FirstBridge is discovery

FirstBridge is the hallmark of your first year at AUP. This dynamic, innovative learning experience provides a solid foundation for the rigor of future academic work at AUP and allows you to gain new knowledge and skills that you will use outside the university and beyond in your professional life. By taking two paired courses in two different disciplines, you will explore a range of interdisciplinary issues and questions, and complete individual and team projects while improving vital skills in writing, public speaking and information literacy. It will connect you with the people and resources at AUP that will help you chart a critical pathway to academic and personal success. It is both an introduction to university life at AUP and an introduction to the cosmopolitan city of Paris.

FirstBridge from a Freshman Perspective

FirstBridge and Paris—a combination essential to your learning

Paris is a city known for its beauty, its exquisite museums and monuments, its avant-gardism – and more recently for its new urban developments, global communications and edgy demographic and linguistic shifts. AUP is proud to be at the center of the City of Light and the FirstBridge program embraces this richness. We link the adventurous learning experiences of entering AUP students first to the cutting-edge events of the city, then to the challenges of a global context. Eventually, we bring all explorations back into our multicultural classroom for analysis and project building.

Choosing a FirstBridge

You may be arriving at AUP with a strong sense of your intellectual interests and desired educational and career path, or you may not. FirstBridge is designed to help you confirm interests and explore new ones, to go outside of your comfort zone and take risks. If you have decided on a major or minor, we encourage you to choose a FirstBridge that is outside of this field. The following descriptions will help you to decide which FirstBridge is right for you. Follow the link that accompanies each FirstBridge, read the course descriptions carefully and let them spark your curiosity.

FirstBridge learning communities are paired courses taught by two different professors. The two courses each meet twice a week and are carefully designed for you to make connections between two disciplines. A reflective seminar will help you to discover how one course informs the other. FirstBridge will make up half of your course load during your first semester, for a total of eight credits.

A Selection of FirstBridge Courses


Masculinity is a concept that affects us all – male, female, trans, and non-binary. In coordination with CM1091 Masculinity in Media and Popular Culture 1984/2019, our work will proceed in three phases. First, we will establish and explore a repertoire of representations from 1984, looking at images, artworks, television, newspapers, film and literature from across the world (our choices will depend on the languages and interests of students). At the same time, we will develop our theoretical tools and methods of analysis. When we have a sense of 1984, we will work on creative exploration, as we inhabit the lives we are researching and starting to understand, writing fictionally from within the constraints and possibilities of 1984. The closing section will take us to the history of the present, as we ask ‘what are the dialectical images of masculinity in 2019?’. In a multimedia project shared between the two first-bridge courses, we will aim to explore and to intervene in the institutions, discourses, social forms, and material practices that are constraining our lives or opening up rich prospects for us, so we can enable or build or abolish discourses of masculinity for the future. 

CL1091 (CCI): Time-travelling Masculinity 1984-2019

Prof. Geoffrey Gilbert

What happens when we try to understand and inhabit historical identities, to write from within the lives of the past? This course will mix analysis, creative reconstruction, and cultural-materialist methods to explore the lives of 1984 (with a special focus on discourses of masculinity, but including the lives of feminists as well as masculinists, women, trans, and non-binary people, as well as men and boys). We will be searching through the archives for what the German anti-fascist philosopher Walter Benjamin called ‘dialectical images’: powerful images of human desire and human pain that speak to us urgently from the past. These images, for Benjamin, show us the historical and social and political limitations that constrained lives in the past; but they also contain the seeds of possibility, of hopes and futures that did not come true, and which can serve as an inspiration and a resource for us.  

CM1091 (CCI): Masculinity in Media and Popular Culture 1984-2019

Prof. Robert Payne

Masculinity has come under increased critical scrutiny recently, with particular attention being paid to the relationship between social, sexual and political norms of masculinity and changes in media and popular culture. This course aims to interrogate this relationship in several ways. First, we will analyze how various masculinities are represented and constructed in media and popular culture and establish theoretical foundations for our study. Second, we will explore the gendering of media forms and formats and consider media technologies and institutions as technologies and institutions of gender. Third, we will reflect on our own historical positioning as gendered subjects in order to give more complex accounts of masculinity’s current formations. Media and popular culture of the year 1984 will provide a lens for the first two parts of the course, before we turn our critical gaze back to the present to challenge claims of the inevitability of masculinity and media technology in 2019. 


