Paris, France: Bienvenue from Madame Laguern

Submitted by Seir Khan on the 2016 fall semester study abroad program in Paris, France…

Madame Laguern, at first sight, is probably the cutest grandmother one could ever encounter. Donning the classic black and white clamshells, a simple skirt, and collared shirt covered by a knitted sweater, Madame Laguern’s daily energetic greeting, “Bonjour mes jeunes étudiants!” meaning, “Good morning my young students!”, always awoke us jet-lagged students arriving for our 10:00 a.m. rendezvous. Having to be older than 80, Madame Laguern has the vigor of a 16 year-old teenage girl when it came to speaking. It is safe to say that rather than holding a conversation with her students, Madame Laguern simply talks at them, and I did not complain one bit, because her French is as clear as the waters of Trinidad and Tobago. Once seated, she insisted we drink water, and left above each individual student’s seat, a sweet baked good, which we would all eat without hesitation or even sometimes, without grace.

For an American, there are a few things that may render one surprised about France or even Europe. The first thing that I found odd, is that in most places, the toilet is in a completely separate room than the sink or shower. I found that this arrangement is actually quite efficient. The second thing that I found quite surprising about France was the manner by which Madame Laguern decided to celebrate the end to our week long French lesson. While many professors of small classes may gift his or her students something sweet, Madame Laguern placed before each student a glass, and proceeded to pour into each one a serving of champagne. At 11:30 a.m., we found ourselves parting with a lady who found the week long company of ten American college students enjoyable enough that the finale merited a taste of quality champagne. Delightfully surprised, we American students would have never imagined a formal learning experience to include alcohol. However, we have a lot to learn about the role that moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages plays in French culture, and we were all honored to have had our initial learning efforts rewarded, with a single glass of champagne from a wonderful woman.