Monday, February 3, 2014

Two more weeks and many new experiences!

The three major things I have done in the past couple weeks were traveling to Lyon for a couple days, skiing in the French Alps, and planning my upcoming trips.
On January 25th at 9:24 AM myself and seven other girls caught a train straight from Grenoble to Lyon. I sat with Lucy on the train and we chatted for a while (like 15-20 minutes), then me being me fell asleep for the rest of the trip. We arrived about an hour later in Lyon. We found a map and ventured into the subway. We had to take two different subway lines to get to the center of the city. When we stepped out into the city we were welcomed by an extremely large ferris wheel. Four of us decided to pay to ride it and got to see an amazing view of the city. At first it seemed like a great idea, but the further up we went the more terrified I became. I would not let go of the center pole. It went around about 4 times, and by the end I was definitely more comfortable. I was too scared to turn around to see the view behind me, but I was still able to get some good pictures, just from a strange angle. We later found out that the pole in the middle could actually turn the seat in circles to get a better view of the entire city. I was happy we hadn't discovered this until later, I would have been even more terrified. After we got off the ferris wheel, we took a few more pictures and then headed to the Cathédrale St-Jean. From there we grabbed lunch and walked around the cobblestone streets.
Isabelle and I
After finishing lunch we discovered the Musée Miniature et Cinéma. At this point our group of eight decided to split in half. Some of the girls wanted to wait until the next day to see the museum, others weren't interested in going at all. The museum was definitely one of my favorite parts of Lyon. To some people this might sound a little strange or lame. But I really learned a lot while I was there and it was interesting seeing movies that I was very familiar with and learning how they created the special effects for various scenes. Also, there were tiny rooms with tiny items and tiny furniture and tiny people. I was truly fascinated by the attention to detail in each piece and the complexity of every room that was created. I took so many pictures in this museum, unfortunately the miniature rooms looked completely normal, so it was hard to tell how cool it really was.
After the museum we decided to wander through the streets a little more. Mona had booked a hostel for the night since she had decided to join us after we already booked our hotel. She had brought a suitcase with her so we decided to walk with her to the hostel to drop off her luggage and get her checked in. We had planned to meet back up with the girls in front of Cathédrale St-Jean at 4 PM so we headed there next.
Our next adventure for the day was to take the tram up to Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière. It was on top of a mountain overlooking the city. We wanted to make sure we were able to see the view before the sun set. We got halfway up and got off so that we could see the Théâtres Gallo-romains (Roman theater). We were standing across the street from it and some of the girls worried we wouldn't get to the top before the sun set so we ended up walking the rest of the way. It was very steep, but once we got to the top it was definitely worth it. The view was incredible. We went inside the Notre-Dame which was in the middle of a service, but it was absolutely beautiful. After walking around the grounds for a while we decided it was still light enough and we wanted to head back down to the Roman Theater.
Théâtres Gallo-romains
It was very fun to see and take pictures there. It was only about 6 PM by this point but we were all already getting tired. We went back up the hill a little ways into a garden and sat on a ledge and watched the sun set. The city at night was pretty spectacular. When we all were about to turn into ice cubes we decided to head back into Lyon. Two of the girls wanted to stay and enjoy the view a little longer, so we planned to meet up with them again later. We made our way back to the hotel and got all settled in; I stayed in a room with Miki and Lucy. Lucy wasn't feeling to well when we arrived so she decided to stay behind while the rest of us went to find something for dinner.

We wanted to find food that was traditional to Lyon so we found a place called La Mère Cottivet that looked like it would do the job. The prices were reasonable, it looked pretty crowed so we figured they probably had good food and it looked like an interesting restaurant. I had French onion soup, some sort of fish that I can't remember the name of with rice, and a brownie that all five of us shared.

We got back to the hotel around midnight and fell right asleep. After such a long day, a warm bed was exactly what we needed.
The next morning we got a late start although I was up and ready at about 9:30. I am so eager to see everything that it makes it much easier for me to get up and moving in the morning here. Sunday was a little more laid back. We mostly walked around the city. We found a shop to get food for bunch. They had sandwiches, drinks, and dessert for only 5 euros. Lyon is famous for their wall paintings which are suppose to look three dimensional so we ventured around the city looking for a few of them. We walked through a market, then to the opera house and the art museum, and saw 3 different wall painting along the way. We headed back toward the Cathedral and walked into different shops and tried to relax a little. After everything we had done, we were all pretty worn out by this point (it make me worry about my stamina during my future trips). At 4 PM we headed back to the train station and rode back to Grenoble.

