Day 1: Reflection of Past Travels
I love travelling, I really do. It’s a fantastic way to gain new experiences in an exciting environment. Even when far away from home, you can always find something, however small or large, that resembles home but while in a new place. The experiences, the relationships that form from travelling, the rush of embarking on a new adventure is something that I am kind of a huge junkie for.
A quick back story on me: my passion for travelling comes from my father. He absolutely loves travelling, more than I do, and any chance he gets to see the world he takes advantage of. When we were younger, he made sure that my sister and I got to travel, and we would travel across the country going to different places. My favorite trip that we ever took was when we went to San Francisco. I remember riding the trolley and thinking about how exciting that was, and how I needed to make travelling an integral part of my life.
This trip to Europe will be an exciting addition to my travels. I know there are some people who are weary about travelling via planes, but I just see it as a necessary evil. Looking back on my travels, both continental and international, I have 5 tips to help make those plane rides just slightly better:
1: Always have an extra pair of socks, always. It may seem silly, but you never know how cold that space you will be in is until you realize you can’t feel your toes.
2: If possible, get a window seat! As well as always having something to at, the variety of sleeping positions that open up to you is substantially more than available on the aisle seat.
3: Pack a toothbrush or just something to help you clean your teeth, because even something as small as brushing your teeth will help you feel rejuvenated and ready to take on your travels when you get off the plane.
4: Snacks man, snacks. I know on all flights they give you some pretzels or if it’s a really long flight you can get a meal, but don’t rely on those alone. Bring granola bars, buy some snack food at the airport to bring onto the plane- you won’t regret it.
5: Be prepared to be uncomfortable and make the best of it. Whenever your butt is in pain or your neighbor is asleep on your shoulder, just remember that it’s only a few hours of your life, the flight will have to end at some point, and when it does you will be at a new place with great experiences ahead!
These experiences are usually once in a lifetime, and I am not a stranger to the fact that I am beyond blessed to be able to go on this trip. I am excited to learn about these incredible places, learn how they have changed throughout the year, and more excitingly see how they will change me.
Day 3: Social Media Enlightenment
Our day began with a roundtable lecture at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Center (CIPR) with professionals in the field of Public Relations. The professionals, Rebecca Kerry, Anton Perreau, and Pamela Mounter discussed the work they do in their field and their thoughts about the growth of social media.
Though each individual is working within the field of public relations, the work they do is all different. Rebecca Kerry of Unilever is currently in school and working with Unilever in their marketing and public relations department. Anton Perreau of Battenhalll is 25 years old, he helped start the agency he works at, and has been named a “Top 30 Under 30” within the field of PR by PR Weekly. Pamela Mounter, a professor at Birmingham City University, has been everywhere – she has worked at countless agencies throughout the years, has taught classes on social media, and currently works with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.
I think the fact that these three people are all in the same field but doing different work is shows how diverse the field of public relations is. Often I get asked what my major at university is, and then I get asked what I can do with my major. I try to explain that there are a lot of jobs in the field, that all companies need some sort of public relations, and that the field is one that is heard but rarely seen, but this just stumps most people. Having the ability to talk with these people and see where their career in PR has taken them was motivating, to say in the least. After leaving the lecture, I felt so much more secure in what I was pursuing and much more excited to jump into the job market.
While all of the speakers are incredible, I was absolutely fascinated with Mr. Perreau. He is exceedingly accomplished for his age and just has a fantastic outlook on the field of PR and about being a part of the work force. There was one thing he said about the field that really stayed with me: “Social media is the evolution of public relations”. It was a simple statement that describes what is going on in PR, and for its simplicity it carries a lot of weight. As we all know, social media and the content on it is forever developing; it’s either a new and popular or updating and “old” (as in a few months old). His statement really captures the essence of public relations, that the needs of it are always changing and social media place in public relations will always grow and continue to become increasingly integrated within public relations.
