Up Up and Away!

Hello All!

It’s crazy how fast time goes by now a days! It feels like just yesterday that I first came to Embry-Riddle and visited the campus for the first time. It has been almost four years, two different changes of major, and countless life lessons since that day. But lets not get ahead of ourselves… Here’s a quick run down:

My names Kealey Cela and I grew up a Navy Brat; living all over the world and moving more than 13 times! I lived in places like Hawaii, Japan, Virginia, and California. Finally my family settled down in a small town in New Hampshire where I went to high school. I’m not the biggest fan of snow which is why going to school in Florida was such a nice change of pace!

I started my college career at a school in Northern Virginia, and then transferred to Embry Riddle for my sophomore year. Over the last three years of college I have learned just as much about my degree as I have about life.

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. -Lao Tzu

One of the most challenging life lessons that I learned during my time in college has been change. Change can present itself in many different ways. For example: The transition from home life to dorm life is a huge change, changing your mind about your major, changing clubs, or even changing your order at Starbucks. The hardest lesson that I have had to learn is overcoming change. Almost every college student at some point will question their major or their career path.

I came to Embry-Riddle with the mindset that I was going to be an Aerospace Engineer, and that I was going to work for a big company like Raytheon or Boeing one day. But it turns out that it just wasn’t for me. I thought about what I wanted to do with my life and after taking some different courses I ended up on Operational Meteorology, which I have more passion for now than I ever did with Engineering. The best advice I can give based on my experience  is to ultimately do what makes you happy in life even if its something you never saw yourself doing originally. If something truly is not making you happy anymore, don’t do it! Once I realized this I felt like I was able to navigate the seas of college life much easier!

Something else that has made me very happy in life has been everything that I have gotten involved in here on campus!

This summer I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Siena, Italy. I received 3 upper level and 3 lower level humanities credits while I was abroad! I would highly suggest getting involved in the study abroad program, it gave me memories and friendships to last a life time, and its the same price as staying on campus and taking classes over the summer!

Representing the U.S. on a bridge in Venice

Representing the U.S. on a bridge in Venice

 

The Pisa tower really does lean!

The Pisa tower really does lean!

 

Enjoying our last weekend in Italy in Rome at the Colosseum

Enjoying our last weekend in Italy in Rome at the Colosseum

Sigma Sigma Sigma 

During the Spring semester I joined Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority here on campus, and it was certainly one of the best decisions I have made while being at school. Sigma has helped keep me more involved in my studies as well as around campus and in the community!

Initiation!

Initiation!

Hope For Hayley 5K with my sisters!

Hope For Hayley 5K with my sisters!

Sigma Sigma Sigma

Sigma Sigma Sigma

I am also an Ambassador for the Women’s Ambassador Program here on campus, which is something that I am very proud of. We work with the admissions department to raise the female population here on campus! We also do lots of events to support women around our campus and in our community!

Ambassadors for the Women's Ambassador Program

Ambassadors for the Women’s Ambassador Program at our Waiz Welcome Dinner

College is all about embracing changes and going with the flow. Try not to get too stressed about anything, its honestly not worth it! Worry about things that you can change, and then change them. And lastly always do what makes you happy in life even if its a little unexpected! If you can do your best to live by these principles you’ll be Up Up and Away before you know it!

007 Study Abroad Continued.

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After Swindon, we took a two hour bus ride to London where we stayed for five days. I was excited to revisit the city and see how things had changed. Actually, nothing had really changed at all! Last time I was in London was during the summer as well, so the weather wasn’t too different. This Southern California girl definitely couldn’t handle the cold weather at night.

We did the touristy things like see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. We also went on a few “Spy Walks” around the city where we learned about the history of espionage through British lens’.

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The next day we visited the Churchill War Museum, where we got to visit Churchill’s underground war rooms, which were kept exactly in tact since the war. It was definitely neat to be a part of history.

Afterward, we got a VIP tour of the US Embassy in London (thanks Jose!) where we got to hear great advice from a speaker in the Embassy and receive a tour of the facility. It is the largest American embassy in Western Europe and it used to be the headquarters of the General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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The last day, the group got a tour of Buckingham Palace. The trip was complete with a plane ride from Heathrow to Dublin, a 10 hour layover in Dublin and a plane ride back to New York and onto Florida. I really enjoyed my time abroad.

A little advice: if you are considering going abroad, please do it! However, make sure you plan well. It’s not like going on a trip with your family where you’re more comfortable. You and only you are responsible for yourself, and no place is like the United States, so be prepared before you go. Also, stay hydrated and sleep! To be honest, the most sleep I got was 4 hours a night. I never adjusted to the time change because I wasn’t motivated enough. Sometimes when you’re so excited about the travel, you forget to rest. From that, you become dehydrated and sick. I learned from my lessons, but it was still so worth it. I’m not a very good influence on that part, haha.

