July 28, 2004 —
A group of USC Viterbi School undergrads who traveled to Paris this summer for
a six-week studies abroad program got a chance to fulfill academic requirements
while learning to live and speak French. The overseas study program, taught by
USC faculty, gives students an opportunity to take an accelerated program of upper
division courses while gaining some insight into the cultural differences they
may face someday as engineers working aboard. The hours are long and the study
intense, but there's always time for sightseeing. So we asked them to send back
postcards from Paris about the experience
Crème Brûlée and Gelato
Please excuse the tardiness of this postcard...Paris tends to make one forget
about time and deadlines.
My time in Paris has been memorable and productive. Not only am I completing
two engineering courses, but I am also visiting all the sites I've only heard
about or seen in pictures. Climbing towers, riding the Metro, eating the best
crème brûlée and gelato, and roaming the many famous museums have been some of
the highlights of my trip. The common factor of all these memories has been all
of my new friends, who also happen to be my classmates and neighbors. Whether
I’m spending hours in one apartment doing homework with my seven thermodynamics
classmates or whipping up dinner with friends, the residence building Daumesnil
has been a great home in Paris. Walking home from the market yesterday, I was
greeted by my friends waving at me from the windows. I was overcome with melancholy
knowing that the trip was almost over. But, plans for Paris theme parties are
already being made as well as visiting each other to make crépes or simply hang
out and relive our cherished Parisian memories.
- Holly Chico
Farewell to an Unforgettable Summer
So here I am, on the plane back to the U.S., reflecting on the past six weeks.
Undeniably it was the best six weeks I’ve spent consecutively with USC, and some
of the best and most memorable time in my entire life. Of course, I’ve had my
share of ups and downs, from the literal climbs up spiral staircases of countless
cathedrals, to the figurative downhill battles in staying up until 6 A.M. to polish
an article about M&M’s or riddle a textbook with cut-up post-it notes for
an exam. I’ve gone through weekend trips, museum runs, and cultural adventures,
all culminating in a trek up Eiffel’s masterpiece and a final, bittersweet midnight
ride to the end of Metro line 14. Really, there’s no doubt about it; I’m going
to seriously miss this summer.
I’ll miss exploring Europe. Just two weekends ago, I swept through London in
an intense, invaluable whirlwind tour of arguably all of the city’s must-see landmarks.
St. Paul’s Cathedral, the British Library, the Tower of London... you name it,
and I’ve probably been there. My exaltations of watching Les Miserables and witnessing
Jean Valjean’s absolutely heartbreaking vocal range in “Bring Him Home” could
go on for pages. To follow that up, I went with my family to our old hometown
of Ferney-Voltaire, on the border of France and Switzerland. Past the nostalgia
of returning after eight years, I could extol forever the sigh-inducing, unmatched
beauty of the French countryside, with its wealth of cozy villages, calming emerald
landscapes, and castles on high cliffs that no postcard or picture could fully
But most of all, I’ll miss daily life in Paris with my fellow Trojans, who came
to France as an assortment of polite acquaintances only to leave now as a close-knit
band of friends. I’ll miss stopping by Monoprix for groceries, visiting a nearby
boulangerie for a pastry and strolling through the city to uncover something new.
I’ll miss putting on the “Metro face”, sitting in a café to watch passers-by,
and admiring the ubiquitous breathtaking scenery and architecture. I’ll remember
the engineers dominating the study room and the residence lounge with our requisite
arsenal of laptops and homework. And I’ll remember being at peace sitting on one
of the window sills in my apartment, taking a break from my studies to watch the
sun set over the Parisian rooftops.
It’s hard to believe that six weeks could pass so quickly. Paris has given me
memories and friendships I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, and I’ll always
be grateful for this irreplaceable experience. So, for the last time in this incredible
summer, I bid you au revoir!
A “Nice” Excursion
In high school I remember seeing an antique travel poster for this city in the
South of France. It was a drawing of a beautiful scene with the words “Nice” at
the bottom. I thought the play on words was perfect and always wanted to someday
visit. Last weekend on our first free weekend I had that opportunity.
Old Town Nice was so beautiful and peaceful. It was how one would picture a Mediterranean
village. Each section of the old buildings painted another bright color on a palette
ranging from terracotta to jade. Huge market places reigned by day while at night,
little restaurants with provincial food opened. One even served rabbit.
The beach was quite the interesting experience. Since it is situated on the Riviera
I expected blue water and a warm sandy beach but I was greatly shocked. The water
was blue but the sandy beach was turned out to be rocks about a 6-8 inches in
diameter. It was humorous to watch people walk on them. I am sure I looked silly
Nice was the perfect relaxing excursion with quite a different feel from Paris.
It was a wonderful time and I am happy to say that I left the city with a copy
of that travel poster I loved so much.
