About Brenna

Junior

Aerospace Engineering

Area of Concentration: Astronautics
Hometown: Fairbanks: Alaska
Career Goals: To be an aerospace engineer who works for an international organization. Hopefully, I’ll have the chance to live and work overseas.
Why I Chose Embry-Riddle: The strength of the degree programs offered, the overall feeling of the campus, and the amount of possibilities
Activities: Honors Program, Resident Advisor

Test taking, volleyball and turning 21

Hey Everyone,

I apologize for this entry being a bit late. I have been pretty busy. The past few weeks have been filled with tests and studying. Exams at EPF are more like national standardized tests rather than an exam at Embry-Riddle. Probably one of the largest differences is that there are many more rules, besides the obvious no cheating and only being allowed to use certain types of calculators. To begin with, there is a seating chart, which is posted on a bulletin about 15 minutes before the exam is scheduled to start. Students have to find their names and their corresponding seat, which can be in one of the two amphitheaters or even in one of the other classrooms. This is because at EPF tests are given to an entire year of students, about 180 individuals, at a time. There is an empty place between each of the seats and all coats and backpacks are placed around the edges of the room. Notes are not allowed, and neither are calculators from home. Students must use TI-83s provided by the school. Each of the exams has at least two versions in order to deter cheating, much like the SATs or ACTs. In addition, the proctors also pass around a sign in sheet with each student’s name and their seating assignment. This allows them to see which students were seated together in case there appears that some tests are too similar. When comparing exams at EPF to ones at ERAU, it seems that tests at Embry-Riddle are more relaxed.

To begin with, there is no special seating chart with at least a spare desk between each student. This is probably due to the fact that when tests are given at ERAU, they are for a class of about 25-35 students, which usually fill the majority of chairs available so that there are not enough spare seats to evenly space students. In addition, there is not usually a sign in sheet. However, some professors at ERAU do require that their students place their belongings against the wall, like at EPF, in order to limit access to hidden notes, phones, and calculators. While some tests only allow non-graphing calculators to be used, most professors allow students to being calculators from home. I think ERAU uses this policy, instead the one at EPF, simply because there are too many students in too many different classes to organize which professors need which calculators at which times. In addition, calculators can be expensive. EPF can afford to give each student a calculator during an exam because the university only needs at most 200 calculators, accounting for broken ones and ones with dead batteries, at any given time. There easily 5 times more freshmen at ERAU than at EPF.

In the past two weeks, there haven’t been too many other notable events. The girls’ volleyball team that I am on experienced its first victory. Right now we have currently won one out of five games. Last Saturday, I celebrated my 21st birthday. I kept things pretty small. I went out of lunch with friends and then I spent the rest of the day going absolutely crazy by watching television shows and not doing any homework. In France, teens are legally allowed to drink and buy alcohol and other liquors at age 18, so turning 21 isn’t really that important. Hopefully, I will have more exciting things to report back to you in the next entry, including pictures. Until then, try not to study too much and get some sleep. There are only a few weeks left in the semester and then it is Christmas break.
Thanks for reading,
Brenna

Chocolate airplane

Greetings to Everyone from an ERAU Student Abroad,

It has come to my attention that just last week, the staff at the Study Abroad Office held an informational meeting that showcased summer programs. I took a look at their website, located here, and this summer there will be opportunities to study in various European countries such as Italy, France, Germany, Spain, England, the Netherlands, Belgium, and even Luxembourg. In addition, this Spring Break you could be in Greece. Having studied abroad last summer in Siena, Italy, I must say that is a pretty sweet deal. I was able to enjoy exploring a foreign country while earning credits toward my degree. If you would like more information about my travels, just look through some of my older entries. In addition, if you are interested in any of the other programs the Study Abroad Office offers, feel free to visit them or contact them using the information located near the bottom of the page in the attached link. They are always very friendly and are more than happy to answer each and every one of your questions about their programs.

Study Abroad poster, found at on their Facebook page, located at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eagles-Abroad/258444774215495

So to be honest, there is not much about school in the rest of this entry, because I had an entire week off for vacation. It was pretty awesome, kind of like having Spring Break only in the fall. (Note: this vacation was not in place of Spring Break. We still have two other week long breaks, one in January to ski in the Alps and one in the spring.) Some of my friends were able to travel west to the coast of Bretagne while others were able to visit other countries such as England or the Netherlands. Personally, I ended up spending my break in Paris. I visited a few friends’ houses and we made some delicious banana bread. In addition, we also were able to go to the cinéma and watch Thor: The Dark World. I really liked the movie and highly recommend it.

One of the more exciting events of my break was the Salon du Chocolat. It was essentially 20,000 m2 dedicated to the worship of chocolate. The event contained information concerning the harvest, production, and tasting of chocolate and various other sweets, such as macarons, nougats, and even chocolate alcoholic beverages. I didn’t taste any, but I heard that the chocolate Baileys was absolutely divine. The Salon du Chocolat was wonderful. There were famous chocolatiers from all over France that joyfully offered free samples of their creations. We tasted chocolates from all over the world from exotic places, such as Africa or certain parts of Asia. There were milk and dark chocolates, ones with fruit, and ones with mint or other flower flavors. There were hard bars of chocolates with nuts and dried fruit and soft truffles with ganache in the middle. In addition, my friends and I were also able to see how hard candies were made. We must have spent close to 30 minutes watching an artisanal family create sweets from molten sugar. We learned how they added flavor and color and we watched them craft beautiful ribbon candies and even a shimmering, translucent flower.
The Salon du Chocolat was also an opportunity for chocolatiers to show off various creations made from chocolate. The largest one there was a chocolate airplane, which clocked in at about 20 ft. long.

The 20ft. long airplane made entirely of chocolate, taken in October of 2013.

I am convinced that this is the perfect gift, granted a much smaller version, for any girl who attends ERAU. I mean, it is chocolate and an airplane, what could possibly be better? Guys attending Riddle, take note.

We also saw creations from fashion designers. Apparently, each year the event is started with a chocolate fashion show. There were so many beautiful dresses, but here are some of my favorites.

This Japanese kimono was made from both white and dark chocolate, taken in October of 2013.

Chocolate fashion is for both women and men, taken in October of 2013.

A tower of tasty macarons, taken in October of 2013.

A tower of tasty macarons, taken in October of 2013.

Here are some candied fruits, such as dates, ginger, orange slices, and even tiny, sweet clementines, taken in October of 2013.