This was absolutely my favorite lecture we have attended on our trip thus far. Hearing from all of the professionals on their careers and thoughts on the field made me extremely excited to begin working. This past year I have been so nervous about whether I am on the right path and if this is what I want to be my life’s work, and after attending this lecture I have never been so sure of myself and the path I’m on.
Day 4: History and Comparisons
Today was our first day in Paris and it was quite a doozy! We saw the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and took a moonlit cruise on the River Seine. My favorite part of today was getting to see Notre Dame; last year my parents went to Paris and every time someone mentions the city near my dad he starts raving about how incredible it is. After seeing it for myself, I can say that I wholeheartedly agree with my father – it was absolutely stunning. The attention to detail was immaculate and the overall beauty of it was overwhelming.
Despite all the pictures I took of it, I don’t think any of them could do it justice. Comparing the two cities, it is quite obvious to see that the Parisians cherish the culture of their city over everything and have worked so hard to preserve it. The architecture in Paris is quite grandiose and very old, while the city of London had a mix of older and newer architecture. This is in large part due to World War 2, because the French had surrounded to Germany while England kept its hold and continued to fight against the Germans. Many people theorize that France was overtaken and surrendered so quickly because they did not want to be bombed and see their cities and all of the history, especially Paris, destroyed. While this is just a theory, it is an interesting reflection on the French and their love for their culture and need for preservation.
I enjoyed our first day in the city quite a bit, but I couldn’t help but keep thinking about to Pittsburgh. It was not because I missed being home (because I really don’t) but because it was interesting to compare the two cities. Paris obviously has a longer and more incredible history than Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh is not a new city either. The history of the city can be traced back to the French and Indian War that took place in the 1750s, where a battle between the French and British took place. Pittsburgh is also old, but we’re continuously advancing and finding new ways to become a “young” city.
The idea of youth in cities is an interesting variance between the two cities and even differences between France and the United States. France places so much importance on its past and staying true to its historic roots, and the idea of modernization is not something the French take kindly to. In 1973 the only skyscraper in the city limits of Paris, the Tour Montparnasse, was built, and immediately after it was finished people hated it because it did not fit with what Paris was and was unsightly (and quite frankly I agree with them).
In America, we are always looking for ways to be “modern” and creating ways to attract younger generations. Preservation of historic locations is important, but the absolute need for preservation is not something we place as much emphasis on. Before I left on this trip I was talking to my sister, and she said after I graduate she wants us to move to Denver because it is a young and hip city. I’m not saying that I mind that cities are catering to my generation and trying to attract us because I actually love it. I just wish that there were places in the US where people flocked to singularly for its history, architecture, or art, as people do to France.
Day 5: Ketchum Paris
It is interesting to learn how media agencies in different countries operate. At home in Pittsburgh, I have taken tours and attended lectures at a few advertising agencies, but never a tour of an agency that focuses specifically on public relations. Our tour to Ketchum Paris, an international public relations agency, provided new insights to how PR agencies operate and the people at work within them.
The president of Ketchum’s Paris branch, Phillipe Beteille, gave the Point Park communication students a lecture on the work he and his employees do daily, as well as shared some thoughts about the field of public relations. Mr. Beteille was a captivating speaker whose words were wise and passionate. After working in the field for over 20 years, he has a deep understanding of the challenges that are faced when working in a field that is overworked and under-appreciated.
When discussing public relations and its perception in mainstream culture, Mr. Beteille made a point to discuss the lack of perception regarding PR. There was one thing Mr. Beteille said that had really stuck out to me: “People understand the importance of advertising but not PR”. The truth of this statement cannot be stressed enough. Advertising can be observed almost everywhere; I would suggest trying to keep count of how many ads you see on your next commute to work, but you would lose count because of how many you would find. However, avidly looking for signs for a company’s use of public relations is not necessarily as easy.
