“Je ne regrette rien”: Sixty Years of Hollins Abroad-Paris
Three years ago, Berry Professor of Liberal Arts Jean Fallon set out to collect memories from alumnae who had gone on the Hollins Abroad-Paris program. The following excerpts provide a glimpse into Fallon’s lengthy and detailed compendium.
To hear about a student’s life in Europe is in no way comparable to being the student yourself. We hesitantly lend you Paris for a year: live it as a student; love her as a Parisian; pass her on to those who will follow you, but, like us, keep most of her in your heart.
—Baylies Hearon Brewster ’57 (formerly Willey), president, Hollins Abroad-Paris. From “A Letter from Paris to Those Who Will Follow Us, from the Hollins Abroad Pioneers of 1955.” Baylies Brewster died in February 2015.
FENTON GOODWIN FRIEND ’59, HAP 1957
Fenton recalled that a dock strike in New York forced a middle of the night chase up the coast to Halifax and a transfer from one ship to another before her group could set sail on the Queen Elizabeth. Cold, tired, rethinking her decisions, Fenton did not quite grasp all that she was about to learn of a very different world. They arrived on a cold night in January, and when her host mother ushered Fenton and her roommate into their room overlooking the American Cathedral, the bells began to play “Now the Day Is Over.” Fenton burst into tears at hearing her favorite Evensong hymn from home. [Fenton Friend died in May 2014.]
MIRIAM “Mim” HAYLLAR FARMAKIS ’67, HAP 1965
After arriving in France, Mim lived with a couple and their five children in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Her room had an empty fireplace with a huge mirror, an armoire, a table and small wooden chair, and a white, iron bed. The bed was narrow but comfortable; however, its cotton seersucker bedspread confused Mim. It was “oddly shaped and smaller” than Mim expected it to be. She found that it was made with only one side and only one end. Since the bed was positioned in a corner, the spread did not need to be bigger than it was. Thus, Mim drew her first distinction about her different living conditions: Her host family had only what it needed, while her family at home had more than it needed. She was able to accept both ways of living.
JANE ALLAN BOWIE ’68, HAP 1966-67
Jane Allan remembered having her first romance in Paris. The night before departing for Cherbourg and the trip back to the U.S., she drove all over Paris with the man of her life whom she knew she would never marry. Jane Allan listed some of the items that she grew to love in France and to miss in the U.S. after her return: the boulangerie across the street on rue de Chézy and the wonderful smells it provided, croissants and brioches, French cheese, garlic, dragées, chocolates made by the neighborhood chocolatier, café au lait and tartines, l’eau pétillante, the crêpes from vendors by the métro stations in the Latin Quarter, boudin, coq au vin, and the tastiness of a simple, well-prepared potage. [Jane Allan Bowie died in August 2014.]
DIANA REUTER-TWINING ’73, HAP 1971
Diana found [her host mother] Madame de Landevoisin to be “a true character from the belle époque.” During World War II, she had grown potatoes in her living room. A very polite and correct family, the Landevoisins sat down to dinner each night, as Diana had been used to doing at home. Like many other Hollins students, Diana soon discovered that water was a commodity in Paris, and they were allowed only a couple of baths each week. There was no snacking between meals, and the television, in the dining room, was not at their disposal.
SHARON BUMPAS MITCHELL ’74, HAP 1972
Sharon proposed to one of her professors in the fall of 1972 an independent sociological study on group interactions of grape harvesters in Burgundy. [Then director] Madame Feydy arranged through her connections for Sharon to work and live with the Pillot family of vintners in Chassagne-Montrachet. Sharon lived in a village of less than 500 people where no foreigner had spent any significant time. There Sharon’s French reached the fluency level of a native Frenchwoman, as she stomped grapes, ate wonderful food (and nearly lopped off a finger in a bad cut which was cured by her host mother’s medicinal concoctions of onion skins and rose petals), learned to swing dance, picked out and killed chickens and rabbits for dinner, frequented gambling roadhouses, and forged friendships that continue today.