The other major highlight of my weeklong break was seeing Imagine Dragons, one of my favorite bands, in concert. I immediately bought a ticket this summer when I saw that they would be playing in Paris during October. I saw them last year in concert when they came to Orlando and this show, even after a year of constant touring, was at least as good, if not better. My favorite part about their performance was the sheer amount of energy that they brought to stage. While watching them lunge about while playing massive drums, I could feel their passion for their music. In addition, they played their instruments well and even tried to speak a bit of French, saying things like, “We love you!” (Nous t’aimons!) Even though they didn’t speak French correctly, it is actually something along the lines of, “On vous aime”, the crowd still loved them. At one point during their performance there were giant balloons floating about that popped in a shower of rainbow confetti.

The large neon sign outside of the Olympia venue, taken in October of 2013.

Well, that is all for this week, I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday surrounded by friends and family. As always, thank you for reading.
-Brenna

Halloween in France, Engineer in the fog and cooking fail

Hey Everyone,
Happy Halloween! This is one of my favorite times of the year because A) college students have the best crazy costumes and B) chocolate and other candy can be purchased in individually wrapped packages in quantities of 5 lbs. or more. Eating 8 fun-sized Kit Kats is totally healthier than eating one normal sized bar, right? In the picture below, we have one Gumby, two pimps, one communist, two hillbillies, one Viking, and that one robot guy from all of the LMFAO music videos.

Some of my friends freshman year, taken by Carolyn Kiss.

I also love seeing people in costume in class. My sophomore year, I sat next to a guy in a zombie outfit during Calc 3. Since it was dark in the mask, he kept on falling asleep. His head bobbed up and down as it sunk lower and lower to the desktop. Our professor, Dr. Mancas, startled him to wake him up. Funniest thing ever.

Nuit Blanche 2013 logo, from http://www.paris.fr/pratique/culture-patrimoine/nuits-blanches/p6806

At the beginning of October, all of Paris comes together to celebrate a night of art and culture. Nuit Blanche, white night, means essentially a night without darkness, which is what the French call an all-nighter. From about 7pm until dawn, the entire city is alive with the sounds of the cinema, concerts, and dance clubs. The sky is colored with lights from art exhibits, from the windows of galleries as light spills onto the sidewalks, and fireworks along the Seine. Groups of people walk the streets playing music from their home countries on drums, others rollerblade throughout the city, zipping back and forth from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Since my friend Scott and I had nothing else to do that Saturday, we decided to check out Nuit Blanche. I did a bit of research beforehand and so I had an idea of where everything was located and what I most wanted to see. There was this Frog sculpture created by a Japanese artist named Fujiko Nakaya that seemed very interesting. My thought was that it would be really cool to see a giant lit up frog sculpture in the middle of the Place de la République. I also thought that it would be nice to grab dinner at this crêpe restaurant in the Latin Quartier on the other side of the Seine. Since Scott didn’t want to spend too much money on metro tickets, we ended up walking roughly 2 miles to go from the restaurant to Place de la République. When we finally arrived after about 45 minutes of walking, we immediately started searching the place for the frog sculpture. We looked and we looked and we looked. We found this huge misting machine, which was pretty neat because it placed so many water droplets in the air, it almost completely blocked out light form the street lamps and there was only about 10 feet of visibility, but it was no giant, flowing frog. After 20 minutes of playing about in the mist and searching, I realized that I had misread the program for Nuit Blanche. I read frog instead of fog. It turned out that the interesting mist machine that was smack dab in the middle of the Place de la République was the Fog Square sculpture created by Fujiko Nakaya. Wow, I could not believe that I had misread the program sooner. I felt so silly. Scott thought it was hilarious.

Fog Square, created by Fujiko Nakaya, photo taken by Scott Schimmel.

Me standing in the fountain, taken by Scott Schimmel.

This next bit is about the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie. Scott, Alessandro, and I actually visited the science center way back in August, but I finally just got the photos from Alessandro last week and journal entries can be boring without photos. I thought it would be like the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington, which is really cool because it is interactive and a lot of fun. Overall, this interactive science museum was kind of mediocre, maybe because it was aimed at a younger age group or maybe because some of the exhibits were not very interesting. However, one exhibit was actually neat because it had to do with outer space and satellites. The largest attraction was a Vulcain rocket engine.

Vulcain is a group of first stage rocket engines designed by the European Space Agency for the Ariane 5 rocket, which is designed to deliver payloads in low Earth orbits and geostationary transfer orbits. The Vulcain engine uses liquid oxygen/ liquid hydrogen cryogenic fuel. It brings back fond memories of EGR 101 that I took during my freshman year at ERAU. The task was for us to design a rocket in order to deposit and satellite into space. It was pretty fun, I designed the launch sequencer and my roommate, Jackie, designed the umbilical system and fuel tanks on the rocket. Anyways, I digress. I was surprised by how large the engine was and the fact that I could have touched it with my bare hands if I wanted to. The French are pretty relaxed about these types of things; the zoo I visited during the summer had very small fences that were close enough so that people could touch the animals if they tried.

Me and Vulcain rocket engine, taken by Alessandro.

“Duct tape and Velcro are the two most important tools for space crews” – Jean-François Clervoy, an astronaut for the ESA. Please ignore my dorky pose, taken by Alessandro.

Last Monday, we had a bit of unexpected free time and ended up adding a story to my book of cooking horror stories. Our four hour long 8AM class was canceled because the lab we were assigned did not have the software necessary to complete our work. Naturally we didn’t know this until we walked into class. Since we were all up and awake (mostly) with nothing to do, we ended up going to Aymeric’s, Laura’s boyfriend’s, house to make lunch. Since I didn’t fully understand the rapid-fire French going around me, I just kind of went with the flow. We ended up making a vegetable lasagna, pretty simple and pretty easy to get right, right? Wrong.

This lasagna recipe used 200g (two blocks) of chevre cheese, 3 jars of pesto, parmesan cheese, dried green onions, and pasta. Please note, that I do not know much about cooking for French cuisine. I thought the list of ingredients was strange, but I did not say anything because I did not want to be impolite. The first mistake was the quantity of ingredients that we used. The second mistake was not cooking the lasagna noodles before placing them in the pan. The lasagna was horrible! The parmesan cheese on top burned, the noodles were crunchy and raw, and the entire thing was swimming in oil. This guy named Martin bent of spoon trying to separate squares for everyone. The only person who finished their portion was the mastermind of the whole operation, Aymeric. I took a bite or two in an attempt to be polite and was relieved when I saw that everyone else had stopped eating too. We have since decided that Aymeric is no longer allowed to cook, ever.
Well, that’s all folks, I’ll write again in about two weeks. As always, thank you for reading.
-Brenna

Kepler’s Law, American candy and hip hop

Greetings Everyone,
I hope you all have gotten it the swing of school this semester. I feel that after a month as an ERAU student at EPF, I finally have. In the past two weeks, I have had all of my classes at least once, joined school sports, taken dance lessons, and gone to the movies. With little to no homework, I have been keeping busy doing fun social activities and mingling with my French peers. It’s a pretty sweet life if I do say so myself.

