Emily M. Socha

esocha2@bryant.edu

Hi Everyone! My name is Emily Socha and I’m a Global Supply Chain Management major and Data Analytics minor from Southington, Connecticut. I love being part of the Bryant community as a student, Resident Assistant, Admissions Fellow, and the VP of the Society of Global Supply Chain Management. As a Bryant student I had the opportunity to study abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France last spring and though I miss the Mediterranean coastline, it's great to be back home at Bryant. I've applied the skills and experience I've gained at Bryant to my internships at UTC Aerospace Systems as well as my numerous group projects, volunteering events, and other campus activities. I enjoy making free time to do what I love --- spending time with family and friends. Many times we will go kayaking, hiking, to the beach, or just hang out around campus. Fun Fact: I LOVE holidays and getting into the holiday spirit! I also like taking life day by day and making the best of every minute of it! I hope you enjoy learning about my experiences at Bryant and the experiences of the many other people that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with. Bryant is an amazing community that I’m very fortunate to be part of and I hope someday you get to experience too!


Bryant Univeristy Career Fair - Harness Your Future

September 28th, 2014

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People claim talking about yourself is the easiest thing to do, but when you're standing in line to talk to the TJX representative for a purchasing program you've been interested in since freshmen year and now have the experience and GPA to get into, your brain can freeze! That's why it's important to go to the career fair as an underclassmen to practice, practice, practice!  So when junior and senior year rolls around, you're an expert at navigating the companies you can see yourself working for someday.

This year the Amica Center for Career Education hosted another amazing career and graduate school fair with over 95 companies and 15 graduate schools, including law schools, in attendance.  This was a phenomenal opportunity for students to reach out to companies and either secure internships for summer/spring or full-time job offers.

Some of the most popular and well-known companies that were there included Fidelity, Amica, Coca-Cola, TJX, Traveler's, Prudential, Target, and many others! A professional photographer was present for students to get "photo-ready" and take a professional portrait photo many will use for their LinkedIn profiles.

The Amica Career Center provided many opportunities for students to prepare for this wonderful evening.  The week leading up to the event, the Career Center hosted a "Resumania" workshop where employers would sit with students and critique final draft resume copies.  Additionally, they were servicing the "resume drop-box" that is available to all students throughout the year and students can receive a critiqued resume within 48 hours.  Lastly, they provided links to very important sites on "how to prep for a career fair," "how to dress for a career fair," and much more.  Upon arrival, students who pre-registered received a professional name tag with their name, year, and major.  Lastly, students received a company listing that included a brief company description and a list of jobs/internships/leadership development programs was available for students to outline before the fair so they could make the most use of their time.  These little activities all add up to making each student feel more confident walking through the doors to tables full of HR recruiters.

Getting a job isn't the easiest thing to do.  It takes dedication to coursework and extracurricular activities throughout the college experience as well as diligence and patience throughout the search process.  However, the Amica Center for Career Education is a great resource to help prepare and put students in touch with potential employers giving Bryant students a leg up in the career search process.

Keep Smiling!

~Emily :)

Where Might You Fit In?

September 21st, 2014

Do you ever wonder where you might "fit in" on a campus with over 3,300 undergraduate students?  There's SO MUCH to get involved in but only 24 hours in a day!  Many times students will follow their strengths and passions to get involved in something they enjoy.  Whether this leads to working while being a full-time student, being a student athlete, or getting super involved with clubs/orgs on campus, there's something for everyone at Bryant.  To learn more about three of the traditional "roles" on campus, I interviewed a few people who could give you some insight on each one…take a look and see how each student has their own identity but still belongs to our wholesome Bryant community.

Work-Savy Student

Name: Felicia Thomas

Class: 2015

Major/Minor: Business Major with a concentration in marketing, double minors in psychology and communication.

Campus Involvement: Hall 16 Resident Assistant, Vice President of Events and Member, Education for Omicron Delta Kappa

Fun Fact: I have worked for three out of the five professional England/Boston sports teams; The Boston Bruins Foundation, The New England Patriots Alumni Club, and The New England Revolution.

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How do you balance your coursework and professional workload?

It takes a lot of time management to balance my personal and professional workload. I work in Boston on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. My classes are schedule from 8:00am to 12:15pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that I am available to work game nights, any night of the week. I was never a morning person, and in order for this schedule to work, I've really had to adjust my habits. To do this I have had to schedule my routine out for the week, keeping my meetings consistent, and making sure I don't procrastinate so that I still have time for the things I love with minimal stress.

Do you feel that Bryant has prepared you for the job you currently hold and your aspirations beyond this current role?

While Bryant does not specialize in the non-profit sports sector, many of the lessons and experiences here have translated into my professional role. After I was hired, my supervisor said that I stuck out from the competitive applicant pool because of my experience, interview, and overall professionalism. Many of those experiences on my resume are attributed to Bryant, and I know that Bryant has also developed me into the young professional that I am today.

Have you had an "eye-opening" experience at your job that reminded you of a course/experience/lesson you learned at Bryant?

