Art & Music Hum Student Discovers the Flâneur Mentality

Embracing a flâneur mentality, Max found himself—almost to his surprise—attending many of Reid Hall’s public events with his classmates.

September 06, 2023

Maxwell Seelig is a second-year theater major at Columbia College hailing from Cambridge, Massachusetts. He studied Art Hum and Music Hum at Reid Hall in Summer 2023. 

Maxwell Seelig discovered the flâneur mindset in Paris. Usually a very organized person who avoids free time, he characterized his time in France as “freeing.” To friends back home in the U.S. he described it as “the longest guided meditation you can imagine.” He said, “You’ll wake up, you’ll go on a walk, [and] you’ll find something,” and if “you enter Paris with that energy you’re going to do so much more and feel so much more relaxed.” His advice to future students: don’t plan!

Embracing this mentality, Max found himself—almost to his surprise—attending many of Reid Hall’s public events with his classmates. What would start as one student expressing last-minute interest in a group chat, regularly led to four or five students attending that evenings’ event. It was, he said, a “great, free community experience.” 

The weekly cultural excursions built into the joint Art and Music Hum course brought students into a tight-knit group. Of watching L’Histoire de Manon at the Palais Garnier, Paris’ premier ballet and opera house, Max said, “it was a really special opportunity that we will all look back at fondly.”

Max made very close friends over the course of the program. “Reid Hall has been the most incredible place to house 32 kids who didn't know each other,” he said, citing the open courtyard and student programming as great opportunities to bond. The Art and Music Hum program has created “an energy of one big happy family,” he said. “I'm very grateful for that. I think if that didn't happen, it would have made Paris a lot more intimidating.” 

This year the program has laid claim to a nearby bar called Le Pantalon, also frequented by Sorbonne students. “It’s become our bar,” Max said, recommending it to future students. “It’s become our Central Perk.”

The openness at Reid Hall invited another sort of encounter. Through a window looking over the Reid Hall garden, Max watched people imitating animals. These were students in the acting section of a Theater and Translation course taught by Gisela Cardenas and Laurie Postelwate. (Learn more about the Theater and Translation sections.) They were doing “animal work,” a training technique that involves observing animals to later emulate them in a classroom setting. For the fall semester, he said, “I was deciding between two advanced acting courses, with two very different professors.” Intrigued, he immediately decided on Professor Cardenas’ course: “Let’s try animal work!”

The theater major at Barnard and Columbia offers few opportunities for its students to study abroad. Max found one loophole with the summer session. After a rewarding and fulfilling experience in Paris, he plans to study in London next year in a Columbia-affiliated theater program.

Watch Maxwell’s video interview.