Probably the most interesting difference between classes at EPF and ERAU is that EPF seems to prefer a theoretical, rather than an applied, approach to teaching. For example, at EPF I have two hour long lectures, known as CM, which deal purely with proofs and mathematics. Each day I see all those strange symbols, like ∝ for proportionality, plus many more. At ERAU, while we do see these symbols, it doesn’t matter as much if we can read the symbols one by one, it is more important to understand what the proof means and how to apply it. Now granted, it could be the way that my brain works, but the application of theory to examples is where I truly understand a concept. While EPF has classes, TD and TP, which are exercises and labs, respectively, they occur sporadically and are not nearly as common as at Riddle where examples are done in class, given in class, and shown in text books.

My two favorite classes are probably Fluids and Space Mechanics. Professor Lisa Davids, queen of fluids at the Daytona Campus, would be so proud. (If you ever have the opportunity to take any of her classes, I highly recommend it. She is a really good professor with a lot of passion. Her classes are interesting, challenging, and fun.)

Professor Lisa Davids

I think that I enjoy Fluids because it is semi-redundant for me. Following a typical four year plan at ERAU means that students generally take Fluid Dynamics during their sophomore year. At EPF, Mécanique des Fluides is a third year course. This means that while I have not taken all of the course material before, I am at least familiar with most of it. For me, Fluids is both interesting and fun.

The other class that I enjoy is Space Mech, or as it is called in French, Introduction à la Mécanique Spatiale. This is the class I mentioned previously where I am the only student. On one hand, having a one-on-one lesson with the professor is nice because it means that it progresses at my personal pace. If I have trouble understanding a concept, the professor will explain the subject in a different way. It also means that I get to mix theory with exercises, making it more like a class at Riddle. On the other hand, having a small class means that it can be difficult to find an empty room for lessons, since larger classes have priority. Just this past week, there was a scheduling conflict for a classroom and I ended up learning in the top floor, a converted attic, of one of the administration buildings. My favorite part about this class, though, is that it is about space! The very first session, had to do with Kepler’s Laws, which are about the motion of planets. While I have learned Kepler’s Laws before in high school, they are much more interesting now because I am able to study them at a college level.

Kepler’s First Law, the orbits of planets are ellipses with the Sun at one focus, from http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/imgmec/kep.gif.

 

Kepler’s Second Law, An imaginary line joining a planet and the sun sweeps out an equal area of space in equal amounts of time, from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/75/Kepler2.gif.

 

Kepler’s Third Law, the square of the orbital period of a planet is proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit, from http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/kepler.html.

EPF, like ERAU, has many school associations. L’Union de la Vie Associative, or UVA, is a student board that oversees each organization and connects the student clubs to the administration of EPF. Some of the more popular societies are Beach Please, which is in charge of student life including celebrations, activities, or parties, or the BDS (Bureau des Sports) which organizes intramural athletics such as volleyball, soccer, swimming, cheerleading, personal fitness, rock climbing, rugby, tennis, horseback riding, judo, boxing, badminton, etc. The first time I heard someone say the name of Beach Please, I was pretty confused. When the French say beach with their accents, it sounds like a different word with a completely different meaning. It took a bit, but eventually I realized that Beach Please was the name of an organization, not a French person using an American colloquialism.

Beach Please logo

Out of all of the sports offered by BDS, volleyball is one of the more popular ones. Volleyball occurs on Tuesday evenings and on Thursday afternoons, if you are a part of the school team. The first time I tried to go to volleyball, I got lost because the gym is on a different campus. I ended up stumbling around in the dark on the school grounds and lost in a labyrinth of halls until I heard the sound of balls bouncing on gym floors. Eventually though, I found everyone. Volleyball is pretty fun because it is not too competitive. If someone has a terrible serve, people don’t mind letting them serve again. It is less about winning and more about enjoyment.

Another school club that is under UVA is BDA, Bureau des Arts. The BDA offers lessons and outings from various cultures. Each year there are usually visual art and dance lessons, such as salsa, hip hop, and old school rock. The past two classes I attended were about hip hop dancing. We learned about popping and locking, body waves turns, and stalls. Popping and locking is when joints of the body are moved sharply to the beat of music. Body waves are when different parts of the body are undulated. Stalls occur when a person holds their body off the floor using just a certain part of the body, like an arm or head. Obviously, since I am a total noob (can you use that term for newbie dancers?), I had to look up all of these terms to make sure that I was using them properly.

This is me practicing some new found dance moves.

This past weekend, I went to the MK2 Bibliothèque cinema with friends to see the film Prisoners with Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. I don’t want to give any spoilers about the movie for those of you who have not seen it yet, but I will say that the movie is pretty intense and messed with my mind. It is not for the faint-hearted and definitely deserves the R rating. For me, since I scare easily, it is the type of movie I would watch again with friends, decidedly not by myself. I liked the movie theater though. The MK2 that we went to had an American store, which had a whole bunch of foods from the US, such as candy, cereals, and beef jerky. I bought three packs of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to share with my friends since they had never tasted them before. Peanut butter is more of an American taste than a European one.

Reese’s, an American candy

That’s all for this entry. As always, thank you for reading.
-Brenna

Paperwork, procedures and Paris

Hey Everybody,
My goodness, every time that I write, it feels as if there is never enough time to tell you guys about all of the crazy and fun events in my life. Most of the events that take up a lot of time in my life have to do with logistics and paperwork. Not all that exciting, I know, but these are absolutely essential if you plan to be, or are a part of the Dual Degree program between ERAU and EPF. Most of these tips I have learned through experience with trial and a lot of error. Please Note that I am not an expert and that my word should not be taken for granted. This is just an account of my experience.
1. Take a look at Embry-Riddle’s Study Abroad website. Please note this this list is specifically for people who wish to participate in the Dual Degree Program and therefore some items are different and require different documents.
2. Meet with the Staff at Study Abroad when you get to campus. They are very helpful and know a ton of information.
3. If you decide that you would like to be a part of the Dual Degree Program, you are now officially a photo copy making fool. Make copies of everything. When in doubt, make copies.
4. Fill out the Exchange Program Application; make sure that you fulfill all of the requirements. Check to make sure that your Four Year Plan is compatible with the chosen course of study. Besides filling out the form, you will need to include:

  1. Sealed copy of your official transcripts, these can be ordered from Records and Registration.
  2. Two letters of recommendation-one from a past professor and one from a current professor. Make sure the recommendations are good ones from professors who like you. (Time to make a good impression with pocket protectors and good white board markers, we do go to a nerd school after all.)
  3. One page, double spaced, essay stating why you would like to study abroad and what you would like to get out of your experience in the program. I know this seems pretty basic, but the Study Abroad Office just wants to make sure that you really want to study abroad for an entire year. This is a big commitment, like a relationship big, only instead of another person, there is an entire country with a lot of paperwork and rules (think: emotional baggage).
  4. Two passport sized photos-these can be taken at pretty much any drug store near ERAU. While you are there, try to get around 6-8 extras. This may seem like overkill, I promise it is not. It seems like every time I turn around, some office somewhere wants a passport photo of me and most of the time, they don’t want to take it themselves. In addition, I have yet to see a single place where I can have passport photos taken. I am sure that they exist, but I have yet to find any. Make copies.
  5. Copy of your current passport-make sure it is valid 6 months after your return to the US. Color is better than black and white. If you don’t have one, apply for one as soon an possible, more on how to later. Make another copy.
  6. CV, also known as a Curriculum Vitae. Please note a CV is not exactly the same as a resume, but essentially contains the same type of information. If you need more information about a CV, look here. The second half of the PDF is in English, no worries. I wouldn’t leave you guys out high and dry. Also this CV needs to be in French, time to make new friends. Luckily, the Study Abroad Office is popping with foreign exchange students. I’m not saying you should use them, per se, but why not create a friendship that can be mutually beneficial to the both of you? They could help with your CV and you could teach them the rigs of ERAU and Daytona Beach.
  7. One page, double spaced, essay in French, describing the reasons you want to participate in the Dual Degree Program. Once again, this is kind of a “are you really sure you want to do this” kind of step. Remember: It’s like a relationship with emotional baggage.
  8. Travel Itinerary. This can be turned in separately from you application and after you have been accepted by the Study Abroad program.
  9. EPF Program of Studies, which can be found at the Study Abroad Office. Essentially, this is a print out of an Excel spreadsheet showing which courses at EPF correspond with which courses at ERAU. Make copies. This document is as important to studying abroad at the Four Year Plan is to the academic advisors at ERAU. It’s like the Holy Grail of academia.

Think all powerful, not Monty Python (unfortunately).

5. Okay, this step is all about passports. If you already have one that will be valid 6 months after your return from France, skip this step. If you are hesitant to apply for a passport before being accepted by the Dual Degree Program, relax. If you, for some strange odd reason are not accepted, you can always use your passport for Spring Break Vacation to some place exotic like the Bahamas or something. It is better to have a passport than to not have one. The application process can take weeks. Make sure that you have enough time. Always have at least one colored copy of your current valid passport with you. For everything you need to know about passports, visit the .gov site here.
Facility. For a list of such placed near ERAU, or near where you are, go here.

6. Alright, so you have been accepted by the Study Abroad Office into the Dual Degree Program. Congratulations. I am happy for you. Now the real paperwork begins. Take a look at the Outgoing Exchange Student Guidebook created by your very own Study Abroad Office. I didn’t have this when I applied, I wish I did. You guys are sure some lucky dogs.
7. Make sure to get an official Acceptance Letter from ERAU or EPF stating that you have officially been accepted into the Dual Degree Program. This document needs to have addresses, signatures, school term start and end dates, signatures, and an official stamp. No document is officially official until it has a fancy stamp, right? Make a copy of the acceptance letter.
8. Start to save money.
9. Cool, theoretically by this step you should either already have a valid passport or have one coming soon in the mail. Now for getting a long-term student Visa. Ha, you thought it would really be that easy, didn’t you? Nope it is a bit complicated and therefore requires sub-steps. I know exactly what you are thinking, “Yes! More sub-steps. I LOVE sub-steps.” No you don’t. I don’t either. It’s okay. Eat some chocolate and you’ll get through them.
a. The nearest French Consulate is located in Miami and you will need a Long Term Student Visa. ERAU students can use this consulate since they go to school in Florida and have an acceptance letter from ERAU or EPF stating that they have been accepted into the Dual Degree Program.
b. Before making an appointment to visit the French Consulate, you need to register with Campus France.
i. In order to register with Campus France, you need to register with Pastel. See how this works? It’s fun, right? Okay, well maybe the process itself isn’t fun, but seeing how many steps they can break down the process into is at least entertaining.
ii. Required Items: Copy of your Acceptance Letter, and more money. Also make sure that you have your official Campus France ID number.
iii. After you receive an Attestation from Campus France, you can then go to the Miami Consulate. Make a copy.
c. Now you can apply for a long stay Student Visa, by making an appointment with the Miami French Consulate. Make sure that you have all required documents for the appointment. Make at least one copy of each document.
d. When you go to Miami, why not make a road trip and take some friends with you. You can see the famous Miami skyline, Star Island, and visit some of Miami’s famous beaches.

Miami Beach, taken by Courtney Hough, June 2013.

10. If you are concerned about any possible language barrier. No worries. Study Abroad and EPF have made an agreement where you can take part in a Summer Language for Engineers Program. I liked this program. It was pretty fun, see my previous entries. In addition, the tuition for this program for me was FREE. I only paid for my room on the ESTP campus, food, and activities.
a. The application form for the program is located here. You’ll need things such as:
i. 2 ID Photographs
ii. A Needs Form
iii. A Copy of your Student ID
iv. A Copy of your Passport
v. A Copy of your Proof of Payment

11. That’s it for most of the larger paperwork. If I have forgotten anything, I apologize. As you can imagine, having so much to do causes everything in mix in my head. All that is really left to do before going to France is complete any paperwork from EPF which is sent a bit later in the summer. Such documents have to do with:
a. Housing
b. Courses
c. Registration into EPF
d. Insurance

Alright, that is enough boring talk for now. No more paperwork. Now it is all about fun things I have done. In the past two weeks, the best event was probably the Soirée d’Intégration held by EPF. The ticket for the event cost about 17 Euros, which also gave me a t-shirt for the event that I could decorate and personalize as I saw fit and two free drinks. Which when you think about it, the price was actually pretty reasonable. Granted, I don’t drink, but from what I could tell, the other students seemed to like their drinks. The party was held on a boat which was on the Seine. There were two decks. The bottom deck had the dance floor, tables, DJ booth, and bar while the top deck had another bar, chairs and couches for lounging, and a smoking area. It was pretty cool. My favorite part of the evening was being able to matriculate with all of the other students form my class. I met a bunch of new people who were a lot of fun and really nice.

