We are lucky as Boston University students to get into many museums in Boston for free. I personally love going to the Museum of Fine Arts on a random weekend and looking at the impressionist paintings. However, for many college students who are interested in museums around the country (such as the numerous national museums in Washington, D.C.), the price of admission can act as a barrier to entry. As a college student already strapped for money, why pay for a $10-ticket when you can just sit in your room and watch educational Netflix documentaries instead (or “Friends” on repeat, if you are me).
Here in France, I have discovered a whole new view on how to treat young adults and culture. For the majority of monuments, famous buildings and museums in France, anyone under the age of 26 can enter for free as long as you are a European Union citizen or an EU resident for more than 3 months. Thus, as a student studying abroad here for a year, I qualify as a resident and have taken advantage of the opportunity to enter many museums for free.
This week my boyfriend visited me in Paris for spring break and it has been an interesting experience seeing the difference in prices. Since I live here in Paris as a student, I can get in most places with my passport for free, while he is required to pay. While the price to enter is not that much compared to the United States, ranging from about 10€-12€, it is still something I notice. Especially given the fact that here in France, students who are between 18 and 25 years old, no matter where they are from, usually receive a discounted rate, usually between 8€-10€. There is a heavy focus on culture for residents and even non-nationals.
Since I was in Grenoble last fall and traveling across Europe, I made sure to take advantage of being a European resident as much as possible. I have been able to enter numerous museums and locations of national heritage, such as Les Invalides in Paris or an art museum in Florence for free just through the nature of being a student in the European Union. Even a few weeks ago, I was able to get into two out of three famous French castles in the Loire region by virtue of being a student. Considering that I am only here for the year, I am going to try to take advantage of these opportunities as much as possible. Hopefully as I travel around Europe, other countries will have similar policies to what I have encountered here in France.
After having experienced this freedom of knowledge and culture in Europe, I can’t help but reflect upon the United States and the policies we currently have in place. While here in Paris I can have free access to the majority of museums in order to enrich my cultural heritage and my awareness of the “patrimoine du pays,” in the United States I would need to pay something, even if it is not too expensive at only a few dollars. This is only the forefront to a debate about the costs of the government providing culture to its citizens and even other visitors to its territory. While there is a cost to upkeep museums, explore archeological sites and continue research in various areas of study, the knowledge that can improve humanity as a whole in terms of peace is something that should not be forgotten.
Thus, as an American citizen, I continue to ponder the value of culture here in Europe. While I understand that there are restrictions, I hope that in the future we can expand access to more of our museums and monuments in order to better the world.