Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Not a Tourist

I have been in Paris for nearly two weeks now, and it has been an incredible journey thus far. I have collected over 1000 pictures of nearly all of the arrondissements, my classes have begun this week, and today I met an interesting young man from Haiti. Truly I would have been lost without this boy and I am grateful for his help in setting up the mundane administrative trinkets like creating a school account at Paris 7 and setting up a lab account in order to use the classroom computers. It may not seem like such a difficult thing, but travel 4000+ miles to a country where you only half decently speak the language and definitely don't know administrative-specific terminology and you have yourself one hell of a nightmare. 

Over the past few weeks I have spent my time mostly with the EDUCO girls, who have been very sweet and always helpful in terms of academic matters. I mean, we're all on the same boat right? I have selected one of my four classes: Afrique Subsaharienne. This class is a taught by an extraordinarily verbally-gifted French man, who had me hooked for more than half of the class time (mind you, classes are four hours long here on average and my attention span holds for about 50 minutes or less). The other three classes I am still attempting to determine here. See, the unfortunate part of this experience is that I need to fulfill my technical and CS electives in order to graduate early next year and I have not had much luck in finding classes that map even partially to that which is taught at Cornell. The professors were mentioning bits and pieces of material that I have already covered in my core CS classes at Cornell, in short I was bored out of my mind. 

So, in light of this, I have decided to stick to courses which are programming specific and/or expand on a specialized area. There is a cryptography course at l'Ecole Normale Superieure that I am really interested in taking. I just hope that it's the right level and all that jazz. 

Well, I know I'm leaving you on an off-note here, but I have very many administrative details to attend to (namely, selecting courses). 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Winter Afternoon

After just a week in Paris I feel like I've had the good fortune to see and experience so much of Paris, however, there is much more to explore. I do not intend to only visit the tourist locations, though of course these are the first on my list, but I would also like to really dig deep into the heart of the city and find its unique nooks (of which I am sure there are plenty).

I have been a bit hesitant about using my usual approach to talk to people, which is just walking up to someone on the street and starting a conversation. My time in Paris thus far has been pleasant, and I think I may find the courage yet to approach more parisiennes. In the meantime I have taken many lovely pictures of the beautiful landmarks this city has to offer. Since I don't start class for another few weeks I will continue taking pictures and exploring cette belle ville. For those of you who don't know me personally I'm afraid you'll only be able to see a limited number of pictures from my trip, ie. those that caption my posts. It is much easier to just post all of my pictures in one location, namely Facebook, for now.

I start my first class next week, and for those engineers out there who would like to come to Paris do not fear! I have indeed found some interesting courses, eg. Initialisation à la cryptologie, Genie Logiciel, Analyse syntaxtique et compilation, Logique and many others. It takes a bit of extra work, but Paris is not completely lost in the arts.

A très bientôt.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

La rue St. Paul

My apartment in le 4ème arrondissement
La rue St. Paul

The past few days in Paris have been absolute madness. The word of the week seems to be "jet lag". I had no idea how exhausted I would be after travelling over 4000 miles from Chicago to Paris! I seem to be falling asleep at odd hours (17H à 1H last night), and I'm exhausted from walking around the different arrondissements. Yesterday we explored the two universities from which we can select classes: l'université Sorbonne and Paris VII Didérot. For me it's not really a choice since Paris VII is the only university in the program that offers Computer Science classes, however, I have yet to find any classes at all in my specialization (artificial intelligence and secure systems).

I have to say, it's odd being the only engineer in the group. Besides myself there are 3 or 4 hard science and math majors that are also having difficulty finding interesting classes in the Educo program. It seems that the program is mostly geared towards those who are studying the arts...we'll see whether I end up finding anything in my areas of interest.

Besides academic discussion the program managers have also taken the time to give us an intense crash course in French grammar. This course has not been very effective due to my jet lag and general lack of desire to do school work (Cornell doesn't start for another week!), but I hope that it will help me improve a bit before the real school work begins.

Due to the rainy, cold weather yesterday I did not get a chance to explore the tourist attractions in Paris as I intended, but I hope that today will be better for exploring! I have already walked around le quatrième arrondissement yesterday to see what exactly my neighborhood has to offer and it is beautiful! The métro is also incredibly useful, since missing a train will only set you back less than 5 minutes. Incroyable! In Chicago, it's quite ordinary to wait 15-20 minutes for the L to show up, so I am very pleased that all of the rumors were true about the Paris train system.

I believe that is all for today, but I will make sure to post more once school starts next week. I'm excited to meet all of my fellow classmates and finally find some computer scientists in these neck of the woods.

For photos, see my album An American in Paris.

A word of warning to those who would like to study abroad in Paris during the spring semester. It is COLD here. I did not quite understanding what that meant until I got here, but it means this: two sweaters all of the time and scarves, all of the scarves.

Friday, January 4, 2013

On Studying Abroad

Seven years, that's how long I have been planning this trip abroad. Not to say that I have been actively planning my excursions and rendez-vous, but il y a longtemps that I have been planning to visit the beautiful city of Paris. And now it is just a week away, and I am having all sorts of doubts...

I figured that many of my family and friends will want to share with me in the experiences that I have while abroad, so I have decided to create a new section in this blog just for that purpose. I haven't been much of a blogger, but I think with this added photo component I will be a little less lazy about posting. We'll see.

Adieu Chicago! Paris, je te verrai dans une semaine.