- Katie Rhedin
Once a year, Parisians, determined to go to the beach, truck in sand and palm
trees and bring the beach to the banks of the Seine.
I have noticed that Parisians have a defiant streak within them. Whether refusing
to speak English in order to encourage a hapless tourist to attempt to communicate
in French or, so we were told, using vacation time after Bastille day so they
can have the entire week off, they like to do things a little differently here.
This past weekend, however, marked perhaps the most unusual manifestation of Parisian
eccentricity: the Paris Plage.
This annual event, started in 2002, is the time when Paris celebrates its love
for the beach. Plage is French for beach. Instead of encouraging everyone to make
the trip to the sunny coastal regions of southern France, someone thought it would
be a good idea to bring the spirit of the beach to Paris. And it caught on. They
really go all out to host this event, not only bringing in truckloads of sand
and beach chairs, but also huge, potted palm trees. Parisians in bathing suits
dot the banks of the Seine river, lounging about, tanning, making sand castles
or simply enjoying each other's company.
Coming from Hawaii and seeing this sight certainly provoked an odd mix of familiarity
and bewilderment. I also developed a sense of admiration for the Parisian spirit.
The mere thought of bringing the beach to the city deserves recognition for originality
and audacity. Making it an annual festivity is just crazy.
Sadly, it seems that our program wraps up just as we had begun to get acquainted
with the city and, to some extent, the language. The six weeks of classes, sight-seeing
and fun times has all gone by so quickly. While I feel ready to go, I am reluctant
to leave my new friends and, more particularly, our home away from home here in
Paris. I find comfort in the bonds of fellowship that we have forged and the countless
memories we share that will stay with us beyond the summer. I'll also leave Paris
with a greater appreciation of the French people, their beautiful country and
all their idiosyncrasies. So, Au Revoir, and Aloha.
- Adrian Lim
Au Revoir Paris
As our trip comes to a close – four days left – I’ve started to think about things
I will miss about Paris. One thing, for sure, is the Metro. Don’t get me wrong,
I love to drive (I grew up in Los Angeles), but there is something to be said
about the efficiency of the public transportation here. You can get anywhere in
the city in 15 or 20 minutes, without having to deal with traffic jams or parking
spots. On the other hand, you can’t blame traffic when you are running late. I’ll
also miss the sense of leisure and relaxation here. No one is ever in a rush.
A group of us went to dinner at Bofinger – the oldest Brasserie in Paris – on
Saturday, and spent over three hours at the table. It’s not uncommon to sit at
a café for an hour or two with a single drink. You are never asked to leave; waiters
won’t even bring the check unless you ask.
Yesterday we woke up early and camped out on the Champs-Elysees all day to watch
the finish of the Tour de France. When the Tour finally arrived, we were there,
American flag in hand, cheering Lance Armstrong to his record-setting sixth victory.
It was amazing to witness history in the making – a record that will not be broken
for a long time.
With the end of our trip comes the end of classes, and that means presentations
and finals. It’s going to be a tough week, trying to cram in everything left to
do in the city while keeping up with school. That being said, I shouldn’t be spending
any more time in front of the computer than necessary.
Au revoir from Paris.
- Sam Bagwell
Paris has been a great city with so many things to explore. And with only four
more days here, I am sad that I will have to go home so soon. Having the past
two weekends free to explore Paris or other parts of Europe, I ventured further
and went to the city of London.
Taking an early train to London was a disaster. After getting up at 4:30 AM and
missing our train, we managed to catch a train two hours later. The first thing
when we saw in London when we arrived was the changing of the guards. The rest
of the day was packed with excursions to the tourist sites. It was different to
be able to read the signs everywhere. The second day was spent with more sightseeing
and in the afternoon we watched Les Miserables. On the third day after more sightseeing,
we had fish and chips as our last meal in London.
After taking the train back home, all I wanted to do was sleep. But, I had to
work on homework after I got back. Traveling and studying has been a challenge
to balance but it has been well worth losing every minute of sleep for it. As
much as I am tired and ready to go back home, I would love to spend another week
or two in Paris. I don't think I can get enough of this city.
- Eun Sook Han
Formula One Racing at the Champs-Elysees
Lisa Schilken tackles a Formula One racecar simulator by the Arc de Triumph.
Hello again! Since I am a sophomore in Industrial and Systems Engineering, and
since one of our assignments for our writing class was an ethics paper, I choose
to focus on safety concerns, specifically in Airbus and the Indy Racing League.
What better way to do research than to try out a full-blown Formula One racing
The Champs-Elysees has not only the Arc de Triumphe, where I rather embarassingly
fell down the stairs, but also a number of different car galleries. These include
Mercedes Benz, Peugeot, Toyota, and Renault. At the Toyota showroom there are
two floor with Formula One cars. On the first floor is an actual racing car that
you are not allowed to touch. Upstairs is a mock-up connected to a race simulator.
