Exploring Paris from your own bedroom

By Lily Dolan, Contributing Writer

Students have found FR 156 to be an engaging class to allow them to explore a treasured foreign city from their own home. This possibly difficult feat has been successful because of Felisa Vergara Reynolds, assistant professor in LAS, who has created her own unique course curriculum that interests students without ever needing to see Paris up close.

This course is one of the most popular general education courses at UIUC, with more than 120 students, a number that had initially overwhelmed Reynolds when she began teaching the course.

“Our French courses tend to be around you know anywhere from a graduate seminar of 6 to like 13 or 15 students so it was a big leap for me,” she said. 

Despite the adaptation difficulties that came from creating the course, many students, including Alex Lukas, sophomore in Business, consider it to be one of the most engaging, interesting classes she has taken.

“I learned so much about the different topics, like Marie Antoniette, and it didn’t feel like I was learning, it just came so naturally,” she said. 

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The actual content of the course ranges from the very beginnings of Paris as a Celtic tribe to the 20th century and included the implementation and importance of different structures in the city. 

Reynolds explained that she is always trying to do a holistic representation of Paris, looking at the history, politics and literature to really give kind of this big picture idea of what’s happening in the city throughout time.

The well-rounded teachings the class explores usually manifests itself into culture-based class activities that the students seemed to appreciate. Lukas mentioned that she liked how the professor would incorporate documentaries, movies and different books. She said she thought it was good to break it up and to see how pop culture relates to the history of Paris. The class focuses on the cultural activities within Paris while still explaining key factors in Paris’ development over the years. 

Megana Adigal, freshman in Business, has really appreciated the class structure. She explained in an interview that in terms of homework, there wasn’t much except occasionally you’d have to do some reading and sometimes you have to watch parts of movies on your own time.

She said that, even with the positive atmosphere in the different class activities, she really enjoys the lectures by Reynolds.

Although many students taking the course may be interested in the course material, that is definitely not the case for all of the students. The course still finds common interest in pop culture and history that makes it seem like the material can appeal to many different audiences. 

Regardless of the interesting course material, the professor is who really shined in all talks about the class. Students really appreciated Reynold’s passion for her topic of study, and she manages to create a class that has remained popular over the years. 

“She is one of the best lecturers that I have seen ever. She’s very passionate and knowledgeable about Paris and about the subject and incorporates humor into her lectures,” Adigal said. “You know she cares about her students, and she’s been really accommodating for us during these tough times during the pandemic.”

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