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:

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.

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.

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.

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.