to go back to the United States. I feel like a Parisian now and would do anything to return.

Maggie Akers ’23

  • Upper School

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