Pitt prepares for annual Paris trip


Image from Pitt’s French in Paris program

Patrick McGinnis, Sports Writer

As the spring semester winds down, Pitt-Johnstown French professor David Petrosky already knows how he’ll be spending the first portion of his summer vacation: with 25 students in Paris.

Through part of a program offered by the University of Pittsburgh, the students will embark on a month-long trip to France in early May. Each student attending will have gone through a demanding and detailed application process and will earn six credits toward their degree.

Roughly 40 students apply each year for 25 open slots. After the travelers are chosen, students desiring to join the Pitt in Paris trip will be placed on a waitlist, Petrosky said, since some attendees end up withdrawing from the trip for various reasons.

Students from any of Pitt’s five campuses can attend. Courtney Todd, a senior who double majors in business and healthcare information systems while minoring in French, is the only student attending from the Johnstown campus this summer.

“I don’t know anyone else going on this program, but I think that makes it really exciting,” Todd said. “I always liked going to different places and experiencing culture, and this time I get to do it with people who have no clue who I am. I think that aspect will make the trip much more fun and interesting.”

While Todd may not be familiar with any of her fellow travelers from other campuses, Petrosky hopes that will change by the end of the trip.

“It’s like when you have a new teacher, you get nervous, it takes time for us to get to know each other,” he said. “Well, I’m now surrounded by 15-20 people I’ve never met before, and we have to be with them all the time. That’s a very iffy moment. I hope we get along, so there’s this original ‘feeling out’ moment. The best moment is towards the end when we go out to dinner together and we talk, and you realize that they’ve gelled as a group, it’s a really special thing to them, and they tell us that they appreciate it. It’s just a really satisfying moment when you realize it was a success, it worked.”

While in Paris, the group will take two courses taught in English. These courses take place five times a week for roughly three hours per day.

Aside from instructing students, Petrosky said he has one more primary job while on this trip: acting as a chaperone on excursions, which can include musical concerts, museum tours such as to the Louvre or the Palace of Versailles, or wine and cheese tasting. “In some ways, our job is pretty easy,” he explained.

While most of the work of organizing the trip is handled by an organization called CEA Study Abroad, there are still a few activities Petrosky will have to handle on his own, such as finding a place to eat. “When we have 25 students, it is quite a feat trying to find a place to have dinner,” he said. “Your choices are limited, so at least it doesn’t take very long to choose.”

Petrosky said the main goal of the trip is to introduce the students to Parisian culture – which he noted is different from typical French culture.

“We’ve tied our classes in with the cultural aspect of Paris,” he said. The class Petrosky teaches in Paris will familiarize the students with some of the art in Paris, such as French cinema and Cubism. “We’re trying to give them a background of the influential history of the place, but also have them live and experience what it is like today.”

This summer will mark Petrosky’s fifth trip to Paris with Pitt, so he’s familiar with what he’ll need to do in order to help the students bond.

“We’ll say after classes are done one day, ‘We’re going shopping, anyone want to come?’ A lot of them do, they’ll come shopping. It might not be planned, necessarily, we’ll just go ‘here’s what we’re doing’ and people go along with it,” he said.

“Those moments, cumulatively, are the best moments,” he said, “It’s not a moment. It’s the whole thing as it comes together, and at the end you really realize how close everybody got.”