This FirstBridge looks at how the human species sees itself and how we envision categories. How do the processes of science, art and history contribute to our understanding of who we are? How does our societal context influence what we do and how we see both the world and each other? How do our depictions of humans in their myriad environments shape our understanding of ourselves and others?

AR1010 (CCI): Visual and Environmental Studio

Prof. Jonathan Shimony

This studio course provides an introduction to the basic ideas and techniques needed for the comprehension and construction of the built environment. Starting with elemental design concerns, students will be asked to use what they learn in order to create ever larger and more complex entities. Site-specific assignments making use of Paris and its history will oblige the students to engage in the “conversation” of the urban world.

HI1091 (CCI): Science, Society and Human Origins

Prof. Linda Martz

The available evidence indicates that our species, Homo sapiens, emerged in Africa, and then migrated across the planet, where its DNA occasionally intermingled with that of other human species that then disappeared, leaving Homo sapiens as the only human species, the only human race, on the planet. Why then do we talk about ‘race’ as if something fundamental distinguished, for instance, people of one skin color from people of a different skin color? After starting with a brief overview of what science can say about human origins, we will look at some aspects of the emergence of thinking about human difference. As we become more aware of our own connection to the very distant past, we will learn how the more recent past has been impacted by how people have told that story, sometimes making honest mistakes influenced by their own cultural constraints and sometimes to achieve political objectives. Then we will look at how “science” has been manipulated to create distinctions and hierarchies among different groups of people, to dehumanize and isolate them, and we will look into the faces of witnesses to the ultimate dehumanization by classification, genocide. This is primarily a history course, but we will come in contact with a whole range of ways of approaching these questions, including paleontology, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. 


This FirstBridge explores two complementary ways of creating stuff. The first one is by using different materials (play-doh, clay, wood, carton, pen and paper) to produce abstract and representational sculptures and drawings. We will also be designing virtual objects (movies, web pages, computer programs). We will then go on to compare the two approaches by analyzing the creative processes, write narratives about them, and identify what are their similarities and differences. A variety of media will be used to build simulations and models: human languages, programming languages, various materials (paper, plastic, metal), software (text and image processing, 3D design software), as well as robotic kits (Lego Mindstorms). We will analyze the historical evolution of the concept of creativity and its current meaning in different cultures. We will look into contemporary creativity research and into techniques that allow exploring and developing one’s creativity.  Finally, this FirstBridge will culminate in merging the “material” and “virtual” approach by learning to design engaging interactive machines or robots using Lego Mindstorms robotic kits as a starting point. These robo-sculptures will move and interact with humans or among themselves in order to do things that are useful, funny, beautiful, or all of the above! 

AR1091 (CCI): Design Studio

Prof. Stéphane Treilhou

What is design?  What is a model?  How can the making of prototypes help us better understand the built environment?  How can we use different materials “properly?” If are mental tools, how do we develop models and simulations as mental tools and in different media? What can be modeled?  What are the limits of design? How can we increase creativity? The goal of this course is to give an introduction to the fundamental concepts of 3-D design. We will acquire skills while building a variety of models and prototypes. The course focuses on the creative process behind artifact production.  

CS1091 (CCI): Social Robotics

Prof. Georgi Stojanov

This era of hyper-connectivity, of constantly connected smart objects, and of augmented and virtual reality, offers unprecedented opportunities for innovation and creation. In this FirstBridge we will introduce students to key digital technologies and art practices and let them explore their creativity by designing interactive objects: from wearables (responsive jewelry, smart T-shirts displaying tweets, step-counting shoes…) to augmented everyday objects (talking coffee-cups, gesture responsive lighting) to dadaesque Goldberg machines that engage the observer (interactive sculptures and drawings).