Business and advertising go hand in hand, but it seems as though “buy this, sell that, you NEED this” mentality has overtaken many cultures. While that’s not necessarily fine, it’s also not a new phenomenon. As companies continue to expand and as the use of social media and other outlets are used to scrutinize these companies, the need for PR has become significantly greater. But when I talk about public relations to my family and friends, I find that I have to always give explanation about what exactly it is. Every time I go home, my dad asks me “What is public relations?” and “What kind of job can you get with that?” I shudder to think of the questions I will have to answer this summer at my family reunion.
This school year was very difficult for me – I was not focused on my school work, involved in programs that made me feel terrible about myself and made me question every choice I made, and overall I just felt really awful about myself. I lost sight of what I was passionate about, and I am so unbelievably grateful to be on this trip and to be falling in love with public relations and advertising again. I loved our discussion with Mr. Beteille about the work he is so passionate about. Hearing about the experiences of such a dedicated person inspires me to push myself with my work and strive to always want to do better than my best.
Day 9 Part 1: Disneyland Paris
The last leg of our tour of media outlets in France took us to the one and only Disneyland Paris! This visit was a great way to end the formal educational part of the trip. The cast members who gave the lecture were lively and so passionate about their work, and the lecture itself was fascinating to listen to.
For a long time now I have been saying how much I would love to work at Disney. The environment, the freedom of creativity and the fact that their job is promoting happiness has always been very appealing to me. It is always uplifting to be around other people who are living their life with a positive attitude and excitement for every day, and the cast members we met thrived on enthusiasm and passion for the work they do. As soon as the cast members started talking about their jobs, I felt right at ease with them. They were all in love with their jobs, with some of the cast members having been at the Disneyland Paris location since its creation. That in itself amazed me- when I hear about the work force, I am always told that no matter what I do I will never stay with the same company forever, and that I will have at least 7 different careers in my life. I am not discouraged by this statement, because I know that it is true. However, the cast members we met have made me rethink this statement that I have accepted as fact. If I find a job I love working at as much as they do with Disney, why isn’t it possible that I would stay there as long as possible.
This is an idea I have observed consistently from my time in both London and Paris, that as long as you love the work you are doing, you won’t mind doing it. I have been told time and time again to find a job that I love and makes me excited about, and while I think that it is obvious that I’m going to seek this out, at the same point it is not that easy. Yes, I want to find a job that makes me feel like I’m really contributing to the company and that what I’m doing is making a difference, but the only time life works out that well is in movies.
Many professionals we have spoken with have said about their career that they got to where they are because they got lucky or they knew someone, and it really worries me that I am potentially leaving my career to the hands of fate.The only professional we have met who has actively chosen where he is going to take his career was cast member Damien Vayne at Disneyland Paris, who works as an International Press Relations Representative. Ever since he was a child he wanted to work for Disney and he did everything in his power to get to work within the company he loves. While I’m always excited to see where my life is going to take me, the idea that some random happenstance may alter where I go with my life completely terrifies me.
Day 9 Part 2: A Few of My Favorite Things
I feel as though I use the word “incredible” a lot in my blog posts to describe different activities or feelings I’ve experienced on this trip, but that is truly the best word I feel can describe what I am a part of. Truthfully speaking, Paris is one of the most incredible places I have been to, and I am no stranger to travel.
During our 6 days in in the city, we stayed in Montmartre, home to the Moulin Rouge, as well as the artist district where famous impressionist painters such as Picasso and Van Gogh lived and worked. We were a short ride on the Metro away from other attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame. While I loved everything we did in the city, I have a list of my top 5 favorite sites we went to, and my recommendations of what visitors to Paris must see (#1 being the highest):
5: Tall, dark, and beautiful…yes, I am referring to the Eiffel Tower during the day. It was lovely to see after traveling for so long, and its beauty is unmistakable, but I could only look at it for 10 minutes before I wanted to move onto something else.
