Summer Abroad France - Instructor

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Americans in Paris

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Raquel Scherr

University Writing Program

In addition to teaching English at UC Davis, Dr. Scherr has taught rhetoric, comparative literature, and public health at UC Berkeley. Her areas of interest are English, American, Spanish, Latin American, and multi-ethnic literatures. She has published works of translation and articles on sexism and minority women in the feminist movement, mixed race experience, the politics of beauty, and French literature and has both published articles and presented papers on the Caribbean diaspora among other subjects. She has taught Summer Abroad in Paris for several years. She also taught Summer Abroad and Quarter Abroad programs in Cuba.

A Message to Students and Parents

"Upon reaching Paris, Mary Cassatt, the well-known American painter, claimed that she “began to live.” The beauty and culture of the city does not cease to entice. I am interested in having students explore the culture that has inspired Americans to invent, create, and reimagine themselves. I am hoping as well that my students gain a broad cultural perspective, by using the lens, of Paris, to jumpstart their curiosity and exploration not only of other foreign cities that have used Paris as a blueprint for their own, but also of places that invite comparison because of their difference. I use literature, film, music, art, and the experience of Paris itself to help students both understand foreign cultures and their place in those cultures. I find there is no better way to teach students to grow intellectually and emotionally than to have them—like the American writers, filmmakers musicians and the city we study—observe U.S. culture and institutions from a foreign vantage point. For Americans who have visited Paris, the city has been as much a place as an idea. Harriet Beacher Stowe avowed that “she had come into a dreamland.” Years later Gertrude Stein declared, “All roads lead to Paris.” I am hoping that when students leave Paris they will have the urge to journey back to Paris and elsewhere.

What Students Are Saying

  • "I learned what it was to be curious about a sense of place, which prior to that I simply took for granted. The program taught me to be an observer. I hadn’t actively and mindfully explored a city before like I did in Paris. Paris opened my eyes to historic, cultural, culinary, artistic and technological traits that make it unique. And now I am more curious and able to explore and understand other places in the future. Science is exploration, and one must understand the interaction of details as well as see the overarching concepts. There are parallels in that way of thinking, and that is how Paris enlarged my thinking. Wherever I end up in medical school, and it will likely be in a metropolitan area, I will seek to discover that new place in the ways I learned to discover Paris. Walking, mindfully exploring the various facets of it, and coming to understand the essence of it."
  • "As a graduating student of UC Davis, I'm very happy to end my undergraduate career with such an inspirational class and professor. This program has definitely opened my eyes to the world around me."
  • "I see America completely differently now, and this experience has made me want to travel and do more with my life."
  • "I have a deeper understanding of Parisian culture than I thought I would receive from this course. I was able to participate in new activities that we don't have in the U.S. I made connections with other students as well as the Parisians."