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Paris: A Two Week Adventure that is so much more than the Eiffel Tower

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Posted: February 16, 2018

By Kathryn Jordan (Physical Geography - Climatology Focus major International Agriculture, Earth Systems, & Climatology minor) “I learned about European and US Agriculture, got to explore the city of Paris, and make seven new friends while living in one of the most remarkable European cities. I will never forget the experiences I have made on this trip and am forever thankful to Penn State for this opportunity”

My trip to Paris was one in a lifetime, with experiences that I only dreamed of having. I was a student in the AG BM 470 Class. I spent two weeks living, learning, and exploring the city known as the city of lights and love. My trip started with the flight over the pond. It was the first of many excursions that I would make on my own, proving that I could handle living in a foreign country. The seven other students and I lived in a small hotel called the Kyriad in the Little Italy portion of Paris. On every rue (street) corner you would find a pizzeria or boulangerie (pastry shop). One of our first challenges was learning how to navigate the city, which we did by taking the metro (subway) system. Surprisingly enough by Sunday our second full day we had the metro down, this was partly due to our hotel giving us very easy to use English metro maps. I carried mine with me every day, which was the best thing to do since we were given free time to explore at the end of our classes. Depending on where we were I would pull out my map and find the closest metro line and go see a new part of the city.

I had many fun experiences while in Paris, some were learning experiences while others were seeing new parts of the city I hadn’t on my first trip to the city in 2014. Our class was held at Paris Agro Tech where the brightest students complete masters and doctorate degrees in science fields. We had four instructors from the school; they helped plan our field trips and lectures. The first week we did a lot of hands-on learning outside of our classroom. Our trips included a five course dinner at Le Montparnasse 1900 where we got to try different authentic French cuisine. We had a tour of the US Embassy where we met with representatives from the USDA and USDA FAS. There they discussed the Agricultural Systems in France and the US and how the current administrations are impacting or improving these fields. This trip was one of my favorite excursions throughout the two weeks in Paris. 

I visited the US Ambassador's home, it is only a few blocks from the French President Macron’s home. The house is in a great part of the city right near the Champs, and while visiting the house we got a tour of the grounds and learned about the different parties and gathering that occur there. 

Other excursions our first week included a trip to a high school that specializes in agriculture. The students spend a few years learning a trade in a specialized field including wine, farming practices, and care of farm animals. We also spent a day in the Champagne Region of Paris, about two hours outside the city. We visited multiple champagne houses and got to learn what grapes they use, what types of barrels they use, and the processes that go into making a bottle. We also got to spend a day at Versailles learning about the history of the building and then received a tour of the Kings Garden. Our last day of the week we went to the Rungis Market where we toured the meat, dairy, fruits/vegetables, and flowers buildings, all while learning about the import and export of these goods. This was one of my favorite trips because we got to see so much of the behind-the-scenes aspects. Our second week was more in class oriented, and we had a guest lecturer almost every day that week. We learned about GMO’s, organic farming, labeling, and animal welfare. Wednesday of our second week we went to the Louvre, where we had a personalized tour of the paintings that were agriculturally based.

I also visited the Louvre after the tour in front of the infamous clear glass pyramid. The next day was a national holiday (at least it is for Parisians). This means that basically everything is closed. So our Agro Paris Tech instructors set up a walking tour of the Latin District for us. Once that was over we were given the rest of the day to do any last minute trips. I chose to go to a very popular Monet Museum. Claude Monet is my favorite artist, he is known for his use of colors in impressionist style art. Afterwards, I ventured across the city (with an hour metro ride) to go to the biggest Science Museum in France. This I sadly found out was mainly aimed towards children but I was proud of myself for trying something different and being confident enough to take the metro across Paris on my own. Friday was our last full day in France and our last day of our two-week adventure. It was also time for us students to give our presentations on French vs US agriculture. I chose to discuss strawberries and I think everyone’s presentations went surprisingly well. Our day ended with a rooftop lunch party before being given certificates of the finished program.