Obviously, it was midway through the night and we were having a lot of fun dancing.

To top off the end to a really awesome night, one of the other students in my class offered me a ride back to my residence. He was driving a whole group of other people to their own apartments in the same area and my residence was along his way home. The car ride was so much nicer than waiting for the Noctilien night bus that services Paris when the trains and metro stop. The night bus would have taken the better part of two hours to get me back to where I live. By car, it only took about half an hour, even with making various stops to drop people off. It was very generous of him.
That’s all for this week. Thank you for reading.
Brenna

Back to School at EPF

Hey Everybody,
I hope that your first two weeks or so of classes have been going well and that you have settled into a somewhat familiar pattern. Since the last time I wrote, I have officially completed my first week at EPF Graduate School of Engineering, Embry-Riddle’s partner school for dual engineering degrees.

This is one of the main classroom buildings, from facebook.com/EPF.ingenieurs/photos_stream

This building the student cafeteria where students can buy sandwiches, drinks, and pastries, from
facebook.com/EPF.ingenieurs/photos_stream

A sample where foreign exchange students come from, shout out to Axel who was at EPF last year, from
facebook.com/EPF.ingenieurs/photos_stream.

I was relieved to discover that the schedule given to me during orientation was of all possible classes for third year students. Once I simplified my schedule and was assigned to lab and exercise groups, my weekly planner was not too complex. So far, on any given day, I have a maximum of about three classes and a lunch break of about an hour and half. Since I am a dual degree student, I do not have to take all of the same classes as the other third year students due to either different course requirements or because I have already taken the equivalent at ERAU. This means that some days, I only have one class or I do not have class at all. Granted, the class periods are much longer than at ERAU. Most classes are about two hours long with labs being about four. Regardless of the length of the class, for every two hours of class, there is about a fifteen minute break. Sometime the break is longer if the professor is late or loses track of time. I think that once my other specialized classes are added to my class schedule, my days will fill up a bit more. In the meanwhile, I am enjoying the extra free time on the weekdays. However, I have class on Saturday mornings and for one or two evenings each week, which stinks a bit.

Above is my schedule, so far, for September.

One aspect of the system at EPF that is quite nice is that professors do not usually assign much homework, if any at all. Even though I do not have any official homework, the nerdy perfectionist in me insists on going through the day’s notes and looking up words and concepts that are unfamiliar. Since my classes are lecture based, I do not have to speak and stumble over unfamiliar words. Instead, I just listen and take notes off of the black board or the overhead projector. Surprisingly, I do not have too many problems in class understanding the professor. A lot of the technical vocabulary used is either exactly same as the word in English, or it is very similar. The only times I have a bit of trouble is when the professor has an unfamiliar accent or terrible handwriting. Since I do not know all of the words well enough to place them in context, I usually just spell the word to the best of my ability (phonetically) or I take a peek at my neighbor’s notes.

Taken during our orientation, you can see Alessandro to the far right, facebook.com/EPF.ingenieurs/photos_stream

The other students at EPF are quite understanding of my situation and are willing to help me. Just in the past week, I have received a tour of one of the three sites of the campus, have had a very patient lab partner, and have been given clarification during a lecture from my peers. In addition, I have had multiple people tell me that if I ever have any trouble understanding anything, I can just ask them and that they will help me to the best of their ability. Their kindness is very inspiring. For example, during my first lab, I was initially by myself and trying to translate the directions. But then, a fellow student, named Manon, asked if she could join me. She didn’t have to work with me, there were other computers open. I was a complete wild card. In general, during my classes are ERAU, the minute the professor instructs students to grab a partner, everyone heads for either someone they know or know to be a good worker. Manon didn’t know anything about me. She didn’t know if I understood what I was supposed to do or even if I was tech savvy. She took a chance and I think it went pretty well. We were able to complete our assignment in the allotted time and we were able to talk about our hometowns. It turns out, that Manon is from a small town near Dijon, which is about a three hour car drive from Paris.

Another really nice person I met this week is Laura. Laura is in the same year as me and we have the same lab and exercise groups. It’s pretty cool that I met her because she is one of the two main contenders for entry into the dual degree program. At EPF, French students take their fourth year at ERAU. Her English is pretty good and from what I can tell, she is pretty stoked about ERAU. If she gets into the dual degree program, she is sure to fit in well. (There are multiple pictures of her in NASA gear and standing next to jet engines) Laura is pretty funny and full of energy. She told me about BDS, a student run sports program that takes place every Thursday after classes. We have plans to try playing soccer this year. We are both out of practice and there aren’t too many girls who play. It should be a lot of fun. I think it is safe to say that I am most definitely looking forward to this next school year. I hope you are too.
Thank you for reading,
-Brenna

Mastering French and Study at EPF

Greetings Everybody,

Whew, these past two weeks have been a complete whirlwind. Between taking a final exit exam for the language program, getting everything organized for the start of the school year, and moving into a new residence (from which I did not have internet access for about a week), I have barely had the time to stop moving to find consistent internet. I apologize that this entry is almost a week late.

Looking back, over the course of two and a half months, I have learned quite a bit of French. During my first language assessment, I tried to recall my French classes that I took in high school over three years ago. I remember that I wrote that I went to the supermarket and ordered food a lot. In some cases, I simply made stuff up. As a result of my creativity and repetition, I was placed in the class for French language level A1. (The levels start at A and continue on to C and each letter has two sublevels of 1 and 2.) Now, I believe my class is beginning B1 and I have learned ten verb tenses, such as the présent, présent continue, passé composé, imparfait, conditionnel, futur proche, futur simple, passé récent, impératif, and plus que parfait. Just think, each verb tense has exceptions that do not follow the set of rules and even the verb tenses have slight nuances that even I don’t know. In addition, even though I have learned a ton of new words, I still have to search in the dictionary multiple times a day and I still have difficulty with any conversation concerning specific vocabulary. This was evident during my final test.

My final language skill assessment had three parts: oral comprehension, reading comprehension, and grammar. For me, probably the most difficult portion of the exam was the oral comprehension. We were only allowed to listen to the audio clips once and sometimes the voices spoke very quickly. For me, I think that as a native English speaker, the rhythm of French is different than the pattern of words in English. This means that I have difficulty parsing out words; I don’t know where one word ends and where another one starts. My thought is that distinguishing words is easier for people who speak Spanish and Italian. That being said, I actually didn’t do half bad on my test and my professor gave me some really nice feedback. I am actually starting to feel a little bit prepared for the upcoming year (knock on wood).