This past week, I had the opportunity to help coordinate and organize the Boston Bruins Annual Golf Tournament. This was an amazing experience and it related by to my experience at Bryant when I was a Student Leader for the Alternative Spring Break trip. I was able to take some of the lessons that I learned from planning the logistics of the trip and translate them into the golf tournament. This decreased my stress load, and also made me more confident in my abilities. Another thing about the tournament that reminded me of my ASB experience was the feeling that drove me to the non-profit sector. I love having the opportunity to help others and through the Bruins I was able to make an impact and I continue to do so. Seeing this reinforces that I would love to do non-profit work in the future.

Do you feel that working and going to school gives you a sense of identity?

I have always worked while attending Bryant, but this is the first time when my job has taken me so far from campus. In order to take this position, I had to limit my involvements, which has made me feel slightly disconnected from Bryant. I'm in Boston more than I am on campus for classes which has allowed me to grow as an individual and establish myself. I have never been a city girl, but I now love being in Boston. Although my commute is long, and my schedule seems insane, I take comfort knowing that I've found a career that I'm passionate about, a place I love, and that my schedule will most likely be more manageable than it is now. Prior to my internship, I was reluctant about graduation, and dreading the time when I would have to leave Bryant. Now I feel prepared and excited to see what my future holds.

What's your favorite part about being a Bryant student?

My favorite part about being a Bryant student is the sense of community. We are surrounded by phenomenal people who genuinely care about each other. It is amazing to hear their stories, where they've been, what they're doing, or where they're going. It is always exciting to hear about everyone's success.

 

Student-Athlete

Name: Morgan LaBarbera

Class: 2016

Major/Minor: Marketing/ Communication

Campus Involvement: SAAC Co-Chair, Team IMPACT leader, Athletic Event Staff Member, Bryant Marketing Association

Fun Fact: I was in an Adidas promotional commercial when I was in high school.

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Did you choose Bryant to be part of the D1 Athletic Sports team? How much influence did playing lacrosse have in your college search process?

Yes I chose Bryant because it was a rising Division 1 program. I knew I wanted to play lacrosse in college and that I also wanted to go to a business school. So Bryant was a perfect fit for me. ( Of course getting a sports scholarship was a huge role in choosing to play a sport in college.)

How has lacrosse helped prepare you for your course work at Bryant and/or your career?

Lacrosse has also taught me determination persistence and to work hard . Learning these things has pushed me to always try my best inside and outside the classroom. Lacrosse has taught me to be tough even when all you want to do is give up. Athletics has prepared me to be able to handle a hard course load by knowing to never give up and to always try my best even when things get tough.

What's one of your biggest accomplishments as a sports team?

My freshmen year I came in with a new head coach who would be starting her first year here at Bryant and that year we made it all the way to the conference championship game and ending the season second in the conference. My sophomore year our team didn't want to settle for anything less than 1st place so we all worked hard and ended last season as the 2014 NEC Women's Lacrosse Champions. Not only did we win the conference but we got a bid to play in the NCAA Division 1 tournament against BC. That has got to be our biggest accomplishment thus far.

Do you feel that being part of a sports team on campus gives you a sense of identity?

Yes I think being on the lacrosse team definitely gives me a sense of Identity on campus. I have been playing lacrosse since I was 12 and it has been a huge part of my life. My love for the sport is why I worked hard to continue to play in college. Being an athlete in general I feel has always given me a sense of Identity. This being said I personally don't think that is the only identity I have. I like to be involved on campus in other non-athletic, academic types of organizations and clubs as well. 

What's your favorite part about being a Bryant student?

My favorite part about Bryant is the learning experience. I have learned so much even from just the past two years here. I am continuously being challenged but at the same time having fun learning. I personally enjoy all the group project based classes.

Anything else you'd like to share that pertains to being a Bryant student and athlete?

Athletics has opened so many other doors for me as a student. After joining the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, SAAC, freshmen year I have now worked my way up to being co-chair this year. I was able to attend a NCAA leadership conference through our athletic department. I'm traveling to CA for my first time with my team this spring to compete. I was able to work with an amazing non-profit organization, Team IMPACT, who has paired my team with a little girl who is battling cancer. All these things wouldn't be possible if I were not involved in athletics. I love being a student athlete, I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Extracurricular-Oriented

Name: Tiago Marinho    

Class:  Class of 2015

Major/Minor: Finance/Economics

Campus Involvement: Inter fraternity Council, Bryant Men's Club Soccer, Sigma Chi Fraternity, OCE Resource Center Office Aid, Head Resident Assistant, Archway Investment Fund, Senior Class Committee, Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society, Beta Gama Sigma Leadership Honor Society.

Fun Fact:  I have completed the top 2 things on my bucket list before the age of 21; Sky Diving & walking the Great Wall of China.

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How did you find which club/org was right for you and decide which ones to stay heavily involved in?

When I first started at Bryant I signed up for everything and explored all my options. The Org Fair was like involvement heaven for me. It's important to try different things to see what you like and don't like. After the first few meetings of one club I would evaluate it and see if it's something I should continue. You never know if you like something if you don't try it.  After the first semester I found things that I really liked, for example helping first year students and community service. I went after different club/orgs that had those focuses. That's when I became a 4Mile counselor, leading to an Orientation leader, then finally an RA in a First Year hall. I found community service in the form of a Fraternity, which spawned other great things I liked.  The things that I stuck with were the things I felt most passionate about. Things that would make me a better student and leader in the long run.

