Colonials Abroad: James Hawthorne

Nov. 30, 2017

GW Men’s rowing junior James Hawthorne is spending the fall semester abroad in Paris, France, studying European politics. Although he originally thought he would take a hiatus from rowing while in France, his mind quickly changed when he realized the potential he had to row internationally.

Hawthorne took some time to share his experiences in a blog post for

When I first arrived in Paris, I was uncertain of how rowing would fit into my schedule. It was my first time living anywhere other than Boston or DC. I chose Paris for my study abroad location due to a research project I had, studying the relationship between extremism and European politics. Rowing, although a major part of my life these past few years, was not on the forefront of my responsibilities. After about a month of living in Paris, I had finally settled down and adjusted to the new lifestyle, but one major thing seemed to be missing—rowing.

Through an uncanny connection, a friend of a friend told me that his roommate was an American rower studying abroad in Paris for the semester as well. We connected at a local café and compiled a list of all the possible ways we could row. We made training plans together, trained together, and spent a lot of time connecting as oarsmen. We were fortunate enough to have ACBB Aviron, a renowned rowing team in Paris, accept us to train with and for them. My training partner and I were a little out of the loop with the club in terms of events or any type of racing—we were merely just training in the facilities or taking long rows in the evening on the Seine.

My home club in Boston is the Riverside Boat Club (RBC). One of my teammates from the Men’s Open Sweep team at RBC was working on his doctoral degree in Boston, but returned to Paris for his career around the same time that I began to study abroad there. When he got to Paris, he asked me to fill in for someone’s seat at his club in Dunkirk, France. The idea of racing in France had never really crossed my mind. Although I was unable to make the race, I reached out to my coach at ACBB, Cedric Toublan. He arranged for me to race in the Open Men’s 1x for a head race in Western Paris.

At 4 a.m. I left my apartment in the 16th arrondissement to get to the buses at ACBB’s boat sheds, and at 4:45 a.m. we were on our way. The race took place on the Seine River, in a constructed racecourse. The morning was quite rough, with heavy winds and stormy rains, yet everyone completed a successful race for ACBB. Having only done sweep rowing, as most American universities do, it was surreal to have learned sculling in a just a short few months and to be racing so quickly, especially in the single. Rowing for ACBB Aviron this autumn semester has been an absolute pleasure, full of amazing people and experiences. As incredibly eager I am to return to my team back at GW, I will be leaving Paris, and ACBB for that matter, with a heavy heart.

- James Hawthorne



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