Last week, I went to EPF’s main campus site located in Sceaux for an introductory meeting and lunch. I think it went fairly well. I was able to get a lot of questions answered and I received the basic class schedule for all third years.


This is the class schedule for third year students, taken in August of 2013.

Even though it looks extremely complicated, there is method to the madness. This page shows my classes for roughly eight weeks. At EPF, classes are more in a block presentation. This means that the duration of my classes is longer, but I also take fewer of them. As a result, my schedule can change from time to time as I finish classes and add others. In addition, each different color signifies a different class and some classes are subdivided into labs, exercise groups, and project groups. Additionally, since I am a Dual Degree student, I have to take classes that are not in a normal third year’s timetable, which means that this schedule is going to become even more complicated. Each day of the week receives its own row, so the weeks run vertically. The two columns to the far left of the chart provide information such as the name, location, and time of each class. Each day, I start around 8:15 AM, have an hour and a half for lunch, and finish at the latest at 6PM. Right now, I miss my schedule from last spring at ERAU.

This was my class schedule for spring 2013, created in January of 2013

Each week, I had the same classes in the same order. Each color stood for a different class and I had time to do errands while most campus offices were open during the day. The earliest I started was 10:30 AM and I finished at the latest by 4:30 PM with a Resident Adviser staff meeting once a week and duty one night a week for two weeks on and then a week off at night. Even though at the time this schedule felt full, when comparing it to my new schedule, it is like comparing a knitted sweater to a hand embroidered fine silk ball gown.

I spent last weekend moving from the student residence on ESTP campus to a new building located in Antony. Both of these lodgings are located off of the same train line, RER B, which is also the same train that I need to take to EPF. I definitely like my new setup more than the old one. This new residence is pretty awesome and feels more like a small apartment.

This is a picture of my desk, taken in August of 2013

First off, I love the color scheme of the building. I know that it may be a bit too bright for some people’s tastes, but I have always loved vibrant colors. The hall leading to my door has a magenta wall and the largest wall in my apartment is chartreuse green with three blue square-shaped cupboards.

This is my kitchen, taken in August of 2013

I also have my very own, small kitchen. I am stoked to be preparing my own food in something other than a microwave as I have for the past two years. I plan to make all sorts of dishes. The kitchen has two hotplates a large sink, and a small refrigerator. I also finally have my own closet, small table, heater, and bathroom.

That’s all for this week, not super interesting. However the next entry, I’ll have some more interesting material that has been pending because I have not yet had the pictures ready. In addition, I should be able to provide some more information on the schooling system, my classes, and interaction with French students my age. My not so secret RA social examining tendencies are practically jumping with excitement.
As always, thank you for reading.
-Brenna

Back to Paris with new friends

Hey Everyone,

I hope that you all are enjoying the last bit of your summer. I, like you, am preparing to become a fully committed student. These past few weeks have consisted of making friends who will go to the same school as me, checking items off of my summer to do list, and revisiting some of my favorite places in Paris.

Since the last time I wrote, I have met some pretty interesting people. There is Scott who is from the Netherlands and actually lives in Amsterdam. An older student named Jette who is from Berlin, Germany. Even though at 26 she is older than most of the other students, she is by far the most petite. I have also met Alessandro, who is from Italy but spent a year abroad in the United States when he was in high school. They are all so much fun to hang out with because we each come from a different country and can compare and contrast different aspects of our countries, such as our respective school systems. Scott, Jette, and Alessandro will also attend EPF for the fall semester. I am looking forward to recognizing at least a few familiar faces at university.

Last weekend, I finally had the chance to return to Montmartre and thoroughly explore the hilltop artists’ haven. Well-known artists who have worked or had studios in the area include, but are not limited to, Salvador Dali, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh. Today, there are many different types of artists located all around the town. Photography, ceramics, paintings, drawings, music, artists were selling all different types of art. One of my favorite artists was a man who would use paint markers with slanted tips to create portraits of people on the street. We stood there and watched him create a painting of a young girl in about 20 minutes. He was pretty talented.

An artist creating a portrait of a little girl. Photo credit: Alessandro Piccoli, August 2013

During our wanderings of the town, we also saw some musicians playing in the street. Called Les Presteej, these three men were a lot of fun to watch and were very gifted. We enjoyed their music so much; we pooled our money together to buy one of their CDs. Since all of their music was written in French, we thought it would be a good way to practice our language skills.

Scott rocking out with one of the members of Les Presteej. Taken by Alessandro Piccoli in August of 2013.

This past weekend, I showed Scott, Jette, and Alessandro Bercy Park. They liked it a lot and thought the walkways were very pretty. Even though I had been to the park previously, I still had a nice time and was surprised that there were some parts of the park that even I did not know about. Tucked in one of the corners of the park is a small enclosed area where locals can practice tricks on their skateboards, BMX bikes, scooters, and roller blades.

A young man practicing sets in the air in preparation for larger tricks. Taken by Alessandro Piccoli in August of 2013.

There was one guy on roller blades who was very skilled. I saw him perform skills that I did not even know were possible to do on rollerblades. He did side summies, which are like front tucks, just sideways. I also saw him do a back layout with bent knees. This guy got an incredible amount of lift off of the ramps.

A young man practicing sets in the air in preparation for larger tricks. Taken by Alessandro Piccoli in August of 2013.

Last Thursday was a holiday in France, so we took the day off from school and went to the movies in the evening. Scott and I were trying to make it to the cinema in time to see The Lone Ranger, but waiting for the train took longer than expected. As a result, we were too late for the showing of Lone Ranger and we ended up seeing Elysium instead. I won’t spoil the movie, but even though the movie was a bit gory for my taste and there were major plot gaps, I liked it quite a bit. The movie was about a futuristic dystopian society and about the rise of the underdog.

Friday night, we again tried to go see The Lone Ranger and this time it was a success. I know that the movie did not do too well in the U.S., but even though the movie had been out for a while in France, the movie theatre was still crowded. From what I understand, the storyline of the movie was not entirely consistent with the U. S. pop culture icon. Even so, I still enjoyed the movie. I tried to think of it as kind of like the new Star Trek movies. If the films stood apart from the rest of the universe, they were good, but placed in the context of the other films and stories, they weren’t.

We also took the opportunity to explore the Paris Plage. The Paris Plage is essentially an artificial beach that Paris created along the Seine so that its citizens and tourists can enjoy the warm summer months. There were beach chairs for people to lounge and tan on, buckets and pails so children could build sand castles, and some sprinklers set up so that people had a way to cool off since people do not swim in the Seine.