The nice attendant helps you into the car, adjusts the pedals for you, and then
bolts in the steering wheel. You get to pick any track you want and then do three
laps on it. The racing is awesome complete with feedback so the wheel will jerk
if you go over any bumps -- or go completely off the track and onto the grass
like I did!
The simulator was great and it was free! Adrian and Holly both tried it out too.
Don't get me wrong, the Arc was fantastic, but give me a racecar any day! I even
got a picture taken of me with my sunglasses on in the car. What a great way to
Bastille Day in the Bastille District
Last week was pretty eventful with Bastille day taking up the bulk of our time,
followed by our first free weekend where the whole group kind of dispersed around
Paris and Europe for a couple days. It was a lot of fun to experience Bastille
day right in the Bastille District here- though the festivities weren't as crazy
as they were reputed to be! The fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower was cool,
and the music in the background definitely created a very surreal atmosphere-
all very Parisian. Eight of us from the group went to Amsterdam for the weekend.
What an experience! We had a lot of fun exploring the city and observing its infamous
Now it's back to work, we have a lot to do this week. I think we've all learned
how to best manage our time so that we can enjoy being in Paris. After all, we
only have one more week after this one! It's crazy how fast the time has gone
by here. I've been having such an awesome time, so I'll be sad to leave. But I'm
excited that the friendships I've made here will continue on back at USC!
- Laura Brown
U.S. Soil in France?
USC Viterbi students visited Omaha Beach.
Already three weeks in and the excitement never stops. This theme rings especially
true in light of our visit to Brittany/Normandy this past weekend. As a reward
for our completion of ME310 quizzes, ISE460 midterms, and especially our WRIT340
ethics papers, the group set off on a journey to visit the northwest region of
France. Our first stops were made at the Caen Memorial Peace Museum and the cemetery
at Omaha Beach. The portion of land directly above Omaha Beach was given to the
U.S. in recognition of the thousands of Americans who gave their lives fighting
on the beaches of Normandy. It was nice to once again set foot on U.S. soil. Our
weekend also included visits to Saint Malo, the Mont St. Michel, and the city
of Dinan where we saw the Tour de France ride through!
Excursions like this almost overshadow the purpose for us being in France, to
study! Once Monday rolls around we are back at the books working hard to finish
a semester’s worth of work in just six weeks. Late night Internet café runs have
become the norm in our efforts to complete all of our assignments.
Perhaps the greatest challenge of studying in Paris is the constant struggle
to find a balance between dedicated study time and free time to explore the city.
I think the longer we are here the more we are realizing the interconnectedness
with our work as engineers and the actual world. Our current Writing340 assignment
challenges us to research a topic of both French significance and engineering
relevance. Then compose an article about it for submission to the Illumin website
(http://engrwp.usc.edu/illumin/). Students have found inspiration for this assignment from anything between
the Bastille Day fireworks show to the engineering behind food preservation in
France. Assignments like this encourage us to recognize our role as engineers
as well as the significant applications of engineering in everyday life. And now
that we are on the topic, I need to leave and get back to work! Au revoir from
- Todd Royce
USC Viterbi students at the Arc de Triomphe are forming lifelong friendships.
Clockwise, starting at 12 o’clock are Joel Cicchella, Lino Manansala, Laura Brown,
Tyler Cesar, Steven Funasaki, Carlos Espinoza, Todd Royce, Rockton Hill, Holly
Chico and Kimberly Mendonca.
So far this trip has been very different than what I expected. I expected to
meet many French people and make some foreign connections. Instead I have made
great friendships with all the other USC engineers. Being in a foreign place like
Paris has created an environment where it is easy to bond with my fellow engineers.
We're always together wherever we go. Anytime there is an assignment I see people
working together and helping each other out. This trip has been an invaluable
experience to make friends with both students as well as the professors. Our weekend
trips to Versailles and Normandy/Brittany have been great breaks from all the
studying we have to do. It lets us all interact with a more social and casual
theme. Paris is a place packed with so much to see and do that I cannot recall
a boring moment (except maybe in class once in a while) the entire trip. The trip
has been a priceless experience so far and it's sad that we have less than two
weeks left. However, a good thing is that all these people are engineers so I
will continue these friendships at USC and in the future as well.
- Steven Funasaki
Brad Tallon rode 25 kilometers just to find this picturesque Dutch windmill.
Bicycles are EVERYWHERE in Amsterdam
Greetings from Amsterdam!
Well, not quite, a group of us actually just returned from a trip to Amsterdam
yesterday. Even though I have seen less than half of what there is to see in Paris
(Still haven't climbed the tower, but the weather's been horrible!), we're in
a perfect position to travel to most of western Europe on the cheap. So we decided
to take one of the Thalys high-speed trains to Amsterdam. We knew there was more
to Amsterdam than the legal marijuana and the infamous Red Light District, but
as it turned out, there was even more to do in Amsterdam than we had expected.
