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Studying Abroad in the City of Light” Course: INTAG470, by Stephanie Keller, Food Science major, International Agriculture minor

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Posted: January 27, 2016

Traveling to Paris with the College of Agricultural Sciences was an unforgettable experience – and I can’t wait to go back!
Exploring Paris on the Seine

Exploring Paris on the Seine

I first visited Europe during my junior year of high school, and loved every minute of it.  After such a positive experience traveling before college, I knew I wanted to study abroad during my career at Penn State.  Taking an embedded course with the College of Agricultural Sciences made it so easy to study abroad.  I enjoyed the class so much – both the time in class at Penn State and in Paris.

Our first day in Paris was filled with a walking tour and an excellent dinner – we tracked our steps on our phones and figured out we walked 40,000 steps within the first two days of our trip!  Even though we were tired, visiting the Luxembourg Gardens, Saint Sulpice, Saint Germain, and Notre Dame all in one day was well worth it – it was amazing to see churches hundreds of years old surrounded by city.  We finished the weekend by eating lunch at the Eiffel Tower and walking along the Seine.

Our stay in Paris was packed with classes, field trips, and sight-seeing.  One of the most memorable days of our first week was the first day of class.  We enjoyed a cheese tasting at AgroParis Tech, the university hosting our program.  After class, we went on a boat tour around the city and got some amazing views the city’s bridges and the Eiffel Tower.  We finished the day with five splendid courses in Montparnasse!  As a foodie, one of my favorite memories from our trip was dinner in Montparnasse.  I got to try authentic onion soup, foie gras, and some amazing crème brulee.  All of us were overwhelmed by France’s cuisine but enjoyed every bite.

The field trips we took were really informative.  We spent a day in Champagne, first visiting an agricultural high school.  We also visited a winery and got to taste their champagne.  Seeing all the vineyards on our drive pack to Paris was beautiful – it’s crazy to think that each hectare of vineyard in Champagne is worth more than one million dollars, and we got to see them!

We took a trip to AgroParis Tech’s Massy campus to learn about baguette making.  It seems most of our field trips were filled with some great food!  As a food science major, it was great to listen to a lecture from one of AgroParis Tech’s food science professors, as well as see the pilot plant where their food science students work.  Another day, we all woke up at 3 AM to go to Rungis, one of the largest wholesale markets in the world.  Rungis supplies Paris with their meats, cheeses, fish, fresh flowers, and produce.  It only feeds the city for a day, but could feed Norway for two whole weeks.

One of my favorite memories from our second week in Paris was the chocolate tour.  We walked around Paris to some of the best chocolate shops in the city – I made sure to buy some samples from most of our stops!  We finished the tour by visiting the Galaries Lafayette, Paris’s largest department store.  From the roof, we had a great view of the city.  During that week, we also visited the Louvre.  We got to see the famous Mona Lisa, but also looked at food and agriculture in art.

While we did have a full schedule laid out for us, we still got to enjoy free time around the city.  After class, we loved to go shopping around AgroParis Tech and enjoyed lunch from one of the best creperies in Paris.  During our free weekend in Paris, I did some exploring myself, and even went to the first day of Roland Garros, the second grand slam tennis tournament of the year.  Some of us went to museums over the weekend and took advantage of the great restaurants in the city.  We visited the Eiffel Tower as the sun was setting and had an amazing view, as well a pretty good workout climbing up the steps of the tower!

I learned so much while in Paris, and I didn’t just learn about agriculture.  I worked on my communication skills constantly, whether it was through communicating with Parisians when buying groceries or presenting to professors at AgroParis Tech.  Our group of classmates became a team that worked on planning our meals and activities during our free time.  I learned a lot about myself on this trip as well – particularly that I can adapt in a new environment and be an independent traveler.

I’m very fortunate to have had the experience of studying abroad with the College of Agricultural Sciences.  I’ve made and strengthened so many friendships through the study abroad experience.  I was able to explore a city with my class, with my friends, and by myself.  Traveling to Paris with the College of Agricultural Sciences was an unforgettable experience – and I can’t wait to go back!