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In addition, pack light and bring proper clothing. All I brought was 1 check-in bag and a backpack, and that may have been too much. Of course, you have some room for luxury, but a 50 pound bag isn’t fun to lug up four heights of hostel stairs.

Overall, keep an open mind and be willing to learn- even about yourself. Travel makes you learn a lot more than you thought you could and gives you a great perspective on things so if you have the opportunity, seize it. You’ll regret it if you don’t. 

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If you have any questions about studying abroad through Embry-Riddle, please email me at giannotw@my.erau.edu.

007 Study Abroad Continued.

10154897_10203209384772142_272986979081192414_nC-130s over Normandy! Kid in a candy store moment. It was so neat seeing 5 of them or so casually flying over at extremely low altitudes. All of Normandy was filled with great patriotism; we were all a part of something bigger in remembering those who had fought for our soil and freedom.

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In the streets of Normandy, France, squandering for crepes

After Normandy, we took a ferry and headed back to England. Here, we first went to Swindon to check out the German Enigma machine at Bletchley Park. If you don’t know much about the machine, the British used it to decode messages that the Germans were sending to one another during WWII. The whole place used to be a huge intelligence base.

The next day, we went to the Culture in Conflict conference at the Defense Academy of the UK. It was a three day conference consisting of various speakers from all over the world- people from the military, government agencies, companies like Lockheed Martin, civilian contractors, and intelligence companies to the Israeli Air Force.

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Cranfield University/Defense Academy of the UK

It’s things like this that confirm my passions. Hearing these people speak from all over the world was very eye opening. Most of them had spent time in Middle Eastern regions like Beirut or places in Afghanistan doing research. I was intimidated, but I was inspired. I couldn’t take many pictures here…sorry, guys! But the memory of this conference will remain ingrained in my mind forever.

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Bath, UK

We had a free day in Swindon, so a few of us decided to visit Bath. Bath is a place that is exactly as it sounds; it’s famous for its ancient Roman Baths.

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Somehow, I managed to come across this quote while I was abroad:

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It definitely struck me. This trip had opened my heart up to many possibilities in terms of where I could take my career. I never knew how many petals this rose of the intelligence field could have. And wow, am I amazed. Studying abroad is such a great idea if you’re thirsting for more knowledge. I went only knowing so few things and came back so much richer than before. Let travel change you. You learn a lot about yourself, too.. which is probably the most important thing you could understand, especially when you’re trying to find out, well, what you want to “do.” Make your passion so big that you can’t fully grasp it even if you travel the world. You can never know enough about your passion.. I guess that’s what makes it what it is. That’s what makes you discover brand new petals of the flower over and over again.

We’re in London next. I’m excited to visit again.

More coming!

Giant’s Causeway & Normandy, France.

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On Wednesday we went to Giant’s Causeway up in Northern Ireland – an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns (mostly hexagonally shaped). These uniquely shaped columns along the ocean are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption on the Northern Ireland coast. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

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We arrived in Lisieux, France on Thursday night for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day on Friday, June 6. The celebration was incredible. A bunch of important people, from Obama and Queen Elizabeth to the US Secretary of the Army, to name a few, were there. We started by going to a museum to see a 1,000 year old script written on William the Conqueror, followed by a stop for crepes. I had never seen so much busy-ness in a foreign country. The gendarmerie (French military force) were on every street corner asking every car where they were going and who was in the car. The security was very serious. We headed to Arromache beach first for the celebration; the beach was completely covered with D-Day re-enactors, military tanks and vehicles.

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After that, we headed to Omaha beach, one of the beaches where the US fought on. We also visited the American cemetery above Omaha, where Obama had previously spoken a few hours before. That night we headed back to town and had a great talk about D-Day over dinner. Needless to say, we were all speechless.

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I loved France. It was a perfect time to put my French to the test and I don’t think I spoke English once except to the students with me. I want to go back already! Please mom…

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On Saturday, the D-Day festivities continued. We went to Utah beach (another US beach) and a few museums. We also went to a neat festival in the town and grabbed a couple eclairs and jambon et fromage baguettes. We also got to meet the Secretary of the US Army and some secret service. That was definitely neat. It was also nice to see a lot of American military present at the celebration, they had already been there for about a week beforehand.

DCIM100GOPROView from my room in France

Today, we decided to go to Juno beach where the Canadians fought. These beaches were very solemn but had freedom written all over them. Some of the German bunkers were still intact and we got to walk inside of them. There aren’t many times where you can say you’re just hanging out on top of an old World War German bunker at the beach, especially on the D-Day 70th Anniversary. These past 3 days were a blessing.

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We took the bus back onto the ferry to England and drove to Swindon, where we will be staying until Friday when we head to London. Tomorrow we’ll be going to Bletchley Park, where we’ll get to see the German Enigma Code Breaker. Very excited!