The first thing you notice after stepping off the train in Centraal Station (not
a misspelling) is that there are bikes EVERYWHERE. Most of the cars on the road,
and there aren't many in the first place, are taxis. Everyone else rides a bike
around town and there must be millions being ridden or chained up all over the
city. Amsterdam has even developed its own bike traffic system, creating lanes
separate from foot and street traffic specifically for bike use. These lanes even
have their own stoplight system. Just make sure not to stray off the sidewalks
and walk in the bike lanes or someone is bound to run into you.
On Saturday, I took the opportunity to cross the river and bike outside the city
Brad Tallon and Adrian Lopez in Amsterdam.
and had the chance to see the wonderful Dutch countryside. I rode about 25 kilometers
in search of a windmill, which I finally found. All in all, Holland is a beautiful
country, especially when you travel outside the city and get the chance to see
the rolling hills and extensive canals.
Back in the city, we visited the van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank's
House, the Heineken museum (of course), walked through all the squares (called
pleins) and just explored the city.
All in all it was a great and educational trip! Alas, back home in two weeks...
- Brad Tallon
Amazing Blue Water at the French Riviera
A view of the valley across the river from Amsterdam.
I spent this past weekend in Nice and other cities along the French Riviera.
Other than being some of the most beautiful places that I have seen, it was a
unique experience that complimented the trip to Paris. We swam in the Mediterranean
and enjoyed the amazingly blue water that we don’t have in California. The beaches
were wonderful and the great weather added to the calm and pleasant air of the
area. On our second day, we went to Cannes where a friend of mine showed us around
the city. We visited the old church and museum lookout where we had an obstructed
view of the city and harbor of Cannes.
The trip to the French Riviera emphasized how vastly different each region of
France really is. There is nothing comparable to visiting new places and experiencing
a new culture and new people. The French Riviera is nothing like Paris or Brittany,
but is wonderful in its own way. But I found myself missing my "home" in Paris
while I was away and was very glad to return.
- Kimberly Mendonca
Rockton Hill and Carlos Espinoza found Omaha Beach educational and spiritual,
not to mention chilly.
Omaha Beach, Educational and Spiritual
This past weekend we took an excursion to Brittany/ Normandy and we all had an
amazing time. We visited several places outside of Paris: Peace Museum, Normandy
American Cemetery- Omaha Beach, Saint Malo, Dinan and Saint Michel. I particularly
like the American Cemetery and Saint Malo. The country part of France is beautiful.
The American cemetery, which was located on a valley just above Omaha Beach, was
incredible. It was an amazing feeling just being there on the beach, part of a
history that was so significant to all of us and seeing where all the soldiers
died on D-Day. It was beautiful and moving at the same time. This trip was a lot
of fun, not only educational but also spiritual.
Work Habits and Time Management
Upon arriving in Paris three weeks ago, I had no realistic expectations of how
everything would turn out. I didn’t know how I would adjust to the lifestyle and
summer school, or to the new people I would be living with. Nevertheless, the
past three weeks has provided some of the most memorable and enjoyable times in
my college career. I feel lucky to have been able to embark on this opportunity
and I encourage all of my peers to take the first chance to study abroad.
This past weekend we took a trip to Brittany and Normandy in the countryside
of France. I was completely blown away by the charm and beauty of each place.
We stayed at a hotel in Saint Malo, a town bordering the sea. The classic style
is reminiscent of a medieval village and enhanced by the peaceful nature of the
people. There’s an abundance of live musicians and other entertainers, and painters.
One of my best memories was witnessing the sunset from the beach on the first
night. Perched atop some large rocks on the beach, the moment just seemed so surreal.
I left Saint Malo feeling that I would not mind coming back there for an extended
Classes here have started to pick up in difficulty. Although my two classes take
up a lot of time that I would rather use exploring Paris, I have enjoyed being
able to collaborate more with my classmates. In Los Angeles, I usually don’t see
them outside of class. In Paris, we all work and socialize together every day.
I have come to appreciate all the people here and have also learned better work
habits and time management. If I lolligag on an assignment, I pay for it not only
in class but also in lost free time. Thus, my time here has been valuable in many
- Lino Manansala
Beyond the Classroom
As a few of us where sitting on a huge hill overlooking the beautiful view of
the beach at St. Malo this past Saturday, we somehow started talking about life
and our past experiences. Being on top of that hill was an extremely spiritual
experience and we felt an urge to share our outlooks on life and how the entire
trip has affected us. It was not until that very moment that I realize how life-changing
studying abroad is. Hearing everyone speak about what life meant to them truly
inspired me to reflect on my own life. We all felt blessed with the opportunity
to share this great adventure in France with people who were once complete strangers
and are now extraordinary friends. This trip has thus far been the greatest learning
experience I have ever gone though.