4: Let me start by saying that the Louvre was absolutely immaculate. The former palace was massive, the architecture was simply stunning, the Tuileries Garden was beautiful, and getting to see the Mona Lisa was wonderful. But the Louvre was so large and I was so exhausted, which lead to me being incredibly overwhelmed while being there. If you every want to go through the entire museum, make sure to devote an entire day, because I was there for an hour and a half and didn’t even get through one section.
3: Seeing the Eiffel Tower during the day is a very different experience than seeing it at night. The beautiful lights of the city in the background and the illumination of the Tower was beautiful. What really makes it an incredible sight is that at 10, 11, and midnight on the hour for 7 minutes, the Eiffel Tower will sparkle. Sitting on the lawn in front of it and enjoying the company you are while watching it shine is an elevating experience that I would recommend to anyone.
2: When my parents came back from their trip to Paris last year, one thing my father kept raving about was the Musee D’Orsay, and I didn’t exactly get why. After going there myself, I agree entirely with my father about how fantastic the museum is. I may be slightly biased because I love Impressionism and museum entry was free that night, but I wholeheartedly believe that the Musee D’Orsay is much more enjoyable than the Louvre. Being able to see the works of Renoir, Money and my favorite artist Vincent Van Gogh was a humbling experience and I felt like I could really connect with their work as opposed to the classical and renaissance paintings in the Louvre.
1: Notre Dame was awe-inspiring. Every detail was perfection and seeing the inside of the cathedral was just amazing. The carvings above the doors were unbelievable, especially the archway above the middle door, which the carvings depict Judgment Day. I’m searching myself to find the right words to describe my experience but I’m coming up speechless. I just know that I could have looked at the cathedral all day if I had that kind of time.
Day 10: European Media and Me
As a Public Relations & Advertising major, I am always keeping my eyes peeled for interesting ads or creative PR tactics. I love watching films to see how obvious the product integration is and I follow numerous companies on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms to see how companies utilize their social media. I try my hardest to see what I am studying in everything I do, and for the most part I am exceedingly observant. So while I am abroad, I have been trying to be extra vigilant about the advertisements and public relations campaigns around us.
The field of communication is fairly similar from culture to culture and the differences between media in the United States, London and Paris are more subtle, but there are some variances that are worth noting. One of the more indirect differences I had noticed during our stay in London was how text heavy advertisements were. American adverts are typically more visually driven; too much print and that could steer away potential consumers from paying attention to the ad. While in the Tube station and car, I observed that there was a noticeable amount of adverts that were especially print heavy. It made sense to see that the large adverts in the station were heavier with text because there was more white space to fill, but I was surprised at how many ads I saw in the Tube car that were loaded with print. I’m not sure if this is typical for British advertising or if those companies just had a lot to say, but it was interesting to compare to US advertising.
I am used to seeing advertisements everywhere I go back home and the situation was not much different in London, so I did not even think to expect otherwise when we got to Paris. That being said, it took me a few days to notice how few advertisements there were inside the Metro cars. Of course there were uncountable amounts of ads in the station and the corridors leading up to it, but the inside of the cars there were very few, if any at all to be found. I think this is an interesting reflection on the French and their relationship with media and the “buy/sell” mindset I had mentioned a few blog posts back. Americans are known for constantly working and being on the move, while the French (and other European countries) are known for working less, having paid month long vacations, and taking their time to get things done. I am, for instance, embracing the work ethic of the French by taking my time to enjoy my trip and leisurely write these blog posts.
The “buy/sell” mindset is relevant in comparison with the United States and the French in that Americans have just incorporated that outlook into their everyday life. I can honestly say that as an American, I am used to seeing advertisements everywhere and having that constant notion that someone, somewhere, is trying to sell me something. The French, however, want to enjoy their commute to work or wherever they are going in peace without the constant nuisance that advertisements can provide.
The stereotype I have greatly associated with Europeans, namely the French, is that they are very sexual and not quick to censor their media…and I was quite correct with about that. Watching television or flipping through their magazines, it was easy to see that the French really did not give a hoot about how sexual the content of a program or ad may be. London did have some sexualized advertisements, but more comparable to that of the United States as opposed to the French.
