Student a Winner in American Journal of French Studies Essay Competition

Matthew Fazekas, an MSU junior studying International Relations with minors in French and Philosophy and Law, was selected as one of the winners of the 2021 American Journal of French Studies undergraduate essay competition for his essay, “Aveuglé par la Ville des lumières” or “Blinded by the City of Lights,” which explores the issue of homelessness in Paris and the contrast between this reality and the idyllic image many tourists have of the city.

Fazekas’ essay, written entirely in French, examines the idea of ‘Paris Syndrome,’ a term that describes the sense of disappointment many tourists experience when visiting Paris. The reality of life in a major metropolis is incompatible with the romantic dream many people ascribe to Paris.

Matthew Fazekas during a trip to Paris in 2019.

“Even though homelessness is everywhere, tourists often arrive to the city with unrealistic expectations that the city will match the image of Paris that is shown in the media and tourism advertising,” Fazekas said. “The reality of life in Paris for many of its inhabitants does not match this perfect image that many tourists have. I am very happy with how I was able to convey the significance of homelessness in Paris by telling both a story but also including research on the issue.”

Authoring an essay entirely in French, Fazekas said, wasn’t much different from writing an essay in English, but added that it was, however, much more challenging.

“There were times where I was happy with what I wrote but then I discovered other unique French phrases or words that could bring my writing to the next level,” he said.

“Many students from very respected and prestigious universities participated in the competition. It is definitely a great accomplishment.”

Matthew Fazekas

Fazekas began learning French in middle school and decided to continue his studies of the language in college.

“I find it to be such a rewarding experience,” he said. “I would say learning French has become somewhat of a hobby for me.”

Fazekas’ essay finished 12th out of more than 1,300 submissions in the American Journal of French Studies competition and will be published in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of French Studies. Fazekas credits Assistant Professor Elizabeth Tuttle with helping him find innovative approaches to structure and vocabulary to give his writing the extra distinctiveness it needed to stand out from other essays in the competition.

“Many students from very respected and prestigious universities participated in the competition,” he said. “It is definitely a great accomplishment, and I am grateful that Dr. Tuttle encouraged me to participate and helped me with my writing along the way.“