FirstBridge 4: MOTHERS AND OTHERS: Human Sex, Sexuality, and Mating Systems from Evolutionary and Feminist Perspectives

We will be answering all the questions you never dared ask your mother: why do human beings have sex? Why are there males and females and what is gender anyway? How do bodies get pregnant? Does female orgasm have an evolutionary biological purpose? Get frank, scientifically grounded answers to these questions and more from interspecies and intersectional perspectives as a biologist and feminist scholar debunk the idea of maternal instinct because what it means to be a mother depends on what animal you are and where you are.

CL/GS1091 (CCI): Motherhood: Promise and Peril

Prof. Elizabeth Kinne

When women are still encouraged to embrace “having it all,” maternity remains central to social constructions of femininity. This class will explore the connections between reproduction, motherhood, and sexuality through a feminist lens, refuting the fallacy of “maternal instinct” and considering the global political, economic, and racial inequality in normative heterosexual reproduction. In order to better understand the cultural, social, and economic implications of contemporary motherhoods, we will talk about contraception, abortion, reproductive technologies, adoption, surrogacy, the global outsourcing of childcare and affective labor, the mommy wars, queer maternities. This cross-listed course will explore contemporary maternities through literature and provide an introduction to feminist theory with readings, including The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, selections in feminist science fiction, and non-fiction or theoretical texts. 

IDISC1091 (CCI): Human Evolution and Motherhood

Prof. Elena Berg

In this course, we will investigate how motherhood is shaped by evolution and by the human mating and social systems in which we live. We will learn about the biology of sex, sexuality, and mating systems and our notions about motherhood and the role of men, women, and parents in society. What does biology have to say about the roles of men and women, challenging assumptions about how men and women are different? This class will explore the notion of cooperative breeding in human mating systems and how we evolved in the context of other primate species.

FirstBridge 5: A World in Motion: Migration Through Film and Language

With 258 million people currently living in a foreign country, the impact of migration on the world is growing every year. How do cinematic images and narratives shape our collective understanding of migration? How are the lives of migrants represented on the screen by directors who travel across national and linguistic contexts? How do migrant communities, often speakers of minority and threatened languages, negotiate their identities through cinema and linguistic diversity? This FirstBridge combines film studies and linguistics in order to address the cultural impact of the migratory experience.

FM1091 (CCI): Films and Migration

Prof. Valerio Coladonato

In a time of increasing global migration, films shape how we understand and imagine the lives of people who move across borders. This FirstBridge section focuses on the relationship between cinema and migration, through films that cut across contexts and capture exchanges between cultures. We will explore the following questions: What are the key narrative and aesthetic approaches to cinematic representations of migration? How does the experience of migration shape the work of film directors? How do migrant audiences negotiate their identities through the reception of films? While providing students with the tools to analyze, present and write about films, this course will explore the main elements of cinematic language and how it produces meanings and ideas.

LI1091 (CCI): Language and Migration

Prof. Rebekah Rast

Humans migrate. And as we migrate we use language. This FirstBridge section, linked to Film and Migration, focuses on how we navigate the different languages we move into, between and around. We will look at language and migration from various perspectives, beginning with describing human language. Once we establish a common understanding about human language, we will explore how migration affects language. How does language change over time as new speakers enter a community? What is linguistic diversity and how is it viewed in different societies? How does linguistic diversity construct identities? How does society manage multilingualism and the relation between dominant and minority languages? We will then shift our perspective and explore how language affects migration. What are language issues faced by first-generation migrants and their children? What are the effects of linguistic diversity on employment and access to education and health care? Throughout the course, we will practice with the tools needed to analyse language in society, in part through films viewed in the Film and Migration course, and apply these tools to case studies and local community-based experience.


