How Classes Are Going

My school, the American University of Paris, in the 7th arrondissement

My aunt Dana pointed out that I don’t really talk about classes on here. So I thought I’d give a little breakdown of both of them. Since I’m doing my senior work here, which is 4 credits, I’m only taking 10 credits at AUP. Six of them are from my French class which is taught by a woman named Nathalie Debroise who is usually a film and photography teacher but is now teaching French. I’m in her intermediate class because I tested into the *average* category (which I blame on my subpar French teacher at The New School last spring, sorry to point fingers but its ridiculous to have a young, pretty male teacher who gets by on charm without really teaching anyone anything). However, because of Nathalie’s background it’s kind of like I’m taking a film and photography class. We watch French movies like Paris Je T’aime and go to exhibits like the Jean-Paul Goude one I posted photos of, a Diane Arbus exhibit, and on Thursday we’re going to the Rodin museum. She’s the best French teacher I could have asked for because she teaches me by using my own language- that of media, which is incredibly effective. She’s also quite captivating as she’s very beautiful (thin, blond) and while was at first intimidating is open, kind, smart, and funny. There’s a good combination of book work and learning everyday speech: how to describe things like art, interact with peers and dates, and navigate the city. I’m in her class four days a week, one of those with a T.A. Hedwig (cue the Harry Potter theme) whose simple, nice, and pretty damn boring but goes slow enough that it’s easy to understand what she’s saying. On Wednesday we have a double block and that’s spent watching movies or going to museums. The class is at 1:45 from M-Th which means that I never have class before then. Kind of crazy. I might be babysitting in the morning for a film producer starting in 2 weeks so that would be a good way to get up and at em earlier.

The other four credits are from my Making a Documentary class with Lawrence Pitkethly, a man from Belfast, Ireland who had a production company in the West Village in NYC for 20 years, studied in London, worked at BBC, and interviewed the Rolling Stones around 1967. He did an interesting piece on the burning of Bombay Street in Belfast which can be read about here: if anyone is curious. I absolutely love his class. I’m using it as a platform to create a multimedia extension of my thesis, potentially the same topic but maybe a piece about Patrick in the lunchroom at the American School of Paris. There are only about 6 students in total. So far we have watched portions of:

  • Nanook of the North by Robert Flaherty (a beautiful film about surviving life as an eskimo I had seen before and can never tire of)
  • Christo by Albert Maysles (about the artist Christo and his project of wrapping the Pont Neuf in silk linens)
  • L’ être et L’avoirby (a charming film about young students in rural France and their devoted teacher)
  • Night and Fog by Alain Resnais (an art film on Auschwitz I had seen last spring in my film and philosophy lecture which still leaves me feeling sick to my stomach)
  • The Fog of War by Errol Morris (on Robert McNamara, U.S. Secretary of Defense during the JFK and Johnson presidencies who exposed truths about the Cold and Vietnam wars, how close we came to nuclear war, and how close we still are)
  • Hoop Dreams by Steve James (about the struggle for two boys to become pro basketball players starting from the start of high school)
  • Fahrenheit 9/11 (nuff said…and appropriately watched on President’s Day)

So far so good and I’m really happy with my classes. In contrast I’ve heard other students complain about their workloads or lack of structure so I feel fortunate to have navigated my class choices with finesse for my last semester of undergrad. After all the classes I have taken in college (including Russian Lit, NYC garbage, Buddhist Meditation, Marketing and Advertising, Fashion Merchandising, Painting, 2D, Journalism, Nonfiction, Fiction, Writing for Publication, Financial Management, Managing Group Projects, Italian, French, Film and Philosophy, Genocide, Ephemeral Art, and Food and Migrations) this has been the best combination in terms of useful tools for both academics and daily life. The classes at AUP seem to be similar to Lang in terms of small class sizes and their ability to get pretty personal/heady but also seem to focus on a lot more highly academic subjects. Hard to say though. They were supposed to merge with NYU a few years ago but didn’t want to “sell out.” The school events are hit or miss, although usually chock full of wine, the administration is really helpful, the registrars office is frustrating, and the IT guys are gods. Pretty typical of any University. I’m happy thus far, we’ll see what I feel at the end of April!


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