PARIS — Giulia Caulfield is reclining at Charlemagne’s feet. She sits at the base of the statue facing Notre-Dame Cathedral, her ears covered by headphones and her neck shielded with a scarf. It’s a chilly March day in Paris, and although she’s done some shopping in the city, she’s still sporting what she wore back at Hillsdale: a purple puffer coat, leggings, Timberlands. Looking up, she jumps upward with a wide grin and greets her visitors — she loves showing people around Paris, she says. She’s only lived there since last fall, but the city is now hers to share.
Giulia spent two years at Hillsdale before moving to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a chef. She’s taking classes at Le Cordon Bleu, the culinary arts institute founded in 1895. She makes mostly “classic stuff” — beef bourguignon, tarte alsacienne — because, she says, it’s France. Classes begin with three hours of demonstration followed by three hours of practice, then a chef review. Working toward a Diplôme de Cuisine can be hard, Guila says, when you’re not even allowed to start with the chicken breast. You start with the whole chicken.
As she waits in the queue of Saturday tourists to Notre-Dame de Paris, Giulia recalls the first Hillsdale connection she made in the city. She was sitting in Starbucks wearing a gray crewneck HILLSDALE COLLEGE sweatshirt. In a city where many women wear dresses and heels on the metro, Giulia said it was a fashion risk, but she had no time to care.
“I felt like I looked kind of sloppy,” she says, “but I was studying for finals.”
Final exams at culinary school look like this: You’re given a list of ingredients. No instructions. You’re expected to make a masterpiece. Bon appétit!
So even though she almost changed — “twice” — Giulia found herself in a coffee shop with her hair up in a ponytail, sporting her school spirit in the city for the first time.
A young woman plopped down next to her with a laptop, then moved across from her to find an outlet. The woman perked up when she read Giulia’s sweatshirt; she said her brother went to Hillsdale.
Giulia knew Mark Naida, a senior French major, from class, but she was shocked to meet his older sister in Paris. Monica Naida quickly invited Giulia to dinner with her and her boyfriend, and the two have kept in touch since then.
For Monica too, their meeting came from a series of unlikely coincidences.
“My boyfriend and I had ventured out to a different part of the city because we were looking forward to going to a pizza restaurant there later that night — best pizza outside Naples, I swear,” Monica said in an email. “We were looking for someplace to work until then. So we tried a Starbucks, but it was too crowded. We already had coffee, so we walked five minutes to the next nearest Starbucks — yes, Paris is full of them and they are usually open much later than most other coffee shops — and plopped down in some comfy chairs. It didn’t take me long to notice the giant HILLSDALE on her sweatshirt, and I was quick to introduce myself. We talked for a while and then invited her to the pizza restaurant with us. We all had a great dinner together (seriously, this pizza…) and decided to stay in touch.”
Giulia says Monica helped her get connected throughout the city, and the two jobs she’s found have been through her new friend. But Monica is not the only friend a history at Hillsdale has brought Giulia.
Through her sorority, Giulia also connected with Diana Higbee ’96, an opera singer living in Le Mans, two hours southwest of Paris.
The two still haven’t met up yet, but Diana says, like Giulia, she’s found living in France to be a rewarding and social experience.
“It’s great to live in France,” Diana said in an email. “The quality of life is amazing. People love to spend time together around a lunch or dinner table and chat for hours.”
Giuilia, who knows a thing or two about enjoying a good meal, says a lot has changed since her sophomore year at Hillsdale, when she would cook bacon mac ‘n’ cheese in the Suites Dormitory. By monopolizing kitchen space with her blender and her dutch and toaster ovens, “I annoyed the crap out of my suitemates,” she says. But she did share the mac ‘n’ cheese.
Now she cooks meals just for herself and finds that making connections isn’t as easy as studying with friends in AJ’s Café. But when she does reach out, she’s had some enduring results. Monica agrees that the effort is worth it.
“It’s been refreshing to know Giulia, and certainly anyone who has lived in a big city knows that it is quite difficult to make friends,” Monica says. “We have a shared past in some ways, as we have connections through my brother. We have been able to share a lot. I find her to be generous and caring, a real friend from the start.”
Looking back on her short time at Hillsdale, Giulia concludes that she misses everyone, but “Paris is great.” As the nears the end of the Champs-Élysées, part of the four-mile walk from Notre-Dame to the Arc de Triomphe, she pulls out a ticket. Then she walks underground, boards the metro, and waits on the southbound train until it brings her home.