This FirstBridge will study how mathematics and literature ask us to use our imaginations to explore a new world. A mathematician begins with an axiom, like the existence of parallel lines; a writer often begins a story with ‘once upon a time…’, transporting us into a parallel universe. Though they seem to be doing very dissimilar things, both the writer and the mathematician are asking us to think of the world as a hypothesis; to create an imaginary world with its own internal rules, to inhabit that world, and perhaps even to question and break the rules that structure it. Both mathematics and literature, in fact, have the power to represent the unrepresentable: the emptiness of zero, the vastness of infinity, numbers that can only be imagined. This course will open doors to mathematics and literature that we would never have imagined.

MA1091 (CCI): The Mathematical Imagination

Prof. Nahid Walji

We will investigate how adjusting the standard mathematical rules can create new worlds which behave very differently. In particular, we will explore various ways to make infinity attainable, create imaginary numbers, and use four dimensions to better navigate in three dimensions.  

CL1091 (CCI): The Literary Imagination

Prof. Sneharika Roy

We will investigate how literature asks us to think of the world as a hypothesis. From an initial assumption like “Once upon a time”, we are led into an imaginary, but highly structured, parallel world, with its own internal logic and coherence. From the abstractions of zen poetry to the mathematical laws of love in Shakespeare’s sonnets, from cubist juxtapositions of multiple perspectives in French literature to Borges’s vision of the universe as an infinite library, we will see how literary texts are “thought experiments” that give us the power to represent and think through ideas that cannot be performed in real life.   

FirstBridge 7: Human Thinking/Machine Thinking

This FirstBridge explores the increasingly porous boundaries between computers and people. In an age where technology shows increasingly human characteristics, and human behavior and thought are increasingly manipulated using machines, this course provides us with practical and critical skills to navigate the latest developments in the man-machine matrix. Tomer Libal’s classes will provide an introduction to key concepts in computational thought as well as establish students basic coding skills. Russell Williams' classes will consider how forms of writing, including essays, poems, novels, Tweets and Facebook posts strive to articulate what is uniquely human. In the reflective seminar, we will collaborate on a digital project, which seeks to practically interrogate the relationship between computing and literature and consider different attempts to digitalize different aspects of human thinking. We will discuss, too, how contemporary thinkers and popular culture (including the TV series Black Mirror) articulate some of the pressing issues raised by the course. Professors Libal and Williams’ classes will, from computational and literary standpoints, stage a series of encounters between key concepts such as ‘stories’, ‘structures’, ‘logic’, ‘thinking’, ‘creativity’, ‘knowledge’, ‘influence’ and ‘experimentation’.

CS1091 (CCI): The Symbolic Mind

Prof. Tomer Libal

Can machines think? This course investigates the core characteristics of the digital mind and will analyze it from different human perspectives, such as thinking, intelligence, imagination and ethics. The course will touch upon key concepts in the ways machines work, such as programming, logic and artificial intelligence in order to better understand the benefits and risks found in machines, technology and bots that are an inseparable part of our modern lives.

CL1091 (CCI): Deep and Shallow, Fast and Slow

Prof. Russell Williams

The starting point of Professor Williams’ classes will be the written word. Using examples drawn from a wide range of literary texts, as well as essays, films, TV series and social media snippets, students will be encouraged to think deeply about reading and writing and, in particular, reflect on how they read and write. What does it mean to write when we spend so much of our life in front of a keyboard? What does it mean to read when our attention is so frequently under pressure from a range of sources?  What does it mean to be human in a technological age? 

FirstBridge 8: Paris: A Historical, Literary and Imaginary Journey

This course shall explore the history of Paris through its visual and literary achievements: thus, how the city nurtured the arts it produced, and how those arts recreated the city.The course shall take place in English and French.Mid-term, final projects, research papers and oral presentations can be done in English.

The visual study of the city (how the students eyes absorb it) shall coincide with their mental perception (recreation) of the city. Somewhere, the physical object viewed, and the intellectual recreation of that object will meet. That’s half of the study. The other half is what the students can do with that study as a final project, on paper, in a short film, as a theatrical production, as a podcast, etc.