Monday I started off strong with a full day of European Business Environment from 8 AM until 6 PM. I had two more sections of it on Tuesday coupled with 3 hours of French. Wednesday I had 4.5 hours of European Business Environment again and finally finished the week on Thursday with 3 hours of international business law. Needless to say, by thursday afternoon I needed a nap. Thursday night I attended an International student party and Friday I finally had a whole day to myself to relax.

Throughout the week I also planned various trips that I will be doing for the next few months. This week I will be leaving on Wednesday headed for Brussels and Amsterdam which is planned and booked. Next week I will be traveling with Zoe and Miki to Bordeaux and Toulouse for four days.
Camila and I
On Saturday I traveled with the school's sports club to Les Duex Alps. It took about an hour for us to get there, which I didn't notice because I was sleeping, and it was so incredible. When I have gone skiing before, even at really large locations, there is usually a ski lodge where you rent your equipment, eat/buy your food, and people are usually trying to escape the cold. Here, this was not the case. There was an entire village in the center of the slopes. There were pubs, hotels, grocery stores, rental shops, and much more. We got off the bus and rather than getting a tag that you wear on your zipper, we received cards that looked like a hotel room key. If you put in in your left pocket, it would scan it as you entered the lift area so you could gain access. Unless you were going way up into the mountains they used a tow lift that had a little black disc that you would sit on. Even the "baby" slopes weren't very small. The most challenging part about skiing in this area was that the slopes were so much steeper than what I have been use to before. Camila, who had only been skiing one other time spent most of the day skiing with me because she felt pretty confident and I didn't want to ski alone so she tried something a little more challenging, and I stayed on a slope that was a little easier which worked at nicely for both of us. we stopped for lunch. I loosened my ski boots are relaxed a little bit. I had a sandwich that I had purchased at the grocery store in town.
Lucy and I renting our equipment
Hot wine and Crepe!
After lunch, we decided to take the large ski lift up to the top of the mountain so we could have a better view of the mountains. We decided we would just ride up and back since Lucy and Laura were both beginners. Even for me and Camila, it looked like it wasn't so bad, but we figured it probably was much more steep than it appeared. We came back down and went on the slopes we knew we were more comfortable with. After several more trips down the hill I felt as though my boots were on properly and they were hurting my ankle. It was really unstable when I went around turns, so I decided that maybe it was a good time for me to stop before I got hurt. I went into a pub that had a nice fire and ordered hot wine and a crepe to warm up. Camila joined me shortly after and we realized we were probably both done for the day. We headed back to Grenoble at 5 PM and I was completely exhausted by the time I got home.

Au Revoir!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Arrival in Grenoble

I have done a lot of thinking about how I've wanted to structure this blog. Before I left for France last week, I had never really made a blog before. I have created a blog that I have been updating frequently since my arrival in Grenoble however I feel as though the elaborate detail of each and every day may not be as appropriate to share with the Clarkson community. I'm not saying that it has anything bad in it, it just goes far more in depth than people outside of my family or close friends may be interested in. That being said... If you are interested in reading my more detailed account of my days in Grenoble, you are more then welcome to do so. Here is the link --->

Although some of the information and photos will inevitably overlap, I will be focusing more on the broader information so let's see how this goes!

I arrived in Grenoble last tuesday, January 7th after traveling for many, many hours. Due to the unfortunate weather we were having on Monday the 6th many of the flights traveling throughout the East Coast were delayed or being canceled. Despite the delays on both my flights from Albany and Philadelphia, I managed to arrive in Paris only 15 minutes later than our scheduled arrival. I took a taxi from the airport to the train station and from there took a 3 hour high speed train from Paris to Grenoble.

Throughout my first week I got lost and frustrated with the language barrier and suffered most nights from horrible jet lag. I finally was able to get medicine to help me sleep with assistance from my friend Rohit (in the masters program from India) who speaks a little French. My apartment is on the outskirts of the city about a 20 minute walk from Grenoble Encole de Management (GEM). Rohit took me on a couple of walking tours of the city over the past weekend, so I am finally starting to learn how to navigate my way around Grenoble.

Over the past few days I have made the decision to rent a bike while I am here. I plan to pick it up tomorrow. Apart from the deposit the price isn't too bad especially if I am saving money by not purchasing the tram pass each month. The cost for a bike for 3 months is the same as one month for the tram! Having a bike will make my journey to and from school and town much better. Unfortunately, people have problems with having bikes stolen frequently in Grenoble so the chance of me losing my deposit is relatively high. My apartment has an underground storage for bikes though so at least it will be safe at night!