This is a picture of me showing demonstrating the size of the rings used to anchor boats along the Seine. Taken by Alessandro Piccoli in August of 2013.

A picture of the photographer himself. Taken by Alessandro Piccoli in August of 2013.That is all for now. As always, thank you for reading.

That is all for now. As always, thank you for reading.

-Brenna

Paris heat wave, street art by Seth and a new bunch of friends moves in

Greetings Everybody,
As I was taking a look back through some of my older entries, I realized that I have been in Paris for almost a month and half. Holy cow where has the time gone?

Last weekend, my classmates and I said good bye to the Spanish students. They were part of the program for a month. The night before they had to leave, we all went out to a nice restaurant in the Latin Quarter near Notre Dame. The food was very good and pretty reasonably priced, considering that we were in the heart of the city. I had a ham and cheese crêpe for an appetizer, rotisserie chicken and fries for a main course, and ice cream for dessert for about 14 Euros. It was very good.

This is a picture of my table with three Spanish students and a Brazilian student. Taken by Matheus Wisniewski in July of 2013.

The girl next to me in the picture is Mercedes. She is one of the four original students in my language class and is very funny and sweet. On the other side of me is Matheus. He’s from Brazil and is a lot of fun. The couple across the table is Paula and Nacho. Even though they were in a higher level of French than me, they were very patient as I tried to speak French during the entire meal.

Even though none of us are fluent, we still try to communicate as much as possible in French for practice. Sometimes it is pretty funny trying to explain certain words. One time in class, I did not know the name for a child’s toy stuffed animal and ended up telling my teacher about a faux animal. She was very confused until I told her it was like a teddy bear. She then laughed and told he the right word: une peluche. It was pretty humorous. Just last week, one of my fellow students did not know the name for a hot dog and ended up saying un chien chaud, which literally translates to a dog that is hot. It turns out that the French word for a hot dog is hot dog but with a French accent.

Around the same time that the Spanish left, there was a huge influx of new Brazilian and Chinese students with a few Russians sprinkled here and there. The residence where I live is now almost completely full. This means that there are a lot of students in a very small space. While we each have our own room, we all have to share a single hall bathroom. Essentially, for every 36 or so students, there are two toilets and a shower. I don’t mean to sound snobby or elitist, but this set up makes me wish that I still lived in Adams Hall at Embry-Riddle because then there would be a toilet and shower for every 4 students. I didn’t realize what a luxury it was to live in Adams.

I didn’t really do too much these past two weeks due to the extremely hot weather and I had my first actual French language test. In total, the test took about 2 hours to complete and had four different sections: oral comprehension, written comprehension, grammar, and written expressions. For the oral comprehension, we listened to voice recordings and tried to complete a work sheet that was missing information. Written comprehension is essentially reading comprehension. We read a few passages and then answered questions pertaining to the different articles. Written expression consisted of writing two different letters to a friend using different verb tenses and various vocabulary words to talk about the weather, meals, and activities done. Grammar was pretty difficult.

There are a lot of nuances in the French language that English doesn’t really have. For example, in English we use, “I ate ham,” to say that we consumed a few slices of ham for dinner. In French there is a difference between J’ai mange le jambon and J’ai mange du jambon. The first sentence translates to I ate the ham which means that you ate the entire pig, meat, hooves, tail, all of it. The second sentence translates roughly to I ate of the ham, meaning that you only ate some ham, just the meat. In other cases you can say J’aime les croissants, I love croissants because you can love all croissants in existence ever and in general. However, you cannot say Je mange les croissants, I ate the croissants, because you cannot eat all of the croissants in the world. Instead you need to use Je mange des croissants, I ate some croissants. Sometimes French can be pretty tricky. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time studying.

During this week and last week, Paris experienced a bit of a heat wave with temperatures rising to about 34-35 degrees Celsius, which is 93-95 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember France does not have a lot of air conditioning. We were all pretty miserable. No one wanted to go anywhere in Paris. After class each day, I spent my time lounging about in running shorts and reading. Other students just slept or took multiple hot showers. It was not a lot of fun.

However, yesterday, we finally got a break from the extreme heat and went into the center of Paris and explored the 5th Arrondissement. This ward of the city is known as the Latin quarter because it houses one of the first universities in Paris where they only taught classes in Latin way back when. Nowadays, this area is home of the Gardens of Luxembourg, the Pantheon, the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages, and some of my favorite street art.

Paris is one of the main cities in Europe where street artists display their works. Everywhere I go in Paris, I see buildings and streets decorated with murals, paintings, and tiles. The purpose of street art is to provide social commentary accessible to the general public that is also aesthetic. Some people consider street art as a form of graffiti and street artists have been known to be actively pursued by local authorities. However, most people appreciate the additions to their walls and see the works has beautiful and providing a much needed form of individual expression. The most well-known artist in Paris is probably Space Invader. This artist uses mosaics to create pixelated images like the ones from the old 1970s arcade game Space Invader. His work has spread from Paris to all over the world, therefore “spreading” his invasion.

The aliens seen in this picture are characteristic of Space Invader. In addition, the Rubik’s Cubes seen in the background are another common medium of the street artist.

This is a picture of Space Invader’s work known as Modern Trinity located in the 6th Arrondissement of Paris. Created in July of 2013

Space Invader’s invasion map of Paris. Each of the little red aliens marks a place where he has placed his art.

See more of this map here.

My personal favorite street artist in Paris is known as Seth. I first saw his works in the 5th Arrondissement near the Pantheon. They usually consist of a stylized child wearing stripes and with their face hidden. I like Seth because the art contains a youthfulness and innocence not usually found in street art.

This mural created by Seth is located in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris.

This mural created by Seth is located in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris.

The piece seen in the 5th Arrondissement is very characteristic of Seth. The child’s face is hidden to the wall and he is wearing a striped hoodie.

This work is my favorite piece by Seth that I have seen in Paris.

That’s all for this week. Thank you for reading.
-Brenna

The Wall of Love and other Sights in Paris

Hey Everyone,

First off, if you have noticed that this entry is a little later than usual it is because the residence where I am staying has had technical difficulties with its internet connection. I apologize. Even though the lack of wireless internet seemed like an inconvenience at first, it has given me ample time to reflect on my personal dependence on the internet. It is possible that my need for internet could be based on the fact that I am in a foreign country and rely on the internet to remain in contact with my friends, family, university, and bosses via email and Facebook. In addition, I have also realized just how often I turn to Google to find the answers to my mind’s wonderings, such as what the national language of Norway is or the historical background of a particular building is. While I miss the ability to look up information on a whim, no WIFI has given me the opportunity to turn my curiosity inwards. I have had to time to muse about my motivations for my actions, realizing goals, examining interpersonal relations. The last couple of days without internet have shown me the value in turning off the computer every few days for some self-analysis. That being said, when considering my need to communicate to the rest of the world for a variety of reasons, knowing that I have the possibility of an internet connection is assuring.