The ultimate goal of the course is for students to “think critically about cultural and social difference” including: dire living conditions and homelessness, immigration, crime and punishment, substance abuse and domestic violence, industrialization and mass consummation, prostitution, sexuality, homosexuality and transvestism, the underworld of the metro system, alienation, adolescence and religion.

CL1091 (CCI): Paris: History and Literature

Prof. Brenton Hobart

Through the study of major works of literature, this course examines the legacy of Parisian history, politics and civilization from the Ancien Régime to contemporary Paris. How, throughout history, has Paris consistently been the stage of major world issues thanks to authors’ writings which create, and therefore recreate, the City of Light? How have the writers of Paris rendered glorious and financially exploitable various historical realities by turning them into literature? Themes studied include: Catholic France and freedom of religion, absolute monarchy and government by the people, colonialism and anti-colonialism, substance use/abuse and literature, Parisian identity and foreign influence, the abolition of the death penalty, academic excellence, justice, rights, sexual liberties, civil liberties and (above all) Paris which, for many, remains yet today the paradigm of culture and civilization – the most literary, philosophical and beautiful city in the world. 

FR1091 (CCI): Paris: Fantasies and Realities

Prof. Nathalie Debroise

Paris, je t’aime: in 2005, Gus Von Sant and the Cohen brothers, among other famous filmmakers, signed this collective love declaration to Paris, the most filmed city of the world. A few years later, in Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen revisits the clichés that nourish the imaginary Paris fantasized by foreigners. When exploring a city, our memory plays a role that conditions our perception of reality, creates expectations and sometimes provokes disillusionment. This course will encourage students to confront projected visual representations of Paris with their own experience of the city, to analyze and deconstruct the types of clichés that contributed to their romanticized visions. As capital of the arts, “Paris est une fête”, according to Hemingway. It is also a fantasy playground for the internationally famous Amélie, a mysterious and dangerous city in Polanski’s films and even provides an erotic and deadly background in the Last Tango in Paris. Each artist projects his own obsessions. Beyond the myth, however, Paris is also an ever-changing environment. Urban art is everywhere on the street. Popular run down neighborhoods have become chic gentrified districts. At the Café de Flore, tourists have replaced philosophers and, at the same time, the old warehouses of La Villette are now alternative studios that attract young artists of all kinds. Students will be encouraged to explore a multi-faceted Paris, open to all kinds of cultures. 


How does digitalization affect democracy? While civic mobilization through social media, online discussion and electronic voting seem to enhance democratic participation, “fake news,” opinion polarization and profit-driven algorithms render democratic choice increasingly difficult. The course surveys the ambivalent transformation of democratic life in the digital era through the lenses of communication studies and philosophy. It examines how digital communication changes how we politically speak and relate to each other as citizens as well as how we should understand and evaluate these changes from various philosophical perspectives.

CM1091 (CCI): Speaking Out & Logging In: Digital Participation and Public Life

Prof. Jessica Feldman

Life online increasingly effects our political world: bots are “stealing” elections, hackers who leak government secrets are alternately hailed as heroes or traitors, protests are organized as Facebook events and twitter threads turn into impassioned debates that span remote locations. How has the growth of networked communication changed politics? What are the perils and promises of online participation for democracy? This course studies emerging technology and current events, but asks old questions about what it means to participate in a public. It addresses problems of access, safety, literacy, and inequality that reemerge in new forms. This course brings together key concepts in media studies and democracy theory to think about our roles as citizens in the digital age: as we come of age in a networked society, what new opportunities and responsibilities do we have as globally connected citizens and political actors?

PL1091 (CCI): Democracy: From Athens to Zucotti Park

Prof. Julian Culp

Democracy, which means government by, for, and of the people, is an intriguing idea that raises many questions: Who belongs to the people? What is the will of the people? Who can speak in the name of the people? In this course we survey classic and contemporary theories and practices of democracy, ranging from direct democracy in ancient Athens to the modern-day Occupy movement in Zucotti Park. We pay special attention to the ways in which processes of digitialization such as the use of social media transform our understandings and evaluations of local, national and global forms of democratic life.


