Samantha studied abroad in France in the ISAE Summer Space Program.
IF NOTHING ELSE DON’T FORGET TO PACK:
A fan!!! A/C in France is far and few in between so having a small portable fan for the dorm room, train rides, hotels and even class made such a difference.
ON SECOND THOUGHT, LEAVE AT HOME:
A negative attitude! To get the most out of the experience you must be willing to try new things. A few people in my group didn’t want to adventure and just talk to their friends at home; that is not the point of being in another country.
WHERE TO LIVE:
In my program they provided housing for us as we changed cities each week. My favorite place we stayed was the B&B in Salon de Provence. I loved that the owners were so personable and that the hotel was in an old home with a winding staircase.
BEST PLACE TO EAT:
The beat meal that I had while I was there were crepes. They come in so many different combinations of food in both sweet and savory pallets. A good tip is to always ask the locals or your group leader where to eat because they will provide the most authentic suggestions.
FAVORITE CULTURAL ACTIVITY:
The Louvre!! One of the most massive museums in the world it seems like you can spend forever walking around discovering paintings that you didn’t know existed. One of the best pieces I happened to run into was Venus de Milo. I got lost walking back from the Mona Lisa and rounded the corner to this wonder. Going here was on of the highlights of my trip because I love art and it was amazing to see so many famous works in one place.
BEST CULTURAL HIDEOUT:
I went to Paris early and took a bus to Giverny. This is where Monet lived and where his gardens are that he painted so famously. His house is now a museum to walk through but the best part is the garden. It looks the same as when he painted the water lilies, the green boat the two girls row floats lazily in the water, and it seems it is always golden hour for the thousands of flowers. Benches are nestled in this retreat and are the perfect place to escape to read a book or reflect about being abroad. Another great place to hideout is in the gardens of Versailles. These massive gardens have many secret groves and passageways making it easy to get lost in nature and end up discovering something wonderful. I also spent a few days here not only outside the palace but inside to get a look at the architecture and revel for the French Monarchy.
MUST TRY-LOCAL DISH:
CREPES! or if you are a more adventurous eater have some escargot- it is quite delicious. Also, we happened to discover French tacos. These are like burritos with French fries, béchamel sauce, chicken tenders, and whatever you want inside of them. It is the most filling meal and it is portable, so you don’t have to stop exploring the city while eating.
BEST PHOTO OP:
Did you even go to France if you don’t get a picture with the Eiffel tower?
I have the worst French accent when attempting to speak French. It was very laughable and I for sure got a few good giggles out of the French inadvertently.
We had the opportunity to go to one of the oldest soap factories in the south of France and learn how soap is made. I brought some home and I love it. We also went to a family owned olive oil factory/ winery and got to do a tasting of the oils and the wine. I purchased this as a gift for my parents and it was cool to be able to explain to them about how the wine was made and why it tastes the way it did.
MOST INTERESTING CLASS:
My most interesting class was a space geopolitics task with France’s leading analysist of space geopolitics. This was the most interesting to me because in America, as the space super power, we have a very different sense of what space means, how accessible it should be, and what we send up there. I enjoyed hearing different ideologies on space from other nations as it provided new perspectives and helped reshape my own thoughts on space politics.
BEST PART OF THE PROGRAM:
On this program we were able to attend lots of different companies and learn about how they assemble or produce their goods. Some examples are the batteries that power satellites, the actual assemblies and test chambers of satellites and some of the weather monitoring gear that goes deep into the ocean. We also got to visit CNES and see their Mars test site for rovers.
MOST MEMORABLE TRIP:
As a program we went to Cannes. Since our program consisted on moving locations each week to visit another ISAE school I was able to see, Paris, Poitiers, Toulouse, and Salon de Provence. Cannes was amazing because it was right on the Mediterranean Sea and has an abundance of museums as well as stunning views. We were able to hike up into the mountain to go to an old fort/castle and then on the way down we were able to swim. It is on my bucket list to swim in every great body of water, so this was extra special for me.
BEST LOCAL HOLIDAY:
When we were in Toulouse the Festival of Music was happening. This is a day of music country wide in which there are free concerts in all the public squares. This day was truly special because of the immense juxtaposition of the event. Outside of a 14th century church and student dormitories they were playing dubstep. I also felt like this truly embodied all the cheesy French movies that as people are walking through the city street French music starts to play. It was also interesting to hear some popular French artists and the types of music they listen to.
FAVORITE LOCAL SLANG:
In France a lot of the older generation go “pffff” when talking. I realized that I started to use that expression. In different situations it means different tings much like “oh my gosh” in America.
IF I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN:
I wouldn’t change a thing! I had a wonderful experience exploring Paris before the program started as well as traveling to the different schools. I learned a lot of valuable information and to top it all off I went to Italy for 10 days after the program ended. It was a dream summer and the only thing to improve it would have been for the program to be longer.