- Carlos Espinoza
Carlos Espinoza, Rockton Hill, Kimberly Mendonca, and Erin Underwood sitting
at the top of a hill at St. Malo.
A Bridge to Ile du Grand-Be
Spending the summer in France isn’t a novelty for me as much as it is a homecoming.
My family lived in the French town of Ferney-Voltaire for three years, and I remember
enough of the language to survive. Still, no amount of familiarity could possibly
dampen the awe of being in a country so rich with culture and beauty. This past
weekend’s excursion to the fortress/port city St. Malo and the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel
was rife with gorgeous scenery, architectural marvels, and tales of corsaires
and archangels. I can’t recount everything but I’ll share one of the highlights
of St. Malo.
First, it’s important to note the remarkable difference in St. Malo’s tides,
which fill and refill natural swimming pools, as well as hide and reveal bridges
linking nearby islands to St. Malo. The bridge to the Ile du Grand-Be, an island
which hosts the tomb of writer Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand, appears only when
the tide is low, so a small group of us decided to visit this island on Saturday
evening, as the tide went out. Instead of walking along the ramparts -- the city’s
defensive walls -- to reach the point where the island bridge appears, we rock-hopped
our way around the beach to our destination. And though an activity requiring
so much coordination was difficult with slip-on sandals, the only casualty of
this particularly fun exercise was my umbrella, which gracefully fell into a shallow
pool of water between the rocks (How the hapless umbrella fell shall remain undisclosed).
By the time we reached the bridge, the water wasn’t low enough to completely
clear the way, but an adventurous few promptly removed their socks and shoes and
crossed the partly submerged stone path. Eventually, I too gave in to the allure
of the cool, clear waters and waded across the bridge, footwear in hand, definitely
a relaxing experience worth recommending and repeating. The reward for crossing
the bridge and climbing up the hill to the writer’s tomb was the stunning view
of the fortress city of St. Malo, boasting medieval towers topped by wind-livened
flags and the surrounding coastline, no less impressive with its strange juxtaposition
of castles and buildings and boats.
In a place like St. Malo, soothed by an inviting azure sea and a sun that refuses
to set, it’s easy to forget that I’m here primarily as an engineering student.
Even in Paris, the beauty of art periodically makes me want to become an artist
instead of an engineer. Still, the call of science (and, by extension, homework)
remains solid, and the engineer’s innate curiosity, creativity, and workload cannot
be erased. So until next time!
- Christine Mamuad
P.S. Mussels are wonderfully fresh at St. Malo. If you are daring however, do
try the winkles...
Merging the Old with the New
This past weekend we had the opportunity to see a very different side of France,
one distant from the metropolitan streets and stores we had experienced in Paris.
On our trip to Normandy and Brittany, we had the opportunity to see the history
of France as well as that country’s ties with our own.
Omaha Beach and the cemetery for our soldiers was by far the most moving place
we've been to thus far. It reminded me of the sacrifice our ancestors went through,
and made me feel somewhat connected with the French and will surely affect the
remainder of my experience here.
After this emotional experience we were able to visit a lighter and more relaxed
area known as St. Malo. As with many French and European areas, it had the peculiar
quality of merging the old with the new. Its infrastructure was that of a medieval
castle, complete with defensive walls and ramparts. Yet directly inside we were
exposed to a variety of shops and restaurants. This is not uncommon in France.
For example, the historic Hotel De Ville contains a giant plasma screen for viewing
soccer games, and the classic Louvre has its ultra modern glass pyramid. Saint
Malo had a number of great attractions from swimming in the freezing cold sea
to visiting a castle that becomes isolated during the high tide.
I'm glad we got a chance to visit this somewhat more rural side of France and
learn it's history so that we could understand the sheer diversity of places and
people of this country.
- Francisco Tolmasky
My amazing adventure in Paris is half over. I don't know how to feel about it.
Everything that has happened so far seems surreal. What's certainly real is that
I have gained a lot of weight since I got here. The food here is incredible, or
incroyoble, as they say in Paris.
I have just gotten out of a midterm literally ten minutes ago, and my brain is
not functioning at this point. Anyone can tell you that cramming a semester of
coursework into six weeks is not easy, but you will not feel the intensity of
summer class until you experience it is Paris. Balancing schoolwork and exploring
Paris is definitely a challenge. But I am halfway there. And I look forward to
the other half. I am excited about it, and why shouldn't I be? After all, I am
- Cindy Goh
After two weeks of classes, I have found that one of the most challenging aspects
of studying abroad is finding time to enjoy Paris while keeping up with class
work. It is difficult to focus on schoolwork when I know that there are so many
things to do in the city.
