Her name is Shiru Kimani and she is a junior planning to graduate in May 2022. She is majoring in International Economics and Multilanguage with a minor in Statistiscs. Her passions are networking and indulging in all the cultures of the world. In this project, Shiru wanted to combine her interests in learning about her Kenyan origin and love for world economic relations. She is looking forward to expanding this project in her senior year.
As a student majored in International Economics and Multilanguage and a minor in Statistics, I had a transforming experience abroad in Toulouse, France. Most importantly I spent my time abroad in France utilizing my French and Arabic language skills and expanding my knowledge of those cultures. I was able to live with a French host family, study international relations and environmental sustainability at a French private university and build relationships with French people. My semester abroad has equipped me with an intercultural perspective on how the Arab communities influence the present-day French culture.
With the generosity of the Andrews family, I was able to travel to Montpellier, Nice, Paris, and Toulouse to learn about the history of the Mediterranea coast and northern France. I started my travel enrichment in Toulouse and Montpelier where I got to taste Arabic French tacos and learn about the family history of a Lebanese family at my favorite restaurant called Chez nous les Libanais. Being raised in California, I have grown up with Mexican food and love burritos. Since Mexican-style burritos aren’t common in France, I came to learn that French tacos are a fast-food dish like a burrito but have been dominated by the Arabic community and cuisine. I regularly visited French taco eateries and tried kebab, kefta, Algerian sauce within my meals. With a huge population of Arabic immigrants in the Mediterranean coast, they have profited off French tacos franchise in Toulouse and Montpellier. Beyond the Arabic-style French tacos, the Lebanese family business owners of Chez Nous les Libanais shared insight on how they have used their cuisine as a language to express cultural values. They mentioned how their food has been popular for decades in Toulouse because of its unique spices, large size yet portioned variety of meat, bread and vegetables.
After immersing in Arabic cuisine in Montpellier and Toulouse, I then got to explore Nice, Monaco and end my enrichment in Paris. In Nice, I visited numerous Afghan Markets where I bought Miraj tea and cheese called Des de Fromage Kaasblokjes. I also spoke with the Afghan sales associate who recommended the merchandise, and he explained the cultural exchange between French and Afghan cuisine. For example, the cheese was French Reblochon but infused in Arab spices and oil. Alongside my trip to Afghan market, I also took a private day tour of Monaco from Nice, and my driver was Moroccan. His family had immigrated to Nice 13 years ago as it was easier to build a stable life in France. He explained the long history of labor immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East who were brought to south of France to rebuild it after World War II. Many labor immigrants stayed and had families of their own. Lastly, by recommendation from the Moroccan private driver I visited the Louvre where I visited the Middle Eastern and Egyptian exhibitions. There were numerous Egyptian relics and Islamic art like Statue of Nakhthorheb, Bust of Akhenaton and Iznik pottery. Other than the Mona Lisa, these exhibits were the most popular based on observation.
I give thanks to the Andrews family again for the life-changing opportunity to travel to Nice, Monaco, Montpellier and Paris on my vacation breaks. This opportunity would not have been possible without their generosity. I accomplished my goals in building relationships with French and Arab locals and in experiencing the two cultures through activities. I look forward to building off my travel enrichment experience as a Pickering fellow and MPA graduate student this fall.