COLUMBIA — An ocean away from home, three French students are finding their place among thousands of Tigers and at the MU School of Journalism.
At the beginning of August, Parisians Mélissa Bounoua, Charlotte Pudlowski and Baptiste Etchegaray arrived in Columbia as part of a two-year-old exchange program between the MU School of Journalism and Sciences Po University, a university in central Paris known for being one of the best universities in France. For them, their timing could not have been more perfect.
With the 2008 presidential race well under way, these three graduate students are taking advantage of the historical race by creating a political blog, Rendez-voUS08. "Rendezvous," a French word used in English, is translated here as "a date."
"We sat in silence for two hours in Kaldi's just brainstorming," said Bounoua, 22. Etchegaray, 24, said the name of the blog is to suggest John McCain and Barack Obama are on a sort of alternative three-month date.
Pudlowski, Bounoua and Etchegaray began blogging last November on local elections in Paris for the Web site of Le Monde, France's "most prestigious national daily paper," Bounoua said. Their work on the Web site of L'Express, a weekly magazine, eventually led to the idea for the creation of Rendez-voUS08 - a look at U.S. politics from a French viewpoint.
"It's obvious that U.S. politics are important because it has a global impact whether you (Americans) want it or not," said Pudlowski, 22, offering an explanation as to why so many French are interested in U.S politics.
The students are working with Katherine Reed and Scott Swafford, both city editors at the Columbia Missourian. Interested in becoming more versatile in the multimedia world, their blog includes video, audio slideshows, photography, original articles and press reviews. Caricatures of McCain and Obama separated by a waving American flag top its front page.
Compared with France, which had 12 presidential candidates in 2007 and 16 in 2002, the political system in the United States is easy to follow, explains Etchegaray. "That's another reason why many French follow U.S. politics," Pudlowski said.
Though the majority of French visitors prefer the coasts during their time in the United States, Pudlowski said, "it feels good to be in real America. It's interesting to be in Missouri, a swing state that has almost predicted the outcome of every presidential election."
Since 1904, Missourians have voted against only one elected presidential candidate, Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.
The friends reminisce about their charming corner bakeries and the freedom of the expansive Paris subway system, but they appreciate the laid-back, friendly atmosphere of Columbia and the green grass of a campus not locked in the middle of a city.
All in all, they agree they feel welcome here in Columbia.
To read about U.S. politics from the perception of these French friends, go to: rendezvous08.wordpress.com.