Over the past couple of weeks, a pattern has emerged with the students attending the summer language intensive. Each Monday, there is an influx of new students from various countries, usually Brazil and most recently China. In order to know our new peers outside the classroom, every Monday evening we all play a few games of soccer (otherwise known as football in countries outside the US) , together at Cité Université, which is a large group of buildings subsidized by the French government that used to house international students. The grounds contain many large, grassy fields, which provide ample room for soccer. Playing together allows us to socialize and learn each other’s names. In addition, is also reassuring for new students to know a few people in their classes. I like the fact that we all have realized that we are far from home and have all come together to do what we can to ease each other’s anxiety. It is very nice to feel part of a community.

Other students in the language program posing for a quick soccer photo. Taken by Kinoshita Atsushi in July of 2013.

Last Sunday was one of the most important holidays in all of France. This celebration known as La Fête Nationale, or the French National Day, occurs on the 14th of July. This day celebrates the anniversary of the Fête de la Fédération in 1790 which was a huge feast that celebrated the creation of a constitutional monarchy. Coincidentally, this is the same day as the storming of the Bastille. On this day, the oldest military parade of all Europe marches down Champs-Élysées in front of the French President, French officials, and honored guests. The parade contains all of the enlisted people in France’s various armed and unarmed forces which include, but are not limited to, the army, navy, air force, police men, and firemen.

This is a photo of the parade on July 14th meant to honor France’s enlisted citizens. Taken by Kinoshita Atsushi in July of 2013.

This holiday is celebrated with a couple hours long parade of all the various troops in their dress uniforms carrying swords and wearing many flashy decorations with large white gloves, over-head flybys, and in the evening, a huge fireworks show. I have never seen such an extravagant celebration. The entire show lasted about an hour and the fireworks had the same intensity as a grand finale in the United States the whole time. In addition, the entire show was choreographed to music and used multi colored lights, fog machines, and incorporated another building and a display across the Seine. It was incredible. As my friend Bryan, who was born in the South of France, said, “Nobody knows how to celebrate quite like the French.”

The Eiffel Tower during the July 14th celebration. Taken by Kinoshita Atsushi in July of 2013.

This week, I was given a free afternoon without any classes. I used this opportunity to travel to the northern part of Paris to visit Montmartre, a district of Paris, and the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. This very important religious and historical landmark is located on a hill about 129 meters above sea level which makes it the highest point in all of Paris. Construction started in 1875 and the basilica was consecrated in 1919. Inside, pictures were forbidden in order to prevent the degradation of the priceless paintings and artifacts. However, I did manage to get a nice picture of the outside.

Sacre Coeur cathedral. Taken in July of 2013.

Another attraction in Montmartre is the Wall of I Love Yous, or in French Le Mur des Je T’aime. Located in the Place des Abbesses, this work of art uses 612 tiles and contains over 311 declarations of love in over 250 different languages from all over the world. The small bits of red are said to be pieces of a broken heart that the wall tries to reunite. To me, this wall is both happy and sad because while all the pieces of the shattered heart are in the same place, they are forever frozen in place by glaze and tile and so can never be fully put back together.

The love wall. Taken in July of 2013.

On Saturday, a few of the students in my class visited the palace and gardens of Versailles. The Château de Versailles, which is on UNESCO World Heritage List, is a palace where three French kings and their families lived. Originally, the site was used for a hunting lodge, but each following generation added more and more to the building, making it grander. Today, it is one of the most famous examples of 18th century French art.
Louis XIV commissioned André Le Nôtre to create the gardens of Versailles in 1661. The size and complexity of these gardens meant that they took over 40 years and thousands of men to complete. Such an undertaking involved moving large amounts of earth using wheelbarrows, transporting hundreds of trees by cart, and the carving countless statues and fountains.

One of the many fountains located in the gardens of Versailles. Taken in July of 2013.

Intricate landscaping found in the gardens of Versailles. Taken in July of 2013.

It may seem a little silly, but my favorite part of the entire day was the sculptures on display in the gardens of Versailles. In order to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth of André Le Nôtre, the creator of the gardens of Versailles, Italian artist Giuseppe Penone was asked to display various works around the gardens. The series, known as Penone’s Versailles, focuses on using natural materials such as wood, stone, marble, etc. to create harmony between man, nature, and culture.

The first moment I saw one of Penone’s sculptures, I knew that if these pieces of art were the only aspects of Versailles that I saw that entire day, I would feel completely content. For me, I was just in awe of the balance of the sculptures, literally and metaphorically. Some of these works of art contain river stones that are twice the size of a human head balanced some 20 feet off the ground, nestled in the branches of bronze trees. It is amazing that Penone was able to create his trees to match the shape of the stones while still seeming to be natural, as if when the trees had grown, they simply lifted the rocks into the sky. In addition, the pairing of the river smooth rocks and the man-made bronze trees was perfect. It felt like I was looking at a westernized Zen garden, but instead of the trees being planted in rocks, the rocks were a part of the trees. There was a balance of natural and unnatural, organic and inorganic. The majority of Penone’s works were located in a relatively small alcove of the garden known as the Star Grove. The minute I entered it, I would have loved nothing more than to sit on the grass beneath the shadows of the hedges and read a good book.

One of Giuseppe Penone’s bronze tree sculptures in Penone’s Versailles. Taken in July of 2013

One of Giuseppe Penone’s bronze tree sculptures. This picture shows how the trees are hollow in the inside. Taken in July of 2013

The same sculpture only from a different angle. Taken in July of 2013

These two sculptures are created from and blend of Giuseppe Penone’s bronze trees and actual living trees. Taken in July of 2013

This bronze tree in Penone’s Versailles was placed overhead and supported my metal rods and surrounded by living trees. Taken in July of 2013

Most of the trees in Penone’s Versailles found a way to mix organic with inorganic. In this case, a smooth river stone was balanced in a bronze tree. Taken in July of 2013

This last picture was also taken in the gardens of Versailles. It is a bit random, having no real back story. That being said, when I first saw this tree I felt overwhelmingly peaceful. It is my hope that this photo brings you peace and clarity in the upcoming week.

A tree in the gardens of Versailles. Taken in July of 2013.

As always, thank you for reading.
-Brenna