In this FirstBridge, we will explore historical depictions of the mind and body. We will study autobiographical texts from antiquity to the present by writers, philosophers, and artists, and examine the influence of specific literary forms (narrative, essay, diary, epistolary correspondence, fiction) on representations of the self. By looking at paintings alongside artists’ letters and journals, we will compare visual and textual modes of self-expression. The second part of this FirstBridge will investigate human identity with an emphasis on embodiment—on our outward, material form. Students will learn about scholarly approaches to the body by exploring themes that include religious mysticism; changing notions of indecency; European imperialism; the emergence of biological racism; monstrosity and popular spectacle; the body-as-machine, and New Man in revolutionary and fascist regimes.

We will complement our exploration of the mind and body in history with regular visits to Parisian museums. This course also includes a study trip to Bordeaux.  

CL1091 (CCI): Autobiographical Writing

Prof. Daniel Medin

In this class, we study authors who have used autobiographical narrative, essays, diaries, letters and other forms to examine essential questions of identity from the classical age to the present. Our exploration of these modes of inquiry will be complemented by the examination of historical masters of portraiture and self-portraiture via visits to the Louvre and other Parisian museums. By learning how others have documented their experience in language and in line, we become better readers of themselves and the world around us, and develop the technical skill to articulate this understanding with greater clarity. 

HI1091 (CCI): Introduction to the History of the Body

Prof. Miranda Spieler

This course will canvas scholarly approaches to the human body across time and space. Topics we will explore include: the body of Christ and religious mysticism; changing historical notions of indecency; nakedness and nudity in art; the body in medieval and early modern political thought; pseudo-scientific theories of human difference and the emergence of biological racism; monstrosity as an object of spectacle; the body-as-machine; the “native body” in European imperial societies; theories of degeneration and eugenics; the problem of New Man in revolutionary and fascist regimes; and the rise of “bio-power.”

FirstBridge 11: Memory-Making

What makes up our memories? What human capacities, techniques and tools provide historical and lived continuity? How do media, social institutions and designed spaces, such as museums, memorials, and monuments contribute to our lived sense of history and time? From Paleolithic cave paintings to contemporary museums and digital photography, from the earliest vocalizations and songs to Auto-tune and mp3s, from archaic scratches of signs and ancient libraries to modern archives and servers, from co-narratives in childhood to national memories, we will study the co-evolution of media and the possibilities of knowing, understanding, remembering. How are speech, inscription, writing, narrative, and storytelling fundamental to the manifold ways of understanding self, world and time?

CM1091 (CCI): Media, Memory & Visual Culture

Prof. Charles Talcott

From communications and cultural studies perspectives, students will undertake an exploration of ‘institutions of memory.’ We will trace the historical, cultural and technological evolutions of intensely creative ‘mediated places’ from Paleolithic caves in the South of France to digital archives in the heart of Paris with special focus on museums, monuments and memorials.

PY1091 (CCI): Introduction to Memory Studies

Prof. Brian Schiff

This course will introduce students to the emerging interdisciplinary field of memory studies. Beginning from historical, psychoanalytic, and cognitive perspectives on memory and moving onto sociological and cultural perspectives, we will explore the powerful theoretical and applied implications of an approach to memory that breaks down the borders between persons and social groups. Through the close reading of cutting-edge social science texts, we inquire into the fundamental notions of collective memory, narrative, identity, time, and performance and their applicability to how personal and social meanings of the past are fashioned: What is memory? Where is memory? Is memory an individual or social phenomenon? Is all memory social? Is social memory subject to the same processes as individual memory? What are the politics of social memory? What is the relationship between truth and memory and between memory and history? What memories are concealed and why? Does commemoration serve its intended purpose to increase awareness and understanding? What are the cultural, social, political, and aesthetic reasons for how and why historical events are manufactured and represented? How do museums, monuments, and sites construct and tell a version of the past? We will have the opportunity to apply theory to a variety of representational forms, including film, museums, and monuments.