Change is part and parcel of any large European city, but the older cities can feel change in their bones quite differently. Students who visit Paris will, if given the chance, begin to sense the way the city is adapting to the many changes it has recently faced, and by doing so they can learn a great deal.
The changes that have been on everyone’s lips around the world are mainly economic. Students on a school tour to Paris, especially those focused on economics or business studies, will no doubt arrive with an idea that the city and its surrounds have been affected by the economic downturn. This is hardly news for a city so ancient, but the particularity and severity of economic stress has, in recent years, forced the citizens to adapt, sometimes unhappily. It is sobering for students to visit the classic avenues, old business hubs and flourishing new suburbs and discover how Parisians have been forced to deal with financial insecurity and a shadowy future.
Change is not always welcome. However, in fact, even unwelcome changes allow people new opportunities. Paris has long been a cultural icon and a beacon for many different people and their social flavours. Students on a school tour will notice how the influx of new immigrants and the emergence of new pockets of Parisian society have created new opportunities for the cultural life of the city to express itself around its classic, old-world charm.
Paris has an aura all of its own. It is one of those grand cities that seem set apart even from the very nation it represents. Students on a school tour will be intrigued to dig deep into the heritage of the city’s identity, treasured and showcased in its many monuments, museums and charming terrace-lined avenues. But they may also learn how the identity of what it means to be a Parisian has changed. As the city faces changes in the way its residents live, work, and relate across its broad urban area, it is adapting to a new, broader concept of what it means to represent this vibrant and history-laden city.
To stroll down the moneyed avenues of St Michel, to wander over the famous bridges as the lights flicker from the historic buildings, to breathe in the soft chatter from the shops and cafes as the city settles in to the evening – these are the moments that bring out the beauty inherent to the soul of Paris. But as the people of the city change and face change, it is a unique time for students on a school tour to question just how the atmosphere of this great city will adapt in years to come.