Stephanie Leese Emrich
Member of the Paris Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International
Rowing Exchange Chair for the Paris Committee—
As was recently evidenced by the participation of multiple CSCI committees in the Chicago marathon, sports and recreation offers an excellent way to connect people of different cultures. To this end, the Paris Committee of CSCI has supported a Paris-Chicago Rowing Exchange. Rowing Exchange Chair for the Paris Committee Stephanie Leese Emrich explains the great advantages of the rowing exchange.
The University of Chicago Crew Club rowed in La Traversée de Paris (The 27th Crossing of Paris) on Sunday, October 6. A joint effort with the Paris Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International and the Aviron Marne & Joinville Rowing Club in Joinville-le-Pont, France, this Rowing Exchange is now three years in the making. LaTraversée is an annual event that welcomes boats from 25+ countries. This aquatic spectacle offers rowers an extraordinary opportunity to travel through the Hauts-de-Seine and Paris. Imagine rowing 34 km (21+ miles) on the River Seine and discovering the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Notre Dame from an entirely new perspective. Thirty overhead bridges add to the dramatic appeal for the 1,000 rowers.
University of Chicago Crew Club members were treated to a personalized city tour. The students are generously hosted in area homes, forging friendships that last well after Graduation. A highlight each year is the student visit to the University of Chicago Center in Paris.
La Traversée concludes with a festive celebration. The seated luncheon offers a chance to relax and partake in the City of Lights after rowing past her most beautiful sights.
In expanding the Paris-Chicago Sister Cities relationship in the sports arena, the opportunity to establish a Rowing Exchange started in February of 2011. LaTraversée had never seen a U.S. boat. Susan Hackett, a Chicagoan living in Paris, observed this and took action by approaching Chicago Sister Cities International.
Scouring possible rowing clubs, calling the UChicago Athletics Department seemed a natural for me as the Rowing Exchange Chair for the Paris Committee. The school’s quarter system allowed the Crew Club to practice before classes started and actually travel to France.
Rowing equipment, travel details and home stays were enthusiastically arranged by numerous Aviron Marne & Joinville Rowing Club members. In addition to UChicago students, independent Chicago rowers Matthew LaGod (now a UNESCO employee) competed in La Traversée. Joseph Martz (Human Resources Analyst) and Jeff Emrich (Healthcare Professional) joined the AMJ rowers on two separate occasions in Joinville-le-Pont, a tributary of La Seine. Paris Rowers Roger and Laurence Schelstraete bridged the exchange and came our way, rowing with AMJ friends here, complete with tours of Millenium Park, jazz clubs and The Art Institute of Chicago.
The Paris-Chicago Rowing Exchange stays afloat not only on the waterways —it also expands the two cities by friendships and athletic & cultural collaborations. And, in French, we share an indomitable Esprit de Corps!