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 (Spring 2021)


Since the nineteenth century, theories of race have frequently claimed legitimacy based on Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species, sometimes to violent and discriminatory ends. Literature has at times been complicit in such cooptation, and at times sought to correct for the damage it has wrought. What did Darwin really say, though? How could his ideas have been so useful to people intent on dividing communities?  The language of science has convinced generations that ‘race’ is a actual biological category, rather than the social construct that it is, justifying marginalization, slavery, and genocide. Writers have often engaged in the work of telling stories that were cut off through racist or genocidal practices. By looking at both the history of science and the reparative efforts of literature, we will consider such current issues as why it’s interesting to capitalize the terms Black and White when speaking of race, what contemporary science can and can’t say about the origins of our species, and whether the Darwin Awards are true to the ideas of their namesake. Reproducible science and effective literature will guide us through misconceptions about and misuses of evolution.


Prof. Linda Martz

 Given that there is only one human species, Homo sapiens, why are some societies so obsessed with separating people into groups and referring to differences between groups as “racial”? Humans have always identified some people as “Us” and everybody else as “Other,” but the “scientific” discourse of race dates from the 19th century. After examining what science can say about the origins and evolution of our species, students will look at how racialized discourse came into use, how it came to justify slavery and imperialism, how it gave rise to eugenics, and how it can culminate in the ultimate denial of the kinship of humanity, genocide.

CL 1099 FB1: AESTHETIC ACTIVISM? With Professor Hollinshead-Strick

Prof. Cary Hollinshead-Strick

What role does literature play in addressing historical and political wrongs? This class will read novels and poems and essays that offer connections and stories obscured by the usual sources of historical information. When, in Beloved, Toni Morrison uses a nineteenth-century newspaper article to imagine the experiences and motives of the formerly-enslaved woman named in it, or when Georges Perec, in W or the Memory of Childhood, integrates photographs of family members lost in the Holocaust into a memoir that flirts with amnesia, both authors make visible the holes in the historical record.  Does this kind of surfacing of lives lost or damaged by racism and genocide constitute activism? If so, what does such a project look like now?


This FirstBridge considers the role of self-analysis in literature and art. Students study authors who have used autobiographical narrative to examine the essential question of identity—“Who am I?”—from the Renaissance to the present. Concurrently, they interrogate the relationship between words and artworks across a wide range of writings by artists (letters, journals, theoretical texts, interviews). These forms of inquiry are complemented and reinforced by activities at some of Paris’s most celebrated museums.  


Prof. Herve Vanel

"Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" asked, with some irony, art historian Linda Nochlin in a seminal 1971 essay. Part of the answer, she replied, lies in in a common misconception of what art is: the naive idea that art is the direct, personal expression of individual emotional experience —a translation of personal life into visual terms. The class will rely on an extensive selection of films (old and new, mainstream, documentary and experimental ones) to examine both the cultural construction and perpetuation of the myth of the “Great” artist and its rebuttal.

CL 1099 FB2: AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL WRITING with Professor Medin

Prof. Daniel Medin

In this class we consider (mostly) Francophone authors who have used narrative, essays, journals, correspondence, and playfully inventive forms to examine the self. The course is both critical and creative in emphasis: critical, since students develop skills of reading analytically, learning about the relationship of text to context and content to form; creative, since students practice autobiographical writing in genres deployed by their assigned authors. They thereby become more attentive readers of themselves while improving their ability to articulate this knowledge in writing. Authors studied may include Michael de Montaigne, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Xavier de Maistre, Jules Renard, Vincent van Gogh, Alejandra Pizarnik, Joe Brainard, Atel Adnan, Maryse Condé, and/or Scholastique Mukasonga.