McKenzy Metter (CC '23)

Mckenzy Metter (CC '23) is a rising junior at Columbia College majoring in French. She was planning to study abroad at Reid Hall in Summer 2020, but the pandemic forced her to change plans. Instead she participated in the virtual Columbia in Paris program in Spring 2021.

September 02, 2021

Why did you choose to do the virtual Paris program?

I've always wanted to study abroad at Reid Hall and had planned to go during the Summer of 2020 (for obvious reasons, this couldn't happen :( ). When I saw that Columbia in Paris was offering a virtual experience during the spring that would allow me to take courses in French, work with Reid Hall professors and complete my Global Core requirement, I knew I had to sign up.

What did you study?

I took three courses: Sex Trade Economy, Paris in American Cinema and Black Paris.

How did your classes in the virtual program shape your academic interests at Columbia in New York? Did/how did your major interest change?

My classes definitely reaffirmed my decision to pursuing a French major, while helping me realize that I have a passion for sociological, historical and cultural studies. The Sex Trade Economy class also exposed me to academic research for the first time, which I found to be incredibly engaging and, for lack of a better word, really fun!

How did your virtual classes in Paris differ from the virtual ones you took in New York? Did you find any methodological differences in teaching styles between France and the US? To what degree was this destabilizing/intellectually enriching?

The Paris classes were definitely more intimate, especially given the fact that there were only 2-4 students. I really appreciated being able to work so closely with each of my professors, who were all extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their subject. It was so nice that each professor was willing to go out of his/her way to meet with us outside of class, provide us detailed feedback on our work, and cater lessons according to our interests. This was definitely a unique experience, as NYC classes tended to be larger, making it more difficult to connect with our instructors, especially given the virtual format. Regarding teaching styles, I would say the oral presentation component of all three of my Paris classes was rather different from my NYC ones. As someone who gets nervous about public speaking, the Paris courses pushed me to challenge myself and become a more confident speaker. A special shoutout to Professor Taraud, who was particularly supportive and encouraging when it came to giving our exposés. Additionally, writing in the French hypothetical system was another major change. This was the first time I've written an academic paper with a problématique and a strict 3-part structure. I'm really glad I had the opportunity to learn how to write in this style, as I actually found it easier to organize my thoughts. About half-way through the semester, I began applying the same structure to some of my papers for my NY classes and it made the writing process significantly easier and more enjoyable.

Did your professors accommodate your virtual experience? If so, how?

Yes, definitely. All of my professors were extremely flexible with the time difference and were willing to move classes around depending on our schedules. They all offered office hours and encouraged us to set up meetings with them to discuss our work on a regular basis. They were also very open to student feedback and made a point to ask us for our opinions, which was really awesome.

What do you wish you could have done in Paris/Reid Hall?

I've never actually been inside Reid Hall, so I would love to actually visit the campus and sit in the garden. I've seen lots of beautiful photos and heard lots of wonderful stories. I wish I could've been able to explore Paris with some of my classes. Although we were able to do a virtual tour of Paris for the Black Paris class, it would've been great to visit all of the locations in person. I also wish I could have experienced living in the city for a semester. While I was exposed to French culture by taking these classes, it would have been a treat to immerse myself in a French-speaking environment and understand what it is like to live in Paris as a student.

Did the virtual engagement with the Paris program make you want to come visit France?

Yes, absolutely.

If given the chance, would you study abroad? Would you choose Paris?


Do you feel changed through this experience? What did you gain?

I definitely became more confident with my participation and my public speaking. I also think this experience made me a more diligent and engaged student. Given that there were only 2-4 of us in a class, I felt more pressure to really prepare for each session than I did for my larger NYC classes because the responsibility to participate was much more present. It was really rewarding as a student to feel so fully invested in my courses. I guess you could say that despite being virtual, this experience helped me discover my love for school and the process of attending small seminar-style classes. Working with my classmates was such a joy and I am really grateful to have had the chance to get to know so many wonderful people, even if we have only ever met online.

Do you see Columbia as a more global institution after completing the Paris virtual program?

Yes, though I always conceptualized Columbia as being very global.

Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

Thank you for making the Virtual Paris experience so wonderful!