For our first week GEM planned 5 days of orientation before the start of classes. On Friday we were given a written and oral French proficiency exam to place us in the proper level course for the semester. We will be meeting every Tuesday to work on our French, which I am really looking forward to. I am a complete beginner so I'm really looking forward to learning the language. On Monday the entire January intake group was taken to go bowling. We all had a blast playing and making some new friends at the same time. It is incredible how many different people I have met from all around the world. My closest friend here, Isabelle, is from Sweden. I have met two other people from Sweden as well, and also students from Taiwan, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, France, China, India, Nicaragua, Germany, Korea, and Syria to name a few (haha).

On Tuesday we started classes. From Tuesday until next Monday I have a class called Business Development in Emerging Economies. We meet every day from 9:45 AM until 1:00 PM. After we give presentations on Monday we have completed the course lectures. We will have a 'portfolio' due at a later date which is worth 70% of our grade; the presentations are worth 30%. Our professor for this course is Polish but lives in London. It's interesting having such a short class packed with so much information. At 8 AM this morning I had my first lecture for International Business Law. The professor is from France originally but did part of her law school education in the states. She decided that she preferred the American method of teaching and is going to use it throughout the semester. Unlike my other course, this one will last throughout the entire semester and include a wider range of evaluations including homework, class participation, and exams.

Every day is completely different from the day before and I'm excited every morning to wake up and learn something new!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Journey Home

Time is slowly counting down until my flight tomorrow that will take me back to the States. While the final hours of my stay in Denmark have been somewhat frantic to finalize packing and cleaning the room I stayed in, I have been able to think a bit about the past four months.

I can still remember how nervous yet excited I felt leaving the States back in August. I envisioned that I would be able to see so many different cities while I was here, learn enough of the Danish language that I could communicate with the Danes, and so much more. I knew that I would make many new friends and would also come back a different person, but things didn't turn out the way that I thought.

The one thing that really bogged down the ability to travel was college work. Despite the amount of work for my classes, I still managed to travel to several places in Denmark with my international friends. So in a sense, I was able to travel, but didn't go to the places that I imagined. Instead of going to Prague, Berlin, Florence, and other cities, I got to see various sites that make Denmark, well, Denmark.

I have truly enjoyed my time here. I have become friends with people from all over the world, got to see beautiful sites, and even got to experience several Danish traditions. If I was given the chance to come back or even go someplace new, I would gladly accept, for the experience would continually shape who I am. This has really been one of the greatest experiences of my life thus far.

So, as a final parting, I will just say a word of advice to those who also want to go on an exchange or who want to travel in general: in your travels, no matter where you go, don't expect that things will happen a certain way. Chances are, the unexpected will most likely happen.

See you back in the States!


Monday, November 25, 2013

A Scandinavian Christmas

While finals are slowly drawing closer, there is always time for a party. This past weekend I was able to experience a real Danish Christmas lunch/dinner with my kitchen mates. In Danish, this event is known as Julefrokost. I had such a great time. It was quite exciting to try new foods as well as the traditional beverage known as snaps. This alcoholic drink is normally served at both Christmas and Easter. In all honesty, it tastes pretty disgusting, yet since it's tradition, it is always served and normally is completely consumed by the end of the evening.

Christmas lunch is normally a cold meal consisting of slices of rye bread (called rugbrød) with various "toppings" added to the bread. At our meal, these "toppings" consisted of breaded fish fillets, pickled herring, hard boiled eggs, bacon, liver paste with browned mushrooms, and various mustard and curry sauces.

Some of the food at lunch. Clara (the girl in the picture) was the exchange student from last year and came back for a visit
Dinner is a hot meal, often with a roast of some sort (normally pork), meatballs (also made from pork), potatoes, and gravy.

Some of my kitchen mates working on dinner
The dinner selection
For dessert, we had the traditional rice pudding. Of course, at this point everyone was completely stuffed with food (the whole day was literally just eating and drinking), yet we still ate it in search of the whole almond. As part of tradition, in the rice pudding, there is a single whole almond, and whoever finds it gets and extra gift for christmas (in our case, it was a prize).

The rice pudding
 Of course, in between meals there was time to hang out with everyone and more drinking. Here are some pictures of some of the fun we had.

Trying to use a camera as a phone
A look at the other table
Surprise picture!!! 
Rolf tried to steal the Christmas tree 
A great time
This was a great day for me, and it was even better that I spent it with my kitchen mates. Probably one of the best highlights that I've experienced while I've been here.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Academics: East vs. West

                Study Abroad, although sometimes us exchange students forget, is just that: “studying”. Here in Singapore and specifically at NUS, academics are no joke. NUS is one of the top universities in the world and is comparable to an American Ivy League school. These students had the highest grades and highest test scores from their secondary schools to gain admission. Speaking with locals, and specifically discussing education in my Sociology class, I’ve seen the nature of this academic environment.

