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At American U. of Paris

'It's an absolute myth that French people don't speak, or refuse to speak, English to you.' - Mary Ann Georgantopoulos, right, with fellow Northeastern student Julie Balise outside the Moulin Rouge. 'It's an absolute myth that French people don't speak, or refuse to speak, English to you.' - Mary Ann Georgantopoulos, right, with fellow Northeastern student Julie Balise outside the Moulin Rouge.
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May 18, 2008

A native of Athens who moved to Boston three years ago to attend Northeastern University, Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is accustomed to jet lag and culture shock. She first visited Paris in high school and "fell in love" with it. Even so, this travel-savvy student hit a bit of turbulence as she began her tenure at The American University of Paris in January. After all, what can prepare a 20-year-old for being stranded in a foreign airport and considered odd by the natives for her reluctance to smoke. Georgantopoulos took us through the winding streets and described the course Parisians enjoy between the entree and dessert.

DUDE, WHERE'S MY RIDE?: Georgantopoulos got stranded at the airport after a school representative failed to show. "I was alone in the Charles De Gaulle airport, which is a huge labyrinth, not knowing what to do. I couldn't call anyone because it was a Saturday and the school was closed. I had an emergency contact number for Northeastern, but it was 4 a.m. [in] Boston, so I couldn't call that either." She eventually took a chance and had a taxi drop her off at an address she found on a letter from the school.

THE 'THEY-WON'T-SPEAK-ENGLISH' MYTH: While Georgantopoulos already spoke a fair amount of French before arriving in Paris, she has had no problem communicating - mostly because many French speak English. "It's an absolute myth that French people don't speak, or refuse to speak, English to you. I have had absolutely no problem with the language so far."

LIGHT 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM: "One of the most unusual things here, compared to Boston, is that everyone smokes cigarettes. It's a surprise to all French people when you don't light up."

LA BOHEME AND MOM: A city known for its sense of style, Paris is in no way short of cool places. But Georgantopoulos's favorite, Montmartre, the "bohemian part of Paris," is also where she will probably take her mother when she comes to visit. Besides the famous Sacré Coeur Basilica, it has "a lot of artists on the streets playing music and painting, and there are a lot of smaller bars there."

FROMAGE HEADS: Georgantopoulos developed a new appreciation for bread and cheese. The combination "is a meal of its own in between the main dish and dessert during dinner. There's so much cheese here it's unbelievable."

GLENN YODER

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