Hello everyone! I’m Angelica Nahalka, and I’m a rising senior double majoring in Political Science and French, with a minor in Public Health. After a slow start due to some organizational complications, I have finally started my internship at L’Alternative Urbaine in Paris. I’ve spent the past year studying abroad at Sciences Po, through the EDUCO program and have been thrilled to be able to spend the summer in Paris as an intern. L’Alternative Urbaine is a small non-governmental organization that works with people who have been unemployed, often due to homelessness, and gives them the opportunity to lead walking tours of Paris’s neighborhoods. This gives them the opportunity to reintegrate into the workforce and build up their CVs. Additionally, L’Alternative Urbaine helps these individuals navigate the social provisions available to them under the French government. In this way, L’alternative Urbaine also promotes responsible tourism, where those in need are being benefitted and where tourists get an especially intimate and authentic view of the city. L’Alternative Urbaine’s headquarters are also just a couple minutes’ walk away from the Catacombs and the historic Place Denfert-Rochereau, and are located in the 14th Arrondissement of Paris, the same neighborhood where I lived with my French host mother during the school year!
During my internship, I will be helping with the development of a new walking tour of the La Défense area, Paris’s central business district, located on the city’s western edge by the Bois du Boulogne, a large swath of forest preserve. Additionally, I’ll be helping manage the organization’s Facebook and Twitter pages, so like or follow L’Alternative Urbaine! After my first meeting with my internship supervisor, co-founder of L’Alternative Urbaine, Esperanza Falero, I attended a volunteer and tour guide event focused around team building and getting to know each other. These events happen periodically throughout the month so reinforce the sense of community within L’Alternative Urbaine. We were asked to construct well-known Parisian landmarks featured in L’Alternative Urbaines tours out of Legos and discuss how to most effectively work in a team. I met fellow volunteers and was able to discuss other project the organization was working on, like expanding its volunteer base.
This internship will also provide many opportunities to improve my French and help me learn about the struggles homeless people face in France, and how they compare to those faced by homeless people in the United States. In France, the homeless are referred to as personnes sans domicile fixe, or people without a fixed place to live. Homelessness can be seen throughout Paris, and in all neighborhoods, regardless of the area’s wealth. The social dynamics surrounding homelessness in France differ from those in the United States, where a lesser degree of basic government aid is available to those who are unemployed. These are issues and differences I am still working to understand. Regardless of the country, however, a person living on the street has been failed by the governmental provisions in place in one way or another, and I hope to use my internship to better understand these failings and how they can be fixed, especially through small but mighty organizations such as L’Alternative Urbaine!