But school has helped to enhance Paris. One of my classes, “The History of Modern
Europe,” focuses specifically on France and its impact on Europe, putting much
of what I’m seeing and doing outside of the classroom into a historical context.
When we went to Versailles today, for instance, we knew not only the facts about
the chateau, but also a historical interpretation of why it was important. It
was not only the residence of Louis XIV, but also a tool for him to control the
nobility while staying away from any political strife in Paris. Context like this
lends powerful meaning to what would otherwise be normal sightseeing.
Our professor also leads weekly class trips to monuments or sites that are particularly
relevant to what we are covering in class. So far we have gone to The Hotel des
Invalides, home of Napoleon’s tomb, and the Sacre Coeur, a church that symbolizes
bourgeoisie victory over the working class.
- Sam Bagwell
Laura Brown, Kimberly Mendonca and Katherine Rhedin discover a quaint, Parisian
The experience of traveling in an unfamiliar country has opened my eyes both
figuratively and literally in unexpected ways. More often than not, we can get
overwhelmed and miss the little surprises worth seeing and feeling. The Eiffel
Tower, the Louvre Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral…You could definitely focus your
attention on the numerous landmarks throughout the city. However, this city has
more to share than just famous monuments and the like.
learned this lesson on my very first day in Paris when a few of us decided to
take a walk around to familiarize ourselves with the new and mysterious neighborhood.
While walking through the vibrant Bastille district, friendly Parisian chatter,
a gentle breeze wafting the scent of freshly baked bread and eye-catching store
signs all assaulted our senses. Spurred by an odd mix of curiosity and jet lag,
we carried ourselves down the street absorbing the energy of the surroundings
and overwhelmed by the amount of information. Then, we made a fortunate observation.
We noticed a recessed opening, interrupting the solid row of buildings. Cautiously
crossing the threshold, we discovered a quaint alleyway hidden from the hustle
and bustle of the city outside. The uneven cobblestone road, luscious green vines
dangling from the balcony and a peaceful quiet contributed to the unique setting
presenting itself before us. We stood in the middle of this alleyway, taking a
moment to silently experience this pleasant surprise.
Paris has so many things to offer above and beneath the surface. We appreciate
and understand the privilege of studying here in Paris. The short time that we
have already spent here has been a blessing and I certainly look forward to the
coming weeks as we all strive to find a delicate balance between a challenging
course load and a desire to explore. Yet wherever I may go or whatever I may experience
in Paris, I shall always remember to keep my eyes open to all the hidden doors
I may stumble upon. Who knows what amazing adventures lie beyond.
- Adrian Lim
Classes and Fun Make for a Busy Schedule
My primary reason for traveling to Paris was to complete two courses during the
summer to graduate on time. However, as soon as I got here the experience has
become more like living a completely different lifestyle.
While many hours are taken up by classes and homework, the countless sights to
see and places to go somehow make their way into the schedule. This past weekend,
I spent hours in a small section of the Louvre, walked through the Picasso Museum,
saw the Arc de Triomphe and traveled to the palace and gardens at Versailles.
All of this was done with very little sleep and the faint thought gnawing in the
back of my mind that I had two papers and a homework assignment to complete. Being
in a different continent doesn’t lessen the stress of school work but makes it
more bearable with this amazing opportunity to see things that I’ve only seen
in books and movies.
To live the life as an American in Paris means immersing yourself in a different
culture from what you eat, to the Metro face you put on when you take the train,
to how you speak in public. Two weeks of eating Nutella and baguettes, walking
everywhere and anywhere, and perfecting my Pardons and Excusez-moi has certainly
turned my life around. The only way I could get anyone to understand how it feels
to be here is to buy them the next ticket to Paris because it just can’t be explained
- Holly Chico
There’s No Avoiding Public Transportation
I must admit that growing up in the far suburbs of a large city I never took
public transportation. I was always scared that I would end up in some far off
place that I did not desire, which was unlikely since the bus pretty much went
from the town hall to mall, or lost somewhere, which was doubtful because I’d
lived there since I was two. So, after avoiding mass transit like the plague for
most of my life, I wound up in Europe, where mass transit is unavoidable. It was
the second day here when I took the plunge, and yes I was anxious. But by yesterday,
while on the 14 Express home after a long day of the Metro and the RER, I was
loving it and I’m going to miss it. Sure, some people could use a shower, and
sometimes it is hard to even find a place to stand but as a systems engineering
major I love watching and seeing how it all works. No place in the city is more
then a few blocks from a station and thus everywhere is accessible in very little
time. It is a beautiful system that makes me smile. I never thought I would say
this but the Metro has converted me and I would love to see one like it in LA...
maybe something to look at in the future.
Au revoir from Paris,
- Katherine Rhedin
Things I’ve Learned in Paris
Parisian is not just a name for a citizen residing in France’s capital; it’s
a way of life. Slowly but surely, I am becoming more in touch with the French
people of Paris. Here are a few things I’ve learned so far from my short stay:
Don’t a have sandwich, eat a baguette and a chunk of cheese for lunch.
