During the fall of 1974 I spent an academic term in Paris. I participated in Furman University’s Fall Term in Paris program. I had first learned of Furman’s foreign study programs from my college boyfriend who had gone on Furman’s Fall Term in London program. The popular London term had no foreign language requirement and focused on literature and history. When I tried to apply for it, the program for 1974 was already filled. However, there were openings in the Paris, France program. I found out that the language requirement could be met by completing the intermediate French course, which I did by attending summer school just prior to going to France. I also discovered that the emphasis in the Paris curriculum was on the arts and French culture. As a longtime student and lover of art, this was perfect for me.
On Our Way
Our small (12 students) group departed for France during the first week of September 1974. My father was out of town attending my great-uncle’s funeral so Mama and my boyfriend saw me off at the Charlotte airport. There were other students from Furman at the Charlotte airport, too. From Charlotte we flew to New York where we met additional members of our group. I carried one large yellow suitcase plus one smaller one. Another yet smaller bag doubled as my purse. My luggage contained a carefully planned wardrobe of mix-and-match separates. I also had a new camera that had been recommended by my amateur photographer boyfriend. I was ready for Paris!
A Mix-Up at Heathrow Airport
There was a small snafu at London’s Heathrow Airport, which we could laugh about later. On departure day in New York I was excited, nervous, and mostly oblivious to the fact that there were students leaving for the London program standing in line right in front of me. They were checking their bags to London. The person at the counter thought I was also going to London and thus checked my luggage to London as well. I just didn’t think to specify my destination as Paris, and the counter attendant didn’t ask. Standing behind me was the rest of the Paris group, and all of their bags were checked directly through to Paris. When we discovered the mistake, airport personnel assured me that I could retrieve my luggage at Heathrow and then check it to Paris. We were changing planes in London with an afternoon layover. Upon arrival at Heathrow, I quickly started trying to get my bags before our takeoff to Paris. I was instructed to go through various checkpoints at the airport. All would be well as long as I didn’t go too far and “land.” So I kept following directions until someone gave me bad information and I “landed.” This was my first time outside the United States, and I didn’t fully understand everything that was going on — especially this “landing” business. All afternoon the other college students from our group heard public address system announcements paging either me or our Furman French professor, who was chaperoning our group. They must have wondered what was going on! Eventually I was reunited with my luggage, and after a slightly bumpy flight across the channel, we arrived in Paris, the beautiful City of Light. I shall recall more memories of France later, but for now I’ll just say that the following weeks were among the happiest of my life. I fell in love with this romantic European capital with its splendid museums and architecture. Also I never ceased to be amazed at how even the toddlers there had such perfect French accents!
Dreams of Paris
I have often spoken of my experiences in France to my husband. We have watched many Rick Steves travel TV shows together. He had to know my longing to go back to France and to see Paris and Chartres Cathedral again. He knew that my college major was art history, and that I studied Medieval art and architecture in graduate school. So when he witnessed my declining health and increasing weakness, he made me a promise that he would take me to Paris if I could be able to walk and climb stairs again. Thus my one-time dream of returning to Paris was rekindled. Paris or Bust!
The “I Love Paris” vintage style postcard graphic on this page was licensed by me from Adobe Stock. It is copyrighted by paseven.