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My Time in Paris: Julie Mytrowitz, Food Science

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Posted: November 11, 2014

My time in Paris kick-started my personal journey in global interactions that will continue throughout my professional career.
Arriving in Paris

Arriving in Paris

Some of my most profound moments in Paris occurred early in the trip; they all involved my nearly nonexistent French-speaking skills. Before the trip, I attempted to learn French using language games and phrase books but realized that I had retained very little the first time I tried to talk to someone in French. What I did remember was “s'il vous plaît”, “merci”, and “pardon”. In my first few days, I quickly learned that you can stumble through an interaction, mispronounce words, and feel ridiculous but, so long as you are polite, the French are very forgiving and willing to help. Communicating was difficult for me due to my limited background speaking the language, but it was also an opportunity for personal growth. By utilizing body language, good manners, and respect for the local culture, I was able to have positive interactions and get my points across without knowing a ton of French.

During the summer following this trip, I had an internship with a global food company where I got the opportunity to speak with many employees. I found that many of them were from different parts of the world and that others regularly spend a few weeks of the year at facilities in other countries. In fact, most of the senior leaders had numerous international experiences often involving several years in another country, often with limited experience speaking the language. Working in an industry that continues to grow on a global scale, I will interact with countless employees with different languages and cultures. My time in Paris kick started my personal journey in global interactions that will continue throughout my professional career. By learning to adapt to the new and different environment that was the streets of Paris, I have also proven to myself that I can successfully interact and communicate no matter where my travels and career may take me.

Julie 3In addition to the communication skills gained, I got the chance to expand my love of food and taste every odd French dish I came across. I tasted foie gras (fatty goose or duck liver), escargot (snails), and frog legs, items that are far less common in the United States. Although I did not always like the new foods I tried (I liked the escargot and frog legs but not the foie gras) I did gain a respect for the dishes as part of the French culture. 

A flavorist I worked with over the summer told me a story about his experience in the global food industry that connected with my experience abroad. He told me that he once worked on a flavor for turtle soup. Although he found the aroma and taste of the turtle soup flavor unattractive, his colleagues in another country were very pleased with the flavor he had created. He reminded me that in a global food company you may work with flavors and products that are strange and unfamiliar to you, but it is your job to please the consumer and to tailor the products you create to their cultural preferences. To do this, you don’t have to like every food or flavor you work with, you just need a respect for it. Food in Paris was often delicious and occasionally strange but my experience there has only increased my respect for and understanding of French food culture, further preparing me personally and professionally for a career in the global food industry.