Why do you choose to participate as an active member of your club/orgs? Do you feel that you're doing a service to yourself, the Bryant population, the RI community, etc?

I choose to be an active member of the different clubs and organizations because it becomes a more rewarding experience. I'm a firm believer of you get out of it what you put in. The way to make an organization fail is to complain and do nothing about it. I like to take action and have an influence in what my club/org is doing. The best way to do that is to be active and take positions on E-board. By being proactive I know that the club is doing something I believe in. It's a disservice to yourself  by not getting involved. There is no where else on campus that you can get the leadership, time management and project management skills like being a part of a club. It makes me more attractive to employers while getting to help the Bryant Community.

Do you feel that being part of a these clubs/orgs on campus gives you a sense of identity?

Definitely! I am known as the RA or a Sigma Chi or a Greek, and I embrace it. These are things I'm proud to be a part of and to be identify as a member of.

What's your favorite part about being a Bryant student?

The best part about being a student at Bryant University is the opportunities to grow. Even though we have a small campus we have so many options to get involved and to make a difference on campus. On top of that, if there isn't something that fits you, you can create it.

Anything else you'd like to share that pertains to being a Bryant student and heavily involved on campus?

Being involved is both a blessing and a curse. Having to many involvements can be a problem, but it can help you manage your time in a much more efficient way. I learned so much from my involvements that I can now translate to the real world. To get the most out of Bryant get involved and make a difference!

 

 

Getting into the Swing of Things…

September 15th, 2014

We're back! The students, faculty, staff...the Bryant community is back on campus and we're already off to a terrific year!  I haven't been on our full campus since last December when everyone was rushing around and stressing about finals, so it's so nice to be back and see everyone still falling into the groove of things before the hectic and craziness begins to pick up again.  Then again, for people like myself…the craziness has already begun!

I had an amazing time studying abroad last semester but with some scheduling faux-pas and a matter of "just the way things work" I've got a course load ahead of me that's already giving me a run for my money!  I'll give you a quick run through of my classes…

Global Supply Chain Management Concepts: This class is off to a great start! Under the leadership of Professor Gravier, I feel like I'll be learning so many things that are helping me put the pieces together on the various supply chain topics.  We've already delivered one project presentation so far where groups individually mapped a supply chain of a specific industry recording how much another industry buys/sells to the other.  It's interesting to dissect the industries to see who's reliant on who and where we should be headed when addressing supply chain problems.

Applied Analytics: Talk about a class that's cool, current, and extremely applicable.  Professor Salzillo is teaching his students everything from analytical concepts to active statistical analysis software.  Just last week we were using SAS to analyze a huge data set to draw conclusions on real estate properties, investigating what it means to be an "analytical competitor" in the industry, and following up on what data-driven companies are doing to learn more about US each and every day.  You'd be surprised what these big companies know about you…and may not even tell you!

(If this intrigues you…check out this segment on 60 minutes and I believe you'll find it very interesting…) http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-data-brokers-selling-your-personal-information/

Computer Information Science: Many of us are "tech wizards" these days and can do a multitude of fancy things with our computers, cell phones, and other devices…but understanding the total power of these devices and how everything connects is worth learning about.  In a data-driven society, Professor Li is giving us the background on the systems that exist and what their potential is in a business environment.  We're learning information system concepts as well as applicable software functions that will make us more marketable and intelligent when we walk out of Bryant and apply for our first job.

Introduction to Management & Introduction to Marketing:  Both of these classes are required as a business major at Bryant.  They both cover many topics that are useful in all aspects of business and can tie into any related field that one chooses.  In Management, we're required to perform a semester-long community service project with a local non-profit.  Our group has decided to work with a woman who's currently in Malawi, Africa to help bring natural medicines to the people of her village.  In Marketing, we have a part of the class dedicated to a marketing simulation first as an intern and then as a top-level manager.  These online month-long simulations will give us the opportunity to see what it's like "first-hand" to make some of the business decisions and also the effects and benefits of holding different positions within a company.

You can see my course load this semester is going to be pretty hectic…but it doesn't bother me a bit.  Though some days it would be nice to just relax in the Fisher Center and play pool with my friends or take a walk around campus without rushing off to a meeting…I feel that all my classes are preparing me for the material I should know as a background to be successful in whatever career I choose.  We're all trying to discover who we are and what we may want to do for the rest of our lives and my classes have surely helped along the way!  Though I don't think I'll know my dream job the minute I step under the archway…I do believe my courses are giving me tons of insight to point me in the right direction.

