St. John’s Paris Location: a Vincentian Home Away from Home

By Farida Khatchadourian
Associate Director, Paris Location

Woman standing in front of body of water in St. Malo

Discover France student Desivie Knee in Saint-Malo, with the island tomb of French poet Chateaubriand in the distance. Photo taken by Nicole Benjamin, April 2022, France.

June 23, 2022

Steeped in history, Vincentian tradition, and the modern charms of the French capital, St. John’s University’s Paris, France, location not only provides a comfortable home base for students, but also serves as a welcoming space for members of the entire St. John’s community.

Twice each year, students in the Ozanam Scholars program travel to Paris for one week to study firsthand St. Vincent de Paul’s life and work in service of the poor. This past January, scholars had the experience of accessing the archives of the Daughters of Charity, where they could examine relics such as the original letters exchanged between St. Vincent and St. Louise de Marillac and the carved-out Bible that smuggled St. Vincent’s embalmed heart to safety during the French Revolution. 

Picture of St. Vincent heart in carved out bible
Bible with pages hollowed out to secretly transport the embalmed heart of St. Vincent de Paul to safety during the French Revolution. Photo taken by Fedaling Agwumezie, Jan. 2022, at the Archives of the Daughters of Charity, Paris, France.

In February, Pharmacy students participating in the Western Europe Semester program—a multicountry study abroad experience—visited the College of Pharmacy of the University of Paris. Students toured the centuries-old medicinal garden and gained entry to a private museum housing a rare collection of roots, flowers, bark, fruits, and other botanical ingredients painstakingly sourced and catalogued from around the world. 

In April, students in the Discover France program took a break from city life to experience Saint-Malo, a fortress city with high granite walls situated along the coast in northwestern France. A guided tour of the city was followed by lunch at the bistro of one of France’s most acclaimed artisanal butter producers. At low tide, students traversed the sandbar to an islet where the poet Chateaubriand is buried.

Apart from welcoming St. John’s undergraduate students on short-term and semester-long study abroad programs, the Paris location also hosts the greater St. John’s community for distinctive programs and events. For the first time, in March of 2019, the St. John’s Board of Trustees held its international meeting in Paris. 

In addition, every two years, the Paris location hosts a stop for senior leaders of the Vincentian Mission Institute, a two-year collaborative program with faculty, administrators, and staff from the Vincentian universities in the US. As part of the program, the participants make a pilgrimage through France. 

In September, the Paris location will be a stop on the third international alumni tour, an exciting opportunity for the University’s alumni family to connect while spending one week together discovering the City of Light.