For the most part, I am all for keeping the media as uncensored as possible, but my views on sexualizing ads and other media flip-flops all the time. I’m for it, because I think to take away the negative social stigma that comes with the phrase “female sexuality”, people need to be exposed to it more – make it a norm so that the negative connotation associated with it dissipates. However, what I don’t like is how extremely sexualized men and women are in advertisements, more often pointlessly so, to the point where each sex looks at the other as though they are just an object and no longer a person.
In Normandy, a group of us students were looking through a magazine and saw a couple of adverts for a brand of watches that featured a naked woman modeling a watch in needlessly sexualized poses – holding it on her upper thigh, in her mouth, between her breasts, etc. Maybe I’m just not that company’s target audience, but I just don’t think that watches are THAT sexy and that the company should not have objectified the woman as they did. I am thoroughly enjoying observing the differences between American and European media. It’s interesting to be able to make connections to what I know, while also getting to experience mass media in a way I have never before been able to.
Day 11: A Foodie Abroad
I wish I was one of those people who didn’t have to constantly snack or could eat a “light” dinner and be done with it, but I am not so lucky. As Bernard Marx from the book Brave New World states, “I am I, and I wish I wasn’t.” My endless need to eat is both a gift and a curse, so having the ability to try so many new foods while abroad has been a dream come true. I am a picky eater whose dream is to travel the world and taste the food of different cultures, akin to that of Eat Pray Love. I would like to share a few of the most memorable food experiences I have had on this trip to date to paint the picture of a foodie abroad.
The first tale I would like to tell is one of a love that was destined to end…my first and last encounter with goat cheese. Let me dress the stage for you: it was our first day in Paris, we had all been up since 3:30 that morning, we had been sight-seeing all day long and our feet were killing us. Dinner time finally rolls around, and all of our eyes were bright with glee, ready to experience our first Parisian meal. The restaurant is darling – small, man on the piano playing renditions of Simon and Garfunkel, dim lighting. If there were ever a place to fall in love, it would have been at this café.
We patiently wait for the first course to be served, enjoying each other’s company as our excitement builds for the goat cheese salad we are about to receive. I have never had goat cheese before this moment, so my nerves were on high, but my dedication to try new things helped me take that first bite when the salad arrived.
It was one of the most incredible things I have ever tasted. The goat cheese was on this toasted piece of bread, itself being slightly toasted and perfectly seasoned. I tried to take my time eating the two pieces they gave us, but my excitement got the better of me and it was gone before I had the chance to give it a proper goodbye. It was one of the most delightful foods I tasted during my stay in Paris, and I tried a lot. Unless I am in Paris or that specific café again, I am never going to eat goat cheese again, because I don’t want this fond memory I have for it to be tarnished.
I have never really been a seafood kind of gal. I understand the appeal and have wished it was something that interested me, but up until recently I have never been able to bring myself to get into it. Lately I have been trying to go outside my comfort zone and be more adventurous, and my taste palette is no exception. I have slowly worked my way from sushi to shrimp, but being in London, the biggest task was upon me: fish & chips. The build up to my first real fish experience was wonderful – a delicious salad, big pint of cider, fantastic company…but at last the time was upon me. With trembling fork and knife, I dove into the first cut of fish and that was it for me. I was in love. Ever since that moment, I have been craving a cool pint and a hot fish with some chips on the side.
As the dessert portion of this blog post comes around, I can honestly say that I had some of the most incredible desserts while in Paris, but nothing that compares to the macaroons I had. We were walking in the Latin Quarter that first day when our tour guide, Vincent, points out to us a place where we can buy macaroons. My friends and I decide to come back to the place when we had more free time, which happened to be two nights later. At first, I wasn’t going to buy any, because “I didn’t need dessert” and “I really should save more money”, but the price (5 for 5 Euros) was unbeatable.
