Americans in Paris, and vice versa
Allen Sanderson, senior lecturer in Economics
and the College, got to the heart of the conflict in his summer
course, Contemporary U.S. Economic Problems and Public Policy, when
he approached the topic of French wine.
Photo by Jason Smith
Sanderson asked his French students—on
campus this summer as part of an exchange program with the University
of Paris—to examine the proposition that a recent drop in
French wine sales in the United States was related to American resentment
over French reluctance to support the war in Iraq.
“We don’t like you,” Sanderson
said in reference to an attitude held by some Americans. “And
as a result, we don’t buy your wine. But is this a reasonable
way to read the figures?”
As he did some computations at the board, he
explained that other factors, such as an increase in the price of
the Euro (with a corresponding rise in French wine costs), a continuing
recession-like economy in the United States, and the possibility
that wine might be available from other sources could also be behind
the sales drop, rather than merely tension between nations.
The students listened, took notes, and then paused
to eat some sour cream pound cake that Sanderson had brought as
a treat. As they passed around the paper plates, Sanderson distributed
brochures on Chicago attractions and suggested entertainment for
the nearly 20 students gathered in a first-floor Social Sciences
Research Building seminar room.
Despite some temporary hard feelings brought
on by the war, the French students said during a class break, their
reception had been warm. “The Americans have been very friendly,”
said 20-year-old Olivia Lau, of Paris. Being in Chicago, she said,
also helped to expand her English. “I’ve learned quite
a bit of vocabulary.”
The students appreciated the relatively informal
American instruction and the opportunity to learn more about American
economics. “Here there is not so much distance between the
professor and the students as there is in France,” said Jean-Baptiste
Chambon, 20, of Champigny-sur-Marne. In French universities many
classes are large lectures, providing little student-faculty interaction.
“I also like the fact that we get so many
examples of what Mr. Sanderson is talking about,” Chambon
added. “In France much of our instruction is more theoretical.”
Part of a two-year-old, economics-focused exchange
program for University of Paris undergraduates, the students attended
the University for the summer, living in the 5700 Stony Island Avenue
Residence Hall. During winter quarter the University in turn sends
students to the Universite de Paris IX Dauphine (unrelated to other
U of C study-abroad programs in Paris).
In addition to Sanderson’s class, the French
students enrolled in either macroeconomics or microeconomics classes
offered through the Graham School of General Studies, said Dan Bertsche,
assistant director of the France Chicago Center. They learned about
the U.S. economy and, of course, the Chicago School of Economics.
The students also took in Chicago’s financial sites, including
the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank.
Chicago students in Paris, meanwhile, learn about
banking, industrial regulation, and the European perspective on
economic issues from University of Paris faculty.
Both groups of students learn about economics
as taught at both institutions, said College Dean John Boyer, but
they also learn about another academic tradition, another university,
and another major city. “The Chicago faculty has had a long-standing
conviction that a knowledge of other cultures is a key component
of a true liberal education,” Boyer said. “Exchanges
such as that between Chicago and Paris also are long-term investments
in trans-Atlantic friendships and international understandings on
a personal level.” —William Harms