JENNIFER WISE ’76, HAP 1974
“One of our favorite pastimes was to wander around the Latin Quarter at night in search of ‘broken’ pay phones. If we found a large yellow pay phone that was broken, we could call anywhere in the world, for free. To find such a phone, we went out after dinner and looked for a long line of people at a yellow pay phone, smoking and waiting for their turn. We joined the queue, and hoped the gendarmes wouldn’t show up before we got our turn to use it.
“That summer The New York Times reported on the phenomenon. Soon after, the PTT [Post, Telegraph, and Telephone] got vigilant about fixing the big yellow pay phones. Broken ones became scarce. By fall, they were gone. During my entire year abroad, I never had to pay to call home, always managing to find a broken phone when I needed one.”
NICOLE OSBORNE ASH ’86, HAP 1984
Against the gray January sky, all the buildings were also gray, but Nicole noticed bright red geraniums in window boxes everywhere. Their host mother, Madame Cadart, met them at the bus and took them to their new home at 211, rue de l’Université 75007. From the courtyard, they could see the Eiffel Tower, two blocks away. At the building, there was a tiny elevator that could barely hold the three and all of the suitcases that Nicole and her roommate, Amanda Miller ’86, had brought. Madame Cadart was not a young lady, but Nicole and Amanda loved her immediately when she climbed in and sat on top of the suitcases so that they could all take the elevator up together.
MARIA D. AZAUSTRE LOPEZ ’87, HAP 1985
Whenever Maria’s host family made cow brain for dinner, Sally Scott ’87, who lived nearby, would meet Maria at the Champs Elysées for pizza, ice cream, or a hamburger so that Maria would not have to eat the dinner she most dreaded. Maria often took long walks in Paris, seldom to any particular destination, discovering small markets and cafés. Her favorite café was across from Notre Dame. She often went there and liked to take the same table facing the cathedral. There she sat and read books for hours as she ate chocolate ice cream with whipped cream on top, served in a tall glass.
REBECCA SCALES ’98, HAP 1996-97
Rebecca remembers [program director] Annick Scouten as a gem. She seemed both completely French and also completely American. Her worldview seemed slightly decadent and risqué to Rebecca, as Annick spent much of the year telling Rebecca to live a little more and study a bit less, advice that shocked Rebecca. Once on her way to Reid Hall, Rebecca spotted Annick and Henning [Nouneberg] having lunch on the boulevard Montparnasse, drinking a bottle of wine between them. Rebecca adds, “Clearly Annick knew how to live.” [Annick Scouten died in 2010.]
ERIN FERRETTI SLATTERY-DUDA ’98, HAP 1996
Erin remembers that [former director] Henning Nouneberg was a pillar of the Hollins Abroad-Paris experience. He had a wonderful style, and his gregarious nature brought out even the most introverted student. Moreover, Henning had an encyclopedic knowledge of Paris and of architecture and delivered it with aplomb. Erin remembers a trip to Vézélay when Henning had gathered the group in front of a cathedral and pointed to the tympanum where a grisly scene was depicted and said, “Look! The casserole of death!”
ARIN BLACK ’99, HAP spring 1997
Early in Arin’s stay, when she was walking to the métro, a well-dressed Frenchman came up to her and kissed her on the lips. She recounts a host of exceptional experiences such as dancing with a Jordanian prince and his entourage, racing down the Champs Elysées in a Jaguar, performing interpretive dances in a park, going up in the Eiffel Tower after hours, taking the wrong train and ending up in Switzerland, getting a man arrested in Nice, and going to an abandoned carnival at night on the coast of Spain. On a visit to Alicante, Arin asked a fellow traveler to show her the most beautiful site in the city. She was led to the top of a 16th-century monastery that overlooked the Mediterranean.
EMILY KATHERINE “Amy” TORBERT ’05, HAP spring 2004
Amy’s host mother, Madame Kaissi, was a retired widow who had been hosting students in the Hollins Abroad-Paris program for many years. She would cook fairly elaborate meals, take Amy to the market with her, and indulge Amy in her wish to sample as many different types of French pastries as possible during her stay in Paris. Madame Kaissi enjoyed studying and making art but had never been to the Musée d’Orsay, even though her favorite painters were Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. Near the end of the semester, Amy spent an entire day at the Musée d’Orsay with Madame Kaissi—a day that now seems almost like a dream.
