Honors Students Explore “Flaneur” During Trip to France, Netherlands

By Jenna Pizzi

Published on July 22, 2019

Honors Student Visit Netherlands and France. Photos by David Broytman BMS'21

USciences Honors Program traveled with 21 students and three faculty to Amsterdam, Netherlands; Paris, France; and Normandy, France from May 7 to 16, 2019 to explore the theme of the flâneur. The term flâneur comes from the French masculine noun flâneur—which has the basic meaning of “stroller”, “lounger”, “saunterer”, “loafer”—which itself comes from the French verb flâner, which means “to stroll”.  The students have explored this theme throughout the year during their courses on campus, and their time abroad is a further extension of the idea. 

StudentsHonors faculty Christine Flanagan, associate professor of English, Stephen Moelter, honors program director and associate professor of psychology, and Sam Talcott, associate professor of philosophy led the 10-day travel-study adventure. 

Students began the journey in Amsterdam where they explored the city for two days, consisting of walking tours along the canal-lined streets, seeing Cross Dam Square, the royal palace Koninklijk and Ann Frank’s House. In Paris, the group spent four days touring various sites including the Latin Quarter, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. They finished their trip with a visit to the Normandy region where they saw Omaha Beach and the D-Day Museum  and the American Cemetery. 

Travel

A Reflection from Nazifa Promi Bio'21: 

What does it mean to be a flaneur? Literally, it means “the man who wanders” but what good does wandering do? What can we learn? In one particular assignment during my first semester of sophomore year, I went on two trips through Philadelphia and came to the conclusion that the main purpose of flaneur is to learn about our surroundings as well as to learn about ourselves. I found that learning about the environment is easy, but learning about the self takes a little more work.

photographyI always try and find ways to be more eco friendly, but I’ve noticed that many Americans prefer convenience. I began thinking about why there seemed to be such stark cultural differences between the two societies. Surely there might be a way to convince more Americans to take small steps until it becomes a part of culture?  On the first day there, I decided to buy my mom a mug. I bought a beautiful blue mug that the lovely store owner wrapped in wrapping paper. And then she handed it to me and I realized she expected me to put the item in my purse. I did, because why not? It fits.

Many students their experience from a different perspective after having traveled and experienced a new culture. The honors students also learned about World War II and the tragedies during D-Day during a trip to Normandy, France. 

Paris

A Reflection from Cindy Hong Neuro'21

Part of this [to flaneur] meant documenting our experiences and thoughts in an attempt to understand what it meant to wander without a plan or cause. Although I’d like to say I succeeded in becoming a flaneur, I don’t think I really did because I struggled a lot in going along with changes in plans or fearlessly getting lost. However, I’m able to accept that reality may never line up with my expectations no matter how much I force it to happen. I came to this state of mind through 3 core lessons I learned on my trip.

Selfie   1. Learning to roll with the punches.

     2. Learn from others. 

     3. Honor our history and our nation

When I got back from (Normandy,) France, I visited one of my regulars at the VA hospital on D-day. I mostly showed him pictures of Normandy and the sites we visited but I think it really touched him because he started to open up about his own experiences in the war. He didn’t talk about it much but he told me the experience he had was horrific but when he knows it wasn’t in vain, it makes the physical pain more bearable and the emotional pain easier to forget. 

While war is terrible, one of the readings I remembered from Dr. Talcott’s class said that our world thrives on strife. Maybe war is something that’s unavoidable as horrific as it is, but refusing to acknowledge it or pay respect to those who fight in wars is just as bad. 

For some students the experience in Normandy was a realization of a personal familial story of the war, having heard of the experience from their own family members. Normandy

A Reflection from Meghan Sheridan PharmD'21: 

My grandpa was a paratrooper who landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. It was important to my mom that someone in our family went to the American Cemetery and beaches where so many of his friends died.

I know that it was hard for me to be there because I kept thinking that my grandpa’s name could have easily been one of these crosses, which would have meant that I would never be born. Every single cross represented an end to a potential family for these young men and women. When I realized that, there was such a feeling of grief mixed with gratefulness that my grandpa survived. I will never forget that feeling and I wish my grandpa was still alive so I could thank him.

The students traveled to Amsterdam, Netherlands where among many cultural touchpoints they visited the Anne Frank House, where the young girl hid with her family from 1942 to 1944 and where she penned the poignant dairy that details the experience of being a Jew in the midst of the holocaust. 

Amsterdam

A Reflection from Vaishnavi Kundur BMS'21: 

My favorite place that we visited in Amsterdam has to be the Anne Frank house. We have always learned so much about the Holocaust and about Anne Frank, but being there and walking over her and her family’s footsteps was a different experience. I could not fathom that we were standing exactly where she used to stand and seeing what she used to see. 

Another thing that stood out to me is the debate on the Red Light District in Amsterdam. It is really interesting that prostitution is legal and on display in this part of Amsterdam, but is this idea progressive or is it more regressive? I say progressive because people that are in this profession make the choice to do it. They are not being trafficked or forced into it and its legality makes it safer for them. However, the other side of this is that this is helping women be oversexualized. However, the other side is that the women that are sex workers make this choice so they can dress how they want and act how they want, even though there is an expectation. Therefore, just like the legalization of marijuana in Amsterdam, I believe having this Red Light District is a progressive thought.

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