                In primary and secondary school,   students study long hours for standardized tests, especially those that separate students early on into different “streams”. These streams stratify students based on ability in a particular subject. The students take different classes and often are treated differently. My classmates also noted a very strong emphasis on math and science fields. They are encouraged to go into these fields regardless of if they enjoy it. Everyone seemed to agree that the academic system put a huge pressure on them and is not uncommon for families to hire private tutors to help their children get ahead. The intensity continues into University where students graduate together based on grades (The A’s graduate together, the B’s together, etc.). The bottom-line is that these results-driven academics take priority over everything else. 

                Currently, the U.S. is working on reforming our K-12 education system because we are falling behind Asian countries such as Singapore. We are introducing more standardized curricula and testing. There are merits to the Singapore system, as it does produce high test scores; however it is held in place by the culture which makes it unfeasible to adopt directly.

In the U.S. the goal is not always to get the highest marks, but rather to be well-rounded, to learn not how to spend excessive hours studying but how to balance studying with various other roles and responsibilities. While these results cannot be directly measured, I believe it is the advantage of the American education system of education. After all, a job will require balancing and delegating time rather than focusing on one subject.

As a disclaimer, this does not reflect the view of all the students here. It is merely my perspective on two different academic systems. In the end, the subject material back home and here are similar with differences marked by study habits and the rigor of grading. 

Wish me luck during the finals that are quickly approaching!


Sunday, October 27, 2013


I now believe my kitchen mates about autumn in Denmark after experiencing several weeks of it. Once it reaches mid to late October, it becomes pretty dull and miserable outside. While it's not very cold (it's still about 50 degrees F), it is often windy, cloudy, and normally raining. When it's cloudy and rainy, it never becomes very bright outside, so I'm finding it quite normal to have my desk lamp on any time that I'm awake. But autumn here is still similar to home; the leaves change color and fall off, the nights start becoming colder, etc. With all these changes with the weather, I've actually started to notice some changes with myself.
Probably the most noticeable change is I feel much more confident in myself. Back home, I know that was somewhat shy and quiet, especially around new people. While I've been here, I've noticed that I've been almost eager to meet new people and get to know them better. I've also noticed some smaller changes as well. I noticed that I'm trying to use the metric system more in conversations or just general use, such as saying how many kilometers I walked or the temperature in Celsius. I've also noticed some changes with my speech as well. One big change is I've stopped asking people "How are you?" This phrase is actually very uncommon in Denmark, since Danes find it very superficial to have a conversation such as:
Person 1:"Hi, how are you?"
Person 2: "Good, how are you?"
Person 1: "Good."
Overall, I feel that I've become much more used to a European lifestyle. I've gotten used to shopping for food on a nearly daily basis and purchasing only the food that I'll eat that day. I'm used to using buses and trains to get where I need to go (even though the transit system is much different from any other city that I've been to and is potentially confusing to any newcomer). In general, I am having a fantastic time here, and I honestly cannot believe that I have less than two months left here.


P.S. Here are some pictures of my recent fall holiday near Jægerspris (all pictures courtesy of my friend Vincent).
The nearby castle we visited
Walking around the gardens
I do believe this is a view of the Roskilde Fjord
Playing football in the gardens

View of the nearby coast
Our attempt at light painting myself in a lightsaber battle with Loes, my friend from Holland

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

G'day from Melbourne

Brighton Beach

Hello Friends

It's been a crazy last few weeks of classes, but I have now officially attended my last class in Australia... For now. Final exams begin next week so I am in "study" mode this week. By study I mean get out and soak in as much of Australia as I can hold as I near my departure date, just weeks away.

It is crazy to think that in just over a month I will be back home in the cold giving thanks and stuffing my face with turkey and pumpkin pie. And don't get me wrong, I love pumpkin pie. But I am going to miss this place. Melbourne is one of those cities that's charm doesn't fully hit you until about the second month of living here. When you start to venture out of your comfort zone and wander around a corner and down a seemingly vacant alley only to find another small cluster of vibrant and unique shops and restaurants to explore.

I am also just fully grasping the usefulness of public transport. For those of you planning to study here on exchange you should be able to get a student concession card which saves you 50% on all public transport! I can get just about anywhere in the state via PT and for very reasonable prices. That being said, it is also useful to have friends with cars. I've attached some pictures of my recent trip down the Great Ocean Road. That would have been a tough trip to do via PT but because I was able to jump on with one of my car-owning mates and it turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip so far. Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Hope you all are enjoying classes!

I'll see good old green and gold soon.



Some abandoned beach just down the Great Ocean Road

Australia's iconic Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road

More of the stunning sights along the Great Ocean Road

Atop the Shrine of Remembrance, Looking back at the city of Melbourne, my home.

Shanghai Dumpling House, one of the cheapest and most delicious places to eat in Melbs