007 Study Abroad: Belfast, Ireland.

IMG_84702.5 Week Study Abroad in Ireland, France, Great Britain

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Greetings from Ireland! Location: Belfast Peace Walls

Official Day 2 has just ended and it’s 10pm in Belfast right now, but feels like it’s 5pm! Most of us arrived in Belfast on Sunday. After a 6 hour flight, sleep deprived, hungry, and after having an interesting encounter with customs, we were ready to go to bed. Of course, with the time change, we couldn’t until later that night. So, that day we walked around the streets of Belfast gathering up Belgium chocolates, last minute essentials, and a crazy amount of shepherds pie. Our hostel, the Vagabonds, is extremely nice and is filled with various free souls (mostly students) from all over the world. Every hall is decorated with historical pieces of Belfast and sprinkled memories. It’s cozy and quaint. I couldn’t complain.

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IMG_8394Inside the hostel

BpHN3uXIEAAxXrVDowntown Belfast

IMG_8425For the beginning portion of Summer A, us students took two main courses: HS 405, Emerging Topics In Homeland Security and HS 325, Terrorism: Ideologies, Origins, and Goals. We mostly discussed the time of the Troubles here in Belfast, the time of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and their experiences with the British Government.

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(this peace wall was intended to separate the Catholics from the Protestants during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The city people do not plan on taking the wall down anytime soon.)

Yesterday, we had two political tours around the city of Belfast; one tour from an ex member of the IRA and the other from an ex member of the UUP. To say the least, it was a very interesting experience because we got to hear both sides of the story during the times of the Troubles.DCIM100GOPRO

sa5sa6Oldest pub in Belfast

Today, we went to Queen’s University for a lecture. The University was beautiful! We listened to two professors from the Institute of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice; they mostly spoke about the time of the Troubles here in Northern Ireland. We certainly gained a few gems of wisdom on the conflict.

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DCIM100GOPROTomorrow, we’ll be hopping over to Giant’s Causeway for a tour of a great volcanic plateau on the ocean and experience old Irish castles and whiskey tasting. Thursday, we head to Normandy, France for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

If you are interested in studying somewhere outside the US, definitely consider it for the future. You will gain a completely different perspective on not only social aspects, but also academics as well. And take the risk of going to somewhere foreign to you! The leap is totally worth it, after all.

Here’s a great quote on growth: “It is not that we love to be alone, but that we love to soar, and when we do soar, the company grows thinner and thinner until there is none at all. …We are not the less to aim at the summits though the multitude does not ascend them.”- Henry David Thoreau

Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and get uncomfortable. Safety does not always lie in security, which is why we grow when we are in unfamiliar situations. Allow yourself the chance for that growth.
Keep you posted.

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

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

Goodbye island life

This is probably the only blog from an Embry-Riddle student who started two first days at this University, 5 years apart.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that one year ago, I was a Key West trolley tour guide.  I entertained tourists with facts of the island and repeated the same corny jokes to them every day, sometimes with a few originals.  Chances are good that if you visited Key West and rode on an orange and green trolley over the past year, I was your bus driver and guide.  I also drove the Key West haunted tours, a type of meet and greet with Key West characters like Robert the doll as well as the other types of spirits….not necessarily the ones found in haunted houses.  I found myself living on the island by accident.  I went to be a dog sitter for two weeks and ended staying almost a year!  You might say I caught what the locals call the “Keys Disease” and it’s hard to resist.  People come for a visit but never leave.  It’s said on the island that if you show up to work every day, you have a job.  If two weeks later you’re still showing up on time, they’ll make you the manager.  Well, sure enough, the dog left town with its owner and I stayed.  As well as being a tour guide, I worked other side jobs such as newspaper delivery boy, bakeshop dishwasher, and event security (a.k.a. bouncer).

The island life was a relaxing and good one.  It is hard to resist the sunniest place in Florida with the least amount of rain.  It ‘s truly Paradise except, endless renditions of Jimmy Buffett songs blaring down from Duval Street.  One day I woke up with one more hangover and realized I wasn’t moving forward with my life.  It was time for me to progress forward on my flight plan for life.

This was the culmination of a restlessness that I tried to resolve, and it brought me through many different experiences.  These included several semesters at a state university, a shopkeeper in South Beach, and an unpaid Internship for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in DC.  This was right after I withdrew myself from Embry Riddle; I wanted to try something different in life. But my passions drew me back.

On August 27, 2012, my second first day of college began.  Once again excited to be making progress, living in campus dorms, and starting from where I had left off, but more focused on my degree: Aviation Business Administration.  In one week, I will be curing my desires, dusting off the backpack and train hopping across Europe to appease my wandering soul.  In one month, I will be attending classes with the Study Abroad program in Berlin, and in one year, I will be an Embry-Riddle alumnus. It’s a long way from the old island life, and it feels great!