Parallel parking is an art form, but don’t be afraid to give the car in front
or behind you a little bump.
Leashes are optional when walking your dog. And there is no need to curb your
When riding the Metro, always wear your “Metro face,” meaning, don’t smile and
if you happen to make eye contact with another individual, look away immediately.
A crepe can be eaten as a main course or a dessert, or even both in the same
It is not necessary to wait for the little green men to light up when crossing
Mayonnaise is a sauce used for dipping your frites (French fries).
Do not bother to bring out your umbrella even if you look out your window and
see rain because it will be sunny before you get outside. But wait, no, and then
it will start again, so ignore that.
Most important, don’t forget to begin a conversation with “bonjour,” and at some
point throw in a “s’il vous plaÓt” or “merci.” And always give a nice big “au
revoir” as you leave.
- Joel Cicchella
The past two weeks have been amazing. There have been so many events from the
Olympic torch relay to the EuroCup. In the middle of this has been the reason
why we are here—school!
Classes here have taken on a different aspect. There are more discussions about
news in Europe, something that I am not usually exposed to. We are learning more
about the culture of Paris. That can be positive but there have been some negative
aspects of it as well. Trying to do homework without the constant access to a
computer and Internet has been difficult. Even with the computers at the ACCENT
center and the Internet cafe, computer access is not the same as back home. I
have been able to do my homework but being here has taught me to be less reliant
on technology. Besides, we are here to enjoy the city and not spend all of our
time with our computers.
I have learned to improvise when needed. Taking two courses in a short six weeks
is a challenge but it has been a great experience to be in Paris and actually
take courses that count towards my major.
- Eun Sook Han
Balancing the Slow Pace of Paris with Busy Student Life
Two weeks in Paris feels like I've been here for a month and also like I just
arrived. It's like being in two realms at once. The slower pace of European culture
and the busy life of a USC student has been a difficult balance.
I looked out my window today and felt like getting lost in the city. Alas, I
had two papers to write and thermodynamics homework. The classes were ultimately
why we came here, but for me, and probably for most of the others, it wasn't about
checking off another eight credits of course work. It was about being immersed
in a culture I had not experienced before and coming back with a new perspective.
Like sitting in a cafe for two hours just to get coffee, a bite to eat and enjoy
company or simply watch people. These are the real experiences you can take back
home with you. I've started noticing the differences between people here and those
back home. Life is more relaxed in France and people seem to enjoy it more. Getting
that big job and making a lot of money doesn't feel as important here. Instead
it's about enjoying life and all that is around you. So far that's the experience.
That and these damn European keyboards.
- Erin Underwood
It is about 9 p.m., in Paris, still light and Rockton is studying.
Working for the Weekend!
What up?!!!! Paris has been an amazing experience thus far. As you have heard
from some of my fellow engineers, the trip has been filled with exciting times.
We are all very lucky to be studying in Paris, not only are we getting some class
requirements out of the way, but we are doing it the heart of the Paris, France.
Having only two classes to concentrate on makes it a easier. Nonetheless, there
are plenty of distractions to keep us busy. We spend most of the beginning of
the week confined to our rooms or the local Internet cafÈ furiously trying to
get our work done before the approaching weekend. Even though the view from my
room is pretty tight, the three or four days of continuous work takes its toll.
The attached picture is one of my buddy Rockton studying at my window working
on his presentation for Writ 340. The picture was taken at around 9:30 p.m. when
the sun was just starting to set. The 16 hours of sun per day takes getting used
Once Thursday rolls around and we‚ve all turned in and/or finished our assignments
for the week. No class on Friday is awesome by the way, which will never ever
happen during the regular engineering semester at USC! Most of us get out of class
at about 1:30 in the afternoon and have the whole day and the following three-day
weekend to either just hangout and relax or to explore the this amazing city.
The circumstances have forced the 25 of us to interact with each other constantly
in the small classrooms or in the residence where we all live together or on the
group excursions to places like Chartres or Versailles or Que Pasa. The result
is that we‚ve gotten to know each other pretty well, when normally I might not
attempt to speak to most of them. For real, I feel fortunate to not only be in
Paris studying, but to be with this amazing group of that I wouldn‚t have had
the chance of getting to know otherwise.
- Tyler Cesar
The Moulin Rouge – Nothing Like the Movies!
Sara Khan, a USC sophomore studying communications, and Rockton Hill, a junior
electrical engineering major, outside of the Moulin Rouge.
This is my first time in Paris and actually my first time in Europe. I never
anticipated going to a show the very first night I was here. It just happened
to work out that my friend and her family were staying in Paris at the same time.