Before I continue, I would like to point out that I have before had macaroons – Aimee Dorsten, our instructor, once brought them in for us, and they were wonderful. However, those were nothing compared to what I got from that little shop. The flavors were so bold and friendly, the colors so vivid, and texture was what can simply be described as perfection. I was seeing stars after my finishing my first macaroon, and I still had four more to go. Needless to say, we went back 3 more times, and each time the macaroons got better.
While these were the three best dishes I had during my stay abroad, I would just like to make a point to say that almost everything I ate was absolutely delicious. I tried so many new foods that I never would have before, and there was never a day where I thought angrily to myself, “Wow, that meal was terrible.” I don’t think it’s possible for that to happen when you’re at two of the food capitals of the world.
Back At Home: The Story’s End
It’s been a little over a week now since I have been home from Europe and my soul is slowly dying. I see traces of my trip to Europe everywhere I go now that I’m home- the baguette my roommate and I split the other day wasn’t fresh enough, the ‘T’ (Pittsburgh’s “subway” system, the Trolley) isn’t complicated enough and there are no street performers hassling me for money in there, I don’t have our incredible guide Vincent Lauferon to tell me the history about every architectural structure in my immediate vicinity.
There are so many little things that I don’t think I appreciated enough while I was over there that I’m seriously regretting now. Not that I’m missing the people hassling me to buy cheap knick-knacks or how expensive everything was, but it’s the sum of all those good and bad things that I miss. One thing I kept thinking about when I was over there was, “I’m seeing all of these astounding things and meeting so many inspiring people, how am I going to go home and incorporate everything I’m learning and doing into my regular life?” Being home for a week now, I still have no clue how I’m going to do it. There are three major elements of the trip that I want to try and uphold in my life:
1: Have deep and intellectual talks with my friends – I do occasionally, but not on the level I did with the friends I made on this trip. Having these kinds of discussions gave me a new kind of confidence, because I do have a lot of valuable input about important and relevant topics and I shouldn’t be afraid to share them with other people.
2: Maintain the friendships I have made on this trip, because they are some of the most intelligent and wonderful people I have ever met and I would be an idiot to not try and keep up communication with them. It was great to meet people who study the same thing I do and talk with them about what we want to do with our lives, and aside from that they were just pleasant as all get-up to be around.
3: Keep feeling passionate and excited about my major and about my future – I fell back in love with what I’m studying at Point Park on this trip, and I don’t want to lose that feeling. I never again want to feel like I’m not good enough to be in my major or dread the thought of graduating or getting a job, because that was an insufferable part of my life.
I am working hard to make these an integral part of my life, but one thing that worries me is how quickly I assimilated back to US standards of use with social media. I enjoy learning about social media and its practical uses, and I do enjoy its recreational uses as well, but being detached from it for 2 weeks was marvelous. It felt freeing to not feel the need to check Facebook every time I was in an elevator or think about what Instagram filter I could put on any pictures I took. But when that plane landed in Pittsburgh, one of the first things that I did was turn my phone on and checked Facebook.
I have noticed this past week as well that when I don’t know what to do with myself, I’m on social media, even though I was just on it literally 10 minutes ago. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism or maybe I’m just another cog in the social media machine, but something has got to change because now that I know what a (relatively) disconnected life is like, I want to make sure that I’m making it a norm in my life.
Being able to go to London and Paris was a total dream come true. While I loved both cities, I felt such a spiritual connection with the city of London. There have been few times in my life where I felt so at peace and content with where I was at, and I feel unfulfilled that I wasn’t able to stay there longer. I’m not certain about many things in my life, but one thing I do know is that this trip to London was not my last.
I’m sad that this is my last post, because it means that the trip is really over. I don’t like to say this often, but I feel so incredibly blessed that I have had the opportunity to go on this trip and meet all the amazing people that I have and that I was able to learn as much as I did. I feel like a new person because of this trip and I like who that person is so much. I can’t wait to keep seeing the world and learning new things about myself. I have never felt more confident or ready to take on the world!