 

 

Study Abroad: We’ve only just begun to dig in…

May 9th, 2014

When I arrived in France I thought "Wow!  Four months is going to be a longggggg time!  How am I going to fill it all?" But today, this sentence feels like such a joke!  These last two weeks are flying by.  I flip through my calendar and see all the penciled in day-trips and the week long vacations I took and am so curious, how did I manage to pull it off while still actually STUDYING abroad?  It has definitely been a challenge: classes, culture, and adjusting…but this experience has been one of a kind.  I started off the semester tracing the streets of Aix getting to know the quaint little artisan town I'd call home for four months.  After a few weeks, the cobble stone roads eventually became familiar territory and I wasn't mindlessly winding my way until I found a familiar landmark.  I also was able to find a good place for lunch instead of walking around for 20 minutes comparing prices and paninis.  This feeling of familiarity is nice but no matter what, I was always on my toes discovering something new about the city each day.  One of the greatest feelings was coming back from my winter or spring break and after a week of traveling, Aix felt like home.  There was always a sense that when I returned, I wasn't traveling anymore and I was just where I needed to be.

            Throughout the semester I had the opportunity to travel to so many different cities and countries and experience a new culture and lifestyle everywhere I went.  The U.S. is so large but in Europe, not too far away is a completely different culture, language, and landscape waiting for you to explore.  I was able to make it to many cities in southern France as well as Paris, London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Venice, Florence, Rome and lastly, the country of Tunisia.  Tunisia was a "spur of the moment" trip to stay with some family friends.  But these spontaneous travels, cramming for an exam on an overnight bus, and taking in as much cultural experiences as possible is what the entire four months were about.

            IAU College was such a great choice for me and I'm so happy that I chose to attend this institute.  The professors were caring, the class sizes were small, and the events and resources we had here made our whole adjustment and "fun searching" so much easier.  Each week there were academic lectures we were encouraged to attend and I enjoyed going to mostly all of them.  Sometimes some of our professors would offer their opinions on different topics or their personal work.  Other times there would be guest speakers.  Jane Goodall is even coming to Aix-en-Provence, unfortunately a day after I head back to the U.S.  Also, IAU has an activities coordinator who was always posting great events/activities to attend and always answering our questions on how to get to and from our favorite destinations.

            Leaving Bryant, my friends, family, and second home, was definitely a challenge.  There's days that I was homesick and missed the comfort of my dorm room or just wanted to take a stroll around a quiet campus and not a bustling city.  But at the same time, this really was a "once in a lifetime" experience that I'm so grateful to have.  I mean, when else am I going to have four months in my life to go off and just study and country hop? Probably… never (haha).  This was also a great time for me to discover things about myself like my interests, strengths, friendships and more about what I hope to accomplish throughout the rest of my life.  At our closing ceremonies the other day, one of the art professors closed with a quote that really touched me.  He said "there's never enough time, we've only just begun to dig in".  I enjoyed this closure to my study abroad experience because it really sums up how I am feeling.  I've finally figured out exactly what I want to do or don't want to do on my weekends and have made severe adjustments to the culture.  It's also nice to now finally be able to hold a decent conversation with someone in French, and I don't want to lose this once I go back home.  We've really just "dug in" as was said.  And I know I'll have to come back someday in order to pick up where I left off.

          As the semester closes at IAU and I look forward to my summer plans and heading back to Bryant in the fall, one of the things I'm most happy about is that I still have two years at Bryant! At Bryant I'm in the same boat...I've only just begun to "dig in" to what I want to do and how I can make my mark at Bryant and I am so happy I studied abroad as a sophomore.

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Paris!

May 6th, 2014

Check out some of my adventures in Paris! Even though I'm studying in France, this was my first time to the big city! After traveling so much this semester...I think Paris is my favorite city I've ever been to! (:

Day 1: Paris

3:30AM wakeup call and a 4:50AM shuttle to the train station to catch my 6:00AM train to Paris…one of my dream cities.  The sketchy walk to the bus station made me reconsider the two other overnight buses we have planned for our week of travels, but we're young, and on a budget…we can handle it!  When we got to Paris it was surreal.  Just a few minutes and I saw the Paris Institute of Design with the bright green architecture overhanging the Seine.  With a few clouds in site but no rain for the day, I was happy I chose to wait to travel to Paris until the spring unlike many other IAU students who rushed to Paris their first few weeks in Europe.  My friend Kaylen and I are traveling together for our spring break and we always have a good time because we're up for putting on our walking shoes to discover as much as we can.  After dropping our bags off at our hostel, we set out for the ultimate tourist attraction: the Eiffel Tower.  Not looking at our map and just feeling our way through the streets of Paris we came across the Pantheon.  Having seen the Pantheon in Rome, Italy during our winter break, it was really cool to compare the two.  As we continued our walk now down a main boulevard, we saw it for the first time.  It's surreal almost, seeing it in movies, books, pictures, and knowing it's just a few blocks away.  But when I saw my first glimpse of the giant lump of metal, I was smiling so much and couldn't believe I was actually in Paris.  We didn't have much of a plan per say…more just "walk in that direction".  For us, it worked out really well!  On our journey to the Eiffel Tower we ran into the Luxembourg Gardens which were absolutely beautiful.  (My dad, mom, and step-dad are all much better gardeners than I and I'm pretty sure they don't ask me for help in fear of me messing something up…but after seeing how beautiful these gardens were and all the others we saw in Paris, gardening may be a new hobby I choose to take up!)   Eventually we got to the Eiffel Tower and it was a beautiful site, one I'd always wanted to see and a major force to study abroad in France.  Kaylen and I took as many pictures as we could to take in the site, and then we began our climb.  (Of course…after we stood in our first of MANY huge lines…but luckily they all surprisingly move fairly quickly).  We climbed to the second level of the Eiffel Tower and the site was beautiful.  It was nice to see an overview of the city and climb as far as possible.  We then took the elevator (OTIS elevator might I add ;)) to the top of the tower.  (I even snapped a quick picture of the OTIS sign as I was being pushed out of the elevator by other eager tourists).  When we got to the top we could see just how big Paris was.  Well in fact, we couldn't see how big it was because it was SO BIG that you could tell the city kept expanding further and further past the last point our eyes could see.  The diagrams displaying all the other towers in the world, compared to the Eiffel Tower, reminded me of being in the Shanghai TV tower and there were similar diagrams.  Not only did we see the Eiffel Tower, but we climbed it too which not everyone is able to say! (: After a fun few hours of taking the wonderful sites in at "La Tour Eiffel", we got a nice lunch/dinner.  For the second time in France my mispronunciation of my menu item left me with a plate I would not enjoy…but luckily the waiter was kind and understanding and within minutes I had my correct meal.  After fueling up, we headed out for a walk on the Champs-Elysees to enjoy some window shopping and see the Arc de Triomphe at the top.  The Arc was very impressive but was more impressive were the cars circling the Arc and how they managed to make it to their final destinations with no accidents.  If you're wondering, out of curiosity, how many times you have to circle the Arc de Triomphe before you can find the underground passage to take you there, it's definitely somewhere over 5 times.  After trying for what felt like an hour to find the passage, I eventually asked someone who liked like they were from the area.  Finishing my sentence with "désolée, je parle un peu de française.  J'espère que vous pouvez comprendre » and receiving a reply of « oui, je comprends bien » made every French class I ever took worthwhile because I knew I was going to be able to receive the directions I needed.  Finally making it through the passageway, seeing the Arc de Triomphe up close was a nice site.  In a strange way, it was also calming to watch all the cars passing by, all rushing to get somewhere, when I was just sitting and enjoying my time in Paris.

Paris: Day 2

Our feet hurt.  What does that mean? Nothing….because we've only got three days in this HUGE city and we want to see as much as possible.  We set out with a general plan of what we would see that day and first headed to the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle.  We had our heart set on the gardens on the museum grounds the most and we got to enjoy the morning sunshine as we walked through and admired the natural beauty.  We then headed in the direction of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral.  On our way there, we perused through some local shops and looked at souvenirs from local street venders.  As we continued our walk, we noticed that more and more vendors were selling padlocks.  We made the immediate connection — vendors with padlocks means the famous lock bridge had to be close.  And we were right!  Both bridges that lead to the Notre Dame were filled with locks dating back years and some we saw were even dated as recent as the previous day.  The lock bridge hosts millions of locks of couples from around the world who lock their love on to the bridge and throw the key in the Seine so their love will last forever.  The concept is very beautiful and the lock bridges are such cool pieces of modern art.  After seeing the lock bridge, we admired the Notre Dame and then headed to the Louvre Museum.  The museum is SO HUGE there was no way we could get to every floor and exhibition but we did make our way to a vast majority of the musée and it was all very beautiful.  Of course, I had to enter the mass of people and take a "selfie" with the Mona Lisa.  It's bizarre how small the painting is when you see it in person and how everyone flocks to get their picture!  On our way back for the night and in search of a good dinner that didn't cost a fortune, we ran into "Ruby's American Burgers" and knew we had a steal!  I'd compare this place to Johnny Rocket's back in the U.S. and it was DECLICIOUS!!!  We did some late night window shopping again and then hit the bed early for another fun day in Paris!

Paris: Day 3

We set out for the day with shopping in mind and wandering the streets of Paris.  Within an hour our plans completely changed and we were on the metro headed to Sacré-Coeur church.  I knew I wanted to see this church while in Paris but I didn't know the surrounding area was full of touristy shops and other fun things to do/see.  As we got on the metro and realized it was about 15 stops away, we were so thankful we decided not to walk!  We walked up the 90 plus steps to a really cute area full of tourists, music, performers, and this really cool wall that had "I love you" written in every language.  It was really beautiful to see! Someday, I can't wait to come back to Paris with my future husband to see the Eiffel Tower, the lock bridge, and this wall! J (Of course, not rushing anything though)!  We budged through the crowd of tourists to make it to the church.  On our way there, we stopped in a few little shops and I even found a beautiful pink-stoned necklace to purchase (: We heard some great street performers on the way, saw some beautiful paintings, and then grabbed a sausage sandwich for lunch.  They were selling like crazy as they were all being made in the street in a giant frying pan and handing them out one customer after the next.  We then went to the Musée D'Orsay and I got to see some wonderful artwork.  I LOVE impressionist art and seeing artwork completed by Monet, Manet, Degas, Cezanne and other artists alike in this museum was stunning.  We then walked down the boulevard next to the Seine rivière and tried enjoying our $10 milkshakes but this was definitely NOT our smartest purchase as they ended up being the size of an extra small coffee.  In fact, they didn't even taste like milkshakes…just watered down banana juice and Yahoo chocolate milk.  We grabbed our bags for our overnight bus ride to Amsterdam and lucky for us, we navigated the metro system just in time to make it to our bus to Amsterdam.  We had wanted to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night but we lost track of time putting us behind schedule and couldn't risk missing our bus.  However, we did get to see it sparkle through the hazy metro train window as we zipped by on the way to the bus station.  Almost everyone on that bus was like us: young and on a budget.  We through our bags under the bus and tried as best we could to rest our eyes to arrive in Amsterdam the next day.

 

Pastry Diary

April 22nd, 2014

My Pastry Diary!

The fresh scent of baguettes and pastries fills the streets of France.  Instead of just imagining what the countless decadent desserts taste like…I decided to find out for myself! I've created my own little "project" to taste pastries a couple times a week and see which ones are "to die for!" and which ones can be left alone. By far…this is one of the best projects I've ever done J

Pastry #1: Tropézienne

Rating: 4

This pastry caught my eye because it reminded me of Pillsbury cheese danish (yummmmm!).  It looked good but unfortunately did not taste as wonderful!  Instead of a cheesy thick center, it ended up having this airy, fluffy, creamy texture that was too sweet for my taste buds!  The tropézienne was made famous in St. Tropez, a coastal town in Southern France.  It's a cake filled with a mixture of three creams between sugared brioches.  Although the cream wasn't my favorite, I did enjoy eating the sweet brioche separately!

Pastry #2: Tartalette Caramel

Rating: 5 - (eaten plain)

6 - (eaten with an apple)

I'm not exactly sure what attracted me to this pastry.  I love caramel flavored ice cream and coffees and I think when I saw "caramel" I just picked it without actually thinking what it was!  When I took my first bite I realized that this was a caramel pie.  Basically, thick, sticky, heavy, caramel with a small amount of crust on the outside.  I was enjoying it but after the first two bites knew it was wayyyyyy too heavy to be eaten alone.  So, I thought about my favorite fall time dessert — a caramel covered apple! I made this treat much better by taking a bite of my apple and a bite of the tart to even out the tastes!  They made a good combination! (:

Pastry #3: Pain au chocolat

Rating: 8

You can't go wrong with this choice!  I wouldn't even consider it a pastry, but I had to add it to the list because it's so delicious.  It's similar to a croissant — airy and flakey — but this time filled with a nice, thin, hard chocolate layer in the middle.  It's just enough chocolate and sweetness to satisfy your taste buds without giving a sugar rush overload!

Pastry #4: Beignet

Rating: 8

Needless to say…I walked into a boulangerie to buy a sandwich and soda for lunch…I walked out with a beignet.  I couldn't help myself!  The sugared covered donut for 1 euro had me sold!  Beignets can be made many different ways — donut style or fritter style for example.  Usually they are covered in sugar but can also be adapted for a savory meal if stuffed with meat, vegetables, or fruits.  This one I had was in the shape of a donut and was too much to eat in one sitting.  It was very sugary, and very delicious!

Pastry #5: Herisson

Rating: 8

I had been choosing so many pastries lately I thought…why not let someone else pick one out for me! It'd be a great surprise!  So, when my friend Nicole asked if I wanted anything while she was out grabbing a coffee, I gave her full liberty to choose any pastry she wanted for my "project"!  I thought it'd be so cool to see what someone else would pick and add it to my diary!  It turns out, she came back with a herisson, which looked like a little chocolate cupcake but tasted so much better!  It had a thick, chocolate buttercream top with chocolate shavings on it.  The cake portion tasted like a battered cookie dough with a slight taste of almond.  This dessert was so small but so rich, we shared it amongst 4 girls.

Pastry #6: Tartelette aux fine pommes

Rating: 8

DELICIOUS!  This pastry was the right bit of sweet and fruit.  The flakey bread too hit the spot.  Sometimes a simple dessert like this can do the trick! Tasted like an apple pie….but better! Next time if I were to warm it up with some vanilla ice cream, mhmm mhmm good!

Pastry #7: Tartellete aux framboises

Rating: 9

This pastry was just right to quench my sweet tooth without making me feel like I've eaten 1000 calories afterwards.  The berries were so yummy and the mini pie crust with a light cream layer was just enough to satisfy.  Now I know what I won't be able to resist when I need a little "pick-me-up"!

Pastry #8: Choux Chantilly

Rating: 4

I knew I shouldn't have bought this pastry but it just looked so good!  I could tell I wouldn't like it because the cream was going to be the same as the filling of the tropézienne which was not my favorite.  Nevertheless, the cute dessert caught my eye.  Next time I won't let the aesthetic appeal override my better judgment!

Pastry #9: Baklava

Rating: 2

Don't worry…I did NOT eat all of these!  One of my professors bought these Arabic pastries for us to try.  Unfortunately, one bite in and I couldn't even finish it!  It's a very sweet pastry made with rosemary water.  It's very, VERY juicy and has a rice-like texture.  (AKA…not my definition of a tasty pastry).

Pastry #10: Éclair au chocolat

Rating: 7

My friend was having a rough day so I decided one way to cheer her up would be with a nice, yummy pastry.  Of course, I wanted to play it safe so my plan didn't go wrong.  A chocolate éclair was a safe bet and its delicious chocolate coating and filling really did the trick.  Brightened her day, filled us up with some sweets and became one more addition to my diary! (:

Pastry 11: Gaufre avec Nutella et la glace chocolat

Rating : 10

BEST DESSERT I'VE GOTTEN ABROAD! I'm not sure if this really qualifies as a pastry…but as you can tell from my ratings…maybe pastries just aren't "my thing"!  This waffle was DELICIOUS. I got it while I was in Brussels, Belgium and being famous for their waffles…I just had to try it (:  I could taste the sugar grains in the waffle and the way the cool ice cream hardened the chocolate on some parts of the waffle but was steaming hot on others was a perfect combination.  It's a good thing I didn't study abroad in Brussels because I know I wouldn't have been able to resist them each week!

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Brussels, Belgium: EU Capital Excursion

April 16th, 2014

Syllabus day: First day of class when the professor explains the dos, donts, grading policies, absence allowances and the assignments that are bound to cause headaches and stress for the next four months.  Basically, this is the beginning of every college class whether you're studying abroad or at your home university.  But, when you open your syllabus on the first day of class and see an international excursion to Belgium, the capital of the European Union, you can't help but smile.

This past week I was able to take part in a European Studies tour in Leuven, Belgium.  Here, we spent two intensive days listening to speakers talk about various topics related to the EU and we concluded with a visit to the EU Parliament buildings.

The conference was held at the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe and is a very well-known and respected university.  Just a fun fact…the official day for St. Patrick's Day (March 17th) was decided at the Leuven Institute.  We learned this from the Institute Director, Mr. Malachy Valley, who began our first day with a warm welcome.  After learning a bit about the college town of Leuven and the history of the university, we then heard from the first guest speaker who discussed the Belgium political system.  It was very interesting to see how a country, such as Belgium in this case, manages national sovereignty and EU membership.  Next, we discussed current issues/topics pertaining to EU governance such as the electoral and leadership aspect of EU commission members.  Differing greatly from the U.S. electoral process, this was also very fascinating to learn about.  After exploring the city and finding Belgium fries and waffles for lunch, we came back to discuss a few more topics such as the European World Bank and the economics of the EU which opened the opportunity for discussion about the tactical economics as well as the political aspects that always play a role in the economy.  We closed the day with a current topic in Europe: the bid for Turkey to become a member of the EU.  This topic is gaining a lot of publicity right now and it was interesting to discuss all aspects of the debate.

We were able to explore the city of Leuven that evening and rest up for another long day that followed.

We started the day again with a few sessions in the morning.  The first session related to European citizenship.  We compared and contrasted EU citizenship rights with U.S. citizenship rights as well as the legal ways to gain citizenship.  This topic was very interesting especially as we studied the various legal cases regarding EU citizenship debates.  During the second session we discussed the role of the Irish regions office in Brussels.  Many member states have offices in Brussels in order to stay more connected and centralized.  We learned a lot about Ireland's position in the EU and we also discussed the "Europe 20/20" initiative which offers a plan for all EU member states to help Europe gain better footing in the following five areas: employment, innovation, climate/energy, education, and poverty.  After that, we grabbed sandwiches as we rushed to the train station to make our 2:00 meeting time in Brussels to visit the Parliament offices.

It's quite difficult to get a tour of the parliament building but with our professor's wonderful connections, we were able to get one of the direct assistants of the longest standing member of Parliament who was also the former President of the EU.  Unfortunately, parliament was in session during or visit or we would have had a chance to meet with him and see the plenary sessions in action.  Nevertheless, touring this building and hearing more from a direct employee of a party member was a tremendous learning experience and opportunity.

After some debate about parading around Brussels, we finally convinced our professors to let us explore the city of Brussels for a few hours before heading back to Leuven to debrief the conference sessions as a whole.  Within minutes of entering the city we found more sugar coated waffles, crispy fries, and delicious Belgium chocolates to sample and take home as gifts.  After eating our way through the streets, we had just enough time for a few quick pictures and some shopping.  It was a great fun way to end the conference.

I'm not a political science major nor do I follow politics on a daily basis, however, all speakers and discussion sessions peaked my interest.  Everyone gave great insight, opinions, and discussion to political issues and topics in the EU that were well-worth exploring.

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One Month Left!

April 14th, 2014

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It's crazy! I feel like I just stepped off the plane yesterday for my semester abroad but the days are slowly coming to an end!  I have about one month left in Aix but it feels like I still have so much left to see.  As I reflect on the past few months here in Aix, there's definitely a few things I would have done differently…

1)      Language programs.

IAU offered so many different opportunities to meet more French students to practice speaking skills.  I wish I had attended more of these sessions and put myself out there to really dive into the culture and people my age who live in the city.

Next time: Just do it!

2)      More "Aix" adventures.

At the beginning of the semester it seemed like four months was going to be a VERY long time.  I tried to settle in and acclimate myself within the city day by day.  What I should have been doing was purchasing cheap rain boots and hiking my way through the streets and local museums so that when the weather finally turned around, I would have already checked all the indoor activities off my bucket list.

Next time: Embrace the culture shock and 'just go with it'!

3)      Travel more in the beginning.

Sometimes buying a RyanAir flight with people you just met can be the best decision you'll ever make.  You never know where you're going to end up, what you're going to see, and you never want to rule out any opportunities.  Instead of trying to fit in as much traveling as possible toward the end of your stay, it's nice to go to a few places in the beginning and not being afraid to meet new people along the journey.

Next time: Take advantage of every opportunity to travel.

4)      Money Matters.

There's a big difference between being smart with your money and being cheap with your money.  At first, I really didn't want to spend a lot of money on things such as food, clothing, souvenirs, events, etc.  But after realizing that trying new foods, purchasing clothing and souvenirs for friends and family, and going to events that you'll never go back to, can many times be worth the cost.  Of course, keeping a budget and being smart is important, but don't miss out because something costs "too much".

Next time: Be smart, not cheap, when it comes to money.

5)      Research before traveling.

It's nice to go to a city and walk around and marvel at all the wonderful European architecture…but at the same time, you may be missing one of the coolest things 20 feet away on the "MUST SEE" list if you don't do any research!

Next time: MAKE the time to sit down and research the cities you're going to.  You don't need an hour-by-hour agenda, but a list of the places you want to go, costs, and hours is definitely important!

6)      Bring more of "home".

No matter how independent you are, homesickness happens.  Be sure to make room for your favorite comfy sweatshirt to wear at night, a few pictures of friends and family, and a few things that remind you of the people and places you care about.  Also, packing some peanut butter, candies, and other essentials is important because once you hit the city and the exchange rate is no longer in your favor, the essentials become costly and home is too far away.

Next time: Ditch 3 of the 8 different types of shoes you plan on bringing to make room for things that will be more helpful.

7)      Talk to past students.

In Aix, for example, there is no such thing as lined notebook paper!  It's all graph paper! Trying to take notes and focus can be hard enough sometimes let alone getting a headache from staring at all the lines on the page.  Talking to students that have previously studied in the areas you go to will prove very helpful!  Also, it would be nice to know some local cities/places that are "must sees!" so you don't miss them!

Next time: Reach out to friends!

8)      PACKING!

PACK PRACTICAL, NOT FASHIONABLE!  Yes, fashionable is important especially in France because you don't want to wear your college T-shirts every day and Nike's or you'll stick out in a crowd very quickly.  But at the same time, you still need warm layers and options.  When it comes down to throwing a few things out at the end of the semester to bring new gifts home, you want to be sure you don't have to sacrifice anything you value too much.

Next time: Fashionable can still be comfortable.

9)      2 euro day trips.

When you have the choice of spending 200 euros for a weekend in some far away city, or 2 euros for a weekend in a city close by, don't discount the closer city.  Sometimes, the coolest things are the closest, you just have to know where to look!

Next time: Research more day trips in local areas.

Although I wish I had done these things during my study abroad experience, I have still had such an amazing experience and this last month I'll continue to take my own suggestions into account!  These are just a few tips that I want to share with all those who plan on studying abroad as students!  The little things can make all of a difference sometimes!

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A Typical Weekend in France

April 3rd, 2014

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Friday night everyone is having a great time celebrating another work-week done! In France, generally, people are only allowed to work a maximum of 35 hours a week (much different than the 40 full-time average for Americans!)  You can find many people relaxing Friday afternoons at the cafés and then later enjoying a nice dinner and a glass of wine.  This past Friday, a few friends and I went out to sing karaoke and had lots of laughs and a great time!

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Saturday's are a hustle-and-bustle day around town!  Market shopping in the AM and tracing around town with friends and family!  This Saturday I decided to stay in Aix-en-Provence and see more of the city I'm actually studying in!  I took a trip to the morning market and tried many different cheeses.  I bought some fruit for the week (all locally grown) and did some market shopping…good thing I didn't find anything I wanted because euros run out pretty quick! ;)  A few friends and I picked up lunch at a local bakery and ate in Parc Jordan.  It was so relaxing to lay out, eat our lunches, and enjoy the good weather.  I couldn't help but grab a delicious pain au chocolat for a sweet dessert (:  After that, we went to Musée Granet, a beautiful museum with work from famous artists such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Picasso.  It was a beautiful exhibit and the first art museum I've been to in Europe!  Saturday night we finished our evening with friends at a nice little Italian restaurant.  I had been to this restaurant once before but for the price and food — definitely worth returning to!  The owners are extremely welcoming and care about their customers.  I finished diner with a scrumptious Nutella crêpe with powdered sugar.  There was no better way to end the night.

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Sunday everything is basically closed in small cities such as Aix-en-Provence.  Therefore, many families like to spend time together at parks, the beach, or even the famous Mt. Saint Victoire.  My friend and I decided we'd spend our Sunday