The show itself was AMAZING. It was nothing like what I've read about or seen
in movies. The women were beautiful of course, but more important it was the atmosphere
that took my breath away. The lights, music and people were all entertaining.
I was a bit nervous in the beginning because I went with my friend and her mother
and sister. It was the first time we've met.
I was surprised by the audience. There were a lot of families, people of my age
and younger. There were also just as many women in the audience as men. All in
all, this was one of the most exciting nights I've had in my life... truly an
experience I will never forget.
- Rockton Hill
Climbing the Eiffel Tower
First of all, the group of students here is great; we all get along really well.
It makes exploring Paris a lot more fun! Some of us went to the Eiffel Tower.
We opted to take the stairs up, as this is a lot cheaper than other ways of getting
up there. Needless to say, we were very tired by the end of the day, but it was
well worth it. The view was breathtaking, and the atmosphere was very surreal.
That's just one of many stories- we've been having so much fun, though now we're
starting to see that the work is going to pile up, so more of a balance is going
to be required! We'll see how that goes!
I will send you another postcard in a few weeks, take care,
- Laura Brown
Despite losing to Greece 1-0, the French celebrated with a fireworks display
at the Eiffe Tower.
The Olympic Torch Goes Up and Down the Eiffel Tower
Bonjour! Greetings from Paris!
Things have been pretty crazy over here. Between classes, we've all managed to
find time for the requisite sightseeing and the occasional party. The atmosphere
over here is completely different from anything we're used to in the States. People
stay out until all hours of the morning in the middle of the week and it's not
uncommon for us to finish our homework and then head out for the night. That does
make it somewhat difficult to get to class by 9 the next morning, but we manage.
All in all, it's turning out to be a lot of fun.
A group of us went out to the Eiffel Tower the night that France played (and
unfortunately lost) in the quarterfinals of Euro 2004. Before the game started,
we watched the Olympic torch being run under the Eiffel Tower, up the Eiffel Tower,
and then taken down a zipline from the tower down to an area where a small ceremony
took place. The flame was officially lit in Paris. Afterwards, tens of thousands
of people crowded around two huge screens that were showing the game. Despite
the fact that they lost, the French were determined to make the most of the night,
and a pyrotechnic show that they had set up for what was supposed to be the French
win that night was set off anyway.
One week in and we've already seen tons of sights, but there's still a lot more
to do. We're all looking forward to it.
- Brad Tallon
The Gothic Cathedral at Chartres, Lunch in an Open Air Market
Last Saturday we went to visit the gothic cathedral at Chartres. Our tour guide
made the experience so much more enjoyable by showing us the significance of the
smaller details within the stained glass and sculptures of the cathedral. Knowing
how the positions of the statues and the reason of their depiction really helped
me to appreciate the beauty of the artwork so much more. After lunch, we had the
opportunity to climb to top of the north bell tower. The staircase leading up
to the top was a very narrow stone spiral staircase, and I could only imagine
what it would have been like for people in the Middle Ages having to climb that
tower at night holding a torch for light. From the top we could see the gargoyles
and the flying buttresses from a different point of view. It was a clear day and
we were able to get a good view of the town from the top.
Having lunch in the city surrounding Chartres was a very cultural experience.
There was an open air market in the village where there was a large variety of
French meats and cheeses. The market environment that is so unique to the French
is very much unlike the market environment in the States. The liveliness and the
cordiality between all the people there was enjoyable. It was also interesting
to see the different types of food that are specific to French cuisine.
I enjoyed visiting the smaller towns and I hope that I will have the chance to
visit more such areas again.
- Kimberly Mendonca
It is after 10 p.m. in Paris, the sun hasn’t quite set and Parisians are beginning
to think about dinner.
Sunset after 10, Dinner at 11, Afternoon Closures and No Hustle and Bustle
I am one of the students lucky enough to be participating in the France overseas
program through the school of engineering and would like to share with you a little
about my first week in Paris.
This picture is a night shot taken from my residence window speaks to the French
culture on a greater scale. The picture was taken shortly after 10 p.m. and the
sun had still not completely set. The Parisian lifestyle is largely dictated by
these long days and it is a wonderful change to be experiencing. The extended
daylight hours have proposed a very disorienting effect.
It is common to saunter into the town well past 11 p.m. and find the majority
of Parisians just sitting down to dinner. In addition, on several occasions I
have tried to run a quick errand in the early afternoon but been unable to complete
the task because stores are generally closed for an hour or two in the middle
of the day. I have already found myself loving this new way of life.
Parisians are less concerned with the hustle and bustle of everyday life. They
prefer to take long breaks from work during the day and rarely try to rush you
through your meal. At the supermarket, the checkers almost effortlessly move people
through the lines with no sense of haste. I really love the appreciation for life
that I have found in Paris and will hopefully be able to incorporate that into
my life to some extent when I return to the U.S. <