ERICA TITUS ’10, HAP fall 2008
Erica lived above a pharmacy and a beauty supply store on rue Lecourbe in the 15th arrondissement, just around the corner from the Mairie on the rue du Vaugirard. She had a large room to herself with two single beds, two floor-to-ceiling windows with wrought-iron bars at the bottom and tall green shutters on the outside. Erica loved looking from those windows and observing and hearing the city beneath her. Erica even took up smoking at those windows at night because she felt like a Parisian, drinking an espresso, reading a book, smoking at the tall window, and gazing down at the ever-changing spectacle of people parading in the streets of the densely populated neighborhood.
“Je ne regrette bien”: Sixty Years of Hollins Abroad-Paris, collected and edited by Jean M. Fallon, is being digitized for e-book readers. Fallon will read excerpts from the book at reunion, and we will let alumnae know how to access it in the near future.
Tinker Day and All That: Forty Years of Hollins Abroad-London
Hollins Abroad-London grew out of a Short Term project by Cynthia Rose ’72. Just before it launched, in fall 1974, 25 students were expected to participate. Hollins made provisions to provide opportunities during the January Short Term for students to work in museums, the theatre, and political or social service agencies.
JUDY SUBLETT WILD ’78, HAL fall 1976
I arrived in London, along with 27 of my Hollins peers, in the fall of America’s
bicentennial year. It was the program’s third year, and apparently the college administration felt it needed a new direction. To set the course for its future, to our good fortune and the college’s, they sent Professor (and former Dean) Jake Wheeler to do the job. With him were his beloved wife, Trudy, and several of their children. Placement with host families and an association with a London university for classes were future plans for the program, but for us our London nucleus was a funky old multistory house at 48 Nevern Square in the Earl’s Court area. We not only lived, cooked, and ate our meals there, but we had classes there as well.
Professor Wheeler had a broad knowledge of many subjects and a quick, gentle wit. He was also a consummate storyteller. He was determined that our experience not be limited to learning where the Liberty shop was or which pub had the cheapest beer. He stressed this without being paternalistic (this was the 70s, and that wouldn’t have gone well) and had us travel as a group to a variety of places to deepen our understanding of England—including Lincoln, York, Coventry, Stratford, Winchester, Stonehenge, and Cambridge (for Tinker Day!). Our British professors also led classes on walks through Dickens’ London, to museums, and backstage at Pinewood Studios.
An added bonus was discovering that Professor Wheeler and I shared a love for Hollins history, and in me he had an eager audience for his tales. When I left London in December, I was worldlier, more confident, and also enriched for having spent time with Jake Wheeler.
SARA LEVINE, Program Director of Hollins Abroad-London, 1983 – 2015
I have so many fond memories. Here are a few that spring to mind.
- Tinker Day in 1983. Told about this a few days in advance, I arranged (panic stricken) an outing. But the surprise element was hard to replicate (bell-ringing not an option), and fancy dress was hard to come by at short notice.
- Lots of visits to Venice. A few will doubtless recall the time I caught a thief outside St. Marks and had to take a police speedboat to give my statement. Others may remember the Venice Church Count. Was our record 14?
- It still amuses me to recall [architecture historian] Jennifer Moore’s determination to get us into buildings that were closed. She tried her usual refrain (“They’ve come all the way from America!”) at Ripon Cathedral, where a wedding was about to take place. Of course, we were still inside when the bride arrived.
- Fond memories also of Gavin Stamp who threw his arms up in despair when the students, having finally arrived at the splendid Castle Howard, started to photograph the ornamental ducks (which were very pretty!).
- Then there was Amsterdam, Bruges, Stockholm, Florence, Rome, Seville, Paris, Salzburg, and Prague. I’ve blotted out most of the “unfortunate incidents” but still have nightmares about the bathwater coming through the ceiling in that Amsterdam hotel…
- Students in Jean Elliot’s Shakespeare class were warned they would fail if they were late for the great Anthony Sher’s performance in Richard III. Tickets were selling for £500 on the black market and the play was Time magazine’s cover story. Imagine the terror of two who didn’t make it for curtain-up! Happily, they both finished with A grades.
- Thanksgiving was always a joyous occasion, whether in the restaurant (where my seven-week-old baby was once plonked in a basket under the table) or at my flat. But some students were upset to read the biography, with photos, of “Casper,” our hand-reared, organic, free-range turkey. Generally, I tried to make the occasion as authentic as possible but drew the line at candied yams.
HELEN CRUMBLISS CHAMBERS ’85, HAL fall 1983
Sara Levine’s first year as director of the Hollins Abroad-London program was the year that I was president of our London class. Thanks to our class, Sara quickly learned about Hollins women and how much we liked to have fun. I can remember trying to explain Tinker Day to Sara. I think she actually called the Hollins office to make sure that we were telling her the truth. After all, it is a bit of a random event (the name itself was a red flag!), and it just didn’t make sense that we would cancel class for no reason at all. We even convinced her to take the class on a road trip, since that was something we all loved doing. She hired a bus driver and we drove to the Cotswolds, stopping for lunch at a cute café along the way. That was the way Sara did things: top of the line, organized, and fun.
The London program truly was one of the highlights of my four years at Hollins. We didn’t have cell phones, the Internet, Facebook, Instagram or other social media. We used the pay phone to call home, we wrote letters (I guess?), and we went weeks without talking to our friends back at Hollins. We relied on Sara for all of our information: She was our Google app. If you had a restaurant question, ask Sara; financial problems, ask Sara; want to go somewhere fun for the weekend, ask Sara; health issue, ask Sara; need help with a teacher, ask Sara; need help with your homestay family, ask Sara. She was our director, advisor, mentor, travel agent, banker, and friend. We traveled, learned about rail passes and hydro ferries, figured out how to convert money, saw true Shakespearean theatre, observed barristers in court, visited incredible art galleries, debated public versus private health care, and learned how to live thousands of miles away from home and Hollins. It is all of these different experiences that form our lives and make us who we are today. Thank you, Hollins, and thank you, Sara Levine, for such great memories. As we said 30 years ago: It was a blast!
MEREDITH LEVY ’12, HAL spring 2011
I received so much from my study abroad experience in London. First, I gained self-confidence and independence through my traveling experiences, whether that was my spring break tour of Belgium, a weekend trip to Paris, or day trips hunting around London for the next new park, open-air market, or museum.
I also learned a lot about myself in the classroom. I didn’t start off passionate about every subject I took, but the faculty was, and that kind of excitement for learning is contagious. More often than not, we were out of the classroom and learning on our feet, exploring the city’s history and present together. Sara Levine was also so supportive and caring; because of my dietary restrictions, I expected to miss out on some teatime treats during afternoon classes. But Sara found ways to get me wheat-free cookies or cakes. One time she even baked a whole cake herself!
Perhaps the most rewarding outcome of my time in London was having my passion for the theatre reaffirmed by the high caliber of productions I witnessed as a student in the London Theatre class. Susan Thomas, our professor, took us to see an array of productions—West End shows, pub theatre, and everything in between. My eyes were opened to this layer of the professional theatre world that is often overshadowed by “Broadway,” and I became acutely aware of just how innovative and intelligent theatre can be. The productions I encountered—Water and Bronte at the Tricycle Theatre, particularly—live in my heart to this day and continue to hold a high bar for my own writing.
—Meredith Levy works as the alumnae events coordinator in the alumnae relations office and is a student in Hollins’ M.F.A. program in playwriting. Her play Decision Height won accolades from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival and has been performed on campus, at Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke, and at Flagler College.
Register for the Fall 2015 Celebration
Paris: November 7-11
London: November 11-15
Join President Gray and members of the Hollins Board of Trustees in Paris and London as we celebrate 100+ years of Hollins Abroad. All Hollins Abroad alumnae and members of the 1842 Society and Miss Matty’s Circle are warmly invited to this signature celebration.
For details, including cost, schedule, special reunion events, and registration form, go to www.hollins.edu/abroadcelebration.