The last two and a half weeks have been quite an adventure. From stepping out of the metro into the middle of an unfamiliar city with only a sheet of directions about where to go and only the most basic grasp of their language to a nanotechnology conference, they have been full of excitement.
My apartment is in an excellent location-almost all of the famous tourist attractions are nearby. The Eiffel Tower is about 10 minutes away by foot. Between my apartment and the lab, I can walk by: Invalides (a military hospital), the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, and the National Assembly (plus countless other awesome buildings that look important, but I haven’t quite figured out what they are yet). Add to this that no matter what, I have to walk by Notre Dame to get to work, as it is between the metro stop and the university. Also, the Bastille is somewhere nearby, but I haven’t taken a walk to go find it yet.
Having been able to spend time in both Paris and Budapest, one of the most amazing things about European cities is the amount of history and culture that can be found just by wandering the city. I can walk for hours and not tire of seeing the incredible buildings. Almost all of them look regal and of great historical important, but upon getting close to I often realize that they did not actually play such a significant part in history.
And of course, I must add a note about science, since that is what most of my waking hours are devoted to. As a continuation of my work in Dallas, this has really helped keep me grounded. With stepping into a drastically different culture and environment, it has been reassuring to have my work as something understandable (at least in some sense) and as a place where I can make real contributions even though I am still working to grasp and adjust to the cultural differences.
I have just returned to Paris today after being in Budapest since Saturday for a nanotechnology conference. While some of the details of the projects went over my head, I was happy that I could grasp everything at a basic level and follow the majority of the presentations that I saw. Besides being in a great city to explore and allowing me the opportunity to travel outside of France, the conference was good for expanding my awareness of what is being done in nanotechnology, as well as understanding the ties that a lot of these projects have to industry.
The wonder and excitement of these past few weeks leave no doubt in my mind that the remainder of my summer here will be awesome. As my French improves, I hope to be able to further delve into the French culture and make this a worthwhile experience culturally as well as scientifically.