Comparing U.S and French Agricultural Systems: Chiao Ruo Chai, Food Science


Posted: January 4, 2013

As a study abroad student in U.S from Malaysia, studying in Paris is a truly special and wonderful experience.

Growing up in Malaysia, I came to the United States to study Food Science, and found a growing interest in agribusiness management along the way. Before joining this study abroad program, I didn’t know what France was or anything about it; I wanted to join because I thought it would be a wondrous educational experience to behold. Little did I know that I was signing up for something incredibly astounding.

The awaited day finally came as I left for Paris alone. Arriving at the destination after a rough flight of 5 hours, I was tired as I breathed the first breath of French air. As I stood there waiting for Ketja and Professor Jaenicke to arrive, I noticed a sense of familiarity in French atmosphere: people were buzzing away, hurrying to the next terminals, and greeting their friends. What was different was the French they spoke, leaving me clueless to what they were conversing about. However, my puzzled nerves were calmed by the rendezvous with my classmates and professors. 

From the airport, we boarded a train to Cité Universitaire, a dormitory for international students studying in AgroParisTech. There, we checked into our temporary abode of 2 weeks. Lunch that day was made of bits and pieces from La Fabrique anx Gourmaudigg, a small bakery store that we usually patronize for our breakfast. It was exactly here that I had my first actual French baguette and I loved it.  Then, we went on a tour of the center of Paris, where sits the great Notre Dame church and the Seine River. The next day, we went for a 2-hour city tour, where we were exposed to the city’s historical and interesting facts, one of which happens to be the Le Passe-Muraille, a statue of a man who could walk through a wall. Equally captivating was the huge church in Montmartre set on the highest point of the city. We visited Luxembourg garden last and had a round of cocktails during the “happy hour” and ended the day with the sweet and refreshing Amorino gelato.

ChaiFrance2.pngThe third day in Paris was also our first day of class. We started with a welcoming session that enlightened us about AgroParisTech and the unique French cultures. Shortly after, we presented on agricultural topics that we learned in Penn State. My group compared strawberry growth in the U.S and France. Following class was a group dinner with all the instructors from Paris at Le Montparnasse 1900, a French restaurant. Both the food and the social atmosphere made it a great night to remember.  However, this trip was not all only about French food and culture as we listened to lectures on agricultural policies in France and the EU, sensory perception, animal welfare, and more, given by the professors of AgroParisTech. Later in the evening, we visited the Arc de Triomphe. Boy, were we lucky as we got the chance to watch the Eiffel tower light up from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. I was utterly amazed by the elegance of the tower, not to mention also, the luxuriously decorated high end shops of Louis Vuitton, Mercedes, etc., that we saw on the way to the Arc de Triomphe. On the third day of class, we visited INRA lab in Versailles and a trip to the Palace of Versailles where we visited the Kitchen garden and learned about the growth of various kinds of plants and vegetables. The highlight of the day was the Versailles castle, the grandest place that I have ever visited. I am entirely overwhelmed by the grandeur and magnificence of the Versailles Palace architecture and interior decorations put together. The following day we went for lunch-shopping at Carrefour. The menu comprised of different cheeses, breads, dessert and wine and we learnt to recognize the quality and organic of products. A visit to Musee de Orsay which holds a large collection of painting, drawings and sculptures was also one of the agendas that day. Early in the morning of Friday, we visited the largest wholesale market in Paris, Rungis, which sells everything! We closed off the day by visiting the renowned Louvre museum, home to some of the most popular collections of arts.

On Saturday, a few of us went to Claude Monet’s Giverny garden that has a water lily pond and flowers. That day was relaxing; we cooked dinner at the dorm and went for some gelato for dessert. The following morning, Sara and I went to the Eiffel tower together where we queued in the long line for a chance to get up to the tower. The wait was completely worth the while because we got to see the entire city of Paris from the top. In the afternoon, we went to a French tennis open at Roland Garros and was lucky enough to watch Andy Roddick play.

ChaiFrance3.pngMonday morning was nice as we went for another city tour of Paris but with a boat ride leaving from Notre Dame to the Eiffel tower. Tuesday was Champagne day and we visited 3 wineries: Lychee Agroviticole de crenzancy, Lauren Pierrer, and Ageris. We tasted different kinds of champagne and learnt about the champagne making process. On Wednesday, we went to the Massy site, another campus of AgroParisTech where we had lectures on French food industry and cheese tasting. My favorite cheese was Comte and Epoisse. We also went to the pilot plant, food toxicology, and food sensory lab of the University. After class time, we went to the Pompidou Center, a museum of modern art with extraordinary exterior design. The next day, we visited the Assemblée Nationale and the U. S. Embassy and we were also lucky to be able to visit the house of the US ambassador. At night, we again visited the Eiffel tower, but this time to celebrate one of our friend’s birthday where we had a picnic of cheese, baguette and champagne. It was simple, but meaningful. Friday was the last day of the trip, and I could sense the mixed feelings in all of us. Regardless, we did our presentation on the topics that we learned in the past few classes and shared our own experiences throughout the trip. We also had a short appreciation ceremony where students received their certificates and the instructors were flooded with gifts of appreciation. The last thing we did on the day was the rooftop cocktail party with some light snacks and champagne as a closing of our study abroad trip.

I am truly glad to have the opportunity to take part in this program, the experiences that I gained while learning and sharing with each other was innumerable. Simply said, it was truly an eye-opening experience. J’adore Paris.