One of the main reasons why I chose to do the IES Abroad Metropolitan Studies program in Berlin was because of the field trips that that are built into our semester. Initially, our first field trip together was supposed to be to Istanbul, but because of political conflict, it was changed to Paris.
This was my first time to Paris and it has been one of the most interesting experiences I've had abroad so far.
On our second day in Frace, the Brussel attacks happened. It was the morning of our trip to Versailles, so for most of the morning we were aware that the attacks had happened, but did not have access to wifi to find out any more information. When we got back to the hotel 5 hours later and were all flooded with messages from our family and friends about our safety. Even though these set of attacks were not in Paris, the energy in the city, on public transportation, and among our loved ones made everyone a little nervous about being in public spaces and traveling.
The next day, our group visited a mosque in the center of Paris, which ended up being the most meaningful excursion for many of us during our week-long trip. Our tour guide was both French and Muslim, and a professor of Religion at a local university. He was extremely receptive to our questions about the relationship French people have with their Muslim population after the Paris attacks, and reminded us all of what Islam means to non-extremists, not just as a religion, but as a way of life.
In light of the Paris and Brussels attacks, I think there has been a natural reaction for people to become more nationalistic and protective of their own country and people. However, visiting the mosque in Paris, and living in Berlin where so many refugees have fled to has reminded me that the best way to combat international terrors is not to shut people out, but to instead embrace the displaced and shattered people and nations of the world.
The remainder of our trip was filled with many of the classic Parisian excurisions, but our visit to the mosque remains the most important excursion of all.
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<p>Hi there! My names is Fiona and I am a student at Marist College studying Political Science and Art History. I am a big fan of chocolate chip cookies, cross-word puzzles, watching old movies, and of course, traveling! I will be spending a semester in Berlin to learn all about cities, the importance of urban environments, and the local cuisine!</p>