People around the world dream of going to Paris, lounging in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and strolling alongside the historic Seine River. A group of 14 WSU students, led by design professors Carrie Vielle and Robert Krikac, turned this fantasy into an exciting study experience in the summer of 2014.
After 4,900 miles, and 12 hours, they arrived in the City of Light facing a blast of jet lag and ready to explore. Hopping aboard a cab, the wide-eyed students dropped their items off at a seventeenth-century hotel near The Louvre, and hit the streets before they fell asleep. With only 12 days to cover the 41-square-mile city, there was little time to rest. Walking around the Parisian streets merely to stay awake, they stumbled upon a centuries-old ribbon and button shop.
“Now, that doesn’t sound like it would be anything other than a fabric store, but let me tell you, you walk in and you instantly feel these 300-year-old oak floors creaking under you. As far as the eye can see are these shoots of light coming in from who knows where the windows are, but they’re highlighting these fuchsia, turquoise, and teal ribbons that are blowing in the breeze. It’s just like out of a movie,” Vielle explains.
Sophomore Abigail Metcalf and junior Julie Harvey joined the small group of students for this opportunity. This was not the first time in Paris for Harvey, but joining the study tour brought a whole new light to the city. “To go with Bob and Carrie brings such an educational component to it, and I really cannot say enough about that,” says Harvey, “I learned things that you don’t even think about. It makes you see design a little differently.”
Sketchbooks in hand at every stop, the students documented their voyage with striking illustrations. Sketching can be an intimidating task for those who’ve never picked up a sketch-book, but Krikac and Vielle offer support and instruction. Art brings a firsthand appreciation for the vast amount of details and uniqueness in each building. “You’re just so in the moment when you’re sketching. You have to be. You’re studying the whole building in a different way,” says Harvey.
Students partook in more than sketching. Metcalf is a photography fanatic, and chose to study the monuments through her camera lens. Studying through the eyes of your passion has the power to make everything more remarkable. As Metcalf reminisces on the most memorable parts of the trip, her face illuminates.
“I was sitting there while Bob was sketching and I took the photo of a few classmates in front of me with Bob standing there and the Eiffel Tower in the background. It just sunk in that I was in Paris having class underneath the Eiffel Tower. I was sitting on the lawn crisscross-applesauce, with my camera. It was simple but truly mind-blowing,” says Metcalf.
The students soaked up the knowledge from their leaders. “We’ll have breakfast in the hotel every morning: croissants, fruit, and coffee. Then it’s usually too crowded in there to talk about things so we find a quiet space on the site and have class about the site we’re at,” explains Krikac. He and Vielle taught at the Eiffel Tower, Arch de Triomphe, Musée d’Orsey, Château de Versailles, as well as many other French treasures.
After their studies, the students departed for three days of exploring independently. “That’s another really special experience of this specific study tour,” says Vielle, “It’s a faculty-led tour but students still get to branch out and experience it on their own.”
Some chose to revisit their favorite locations, and some chose to leave Paris completely and travel around France. Metcalf traveled 440 miles south to Uzes, France, and returned home with more than she ever imagined. “The tickets ended up being kind of expensive, but I didn’t care. I was only here once and I was really excited. I went to Uzes and met a guy that I’m still dating,” she says with a huge grin on her face, “and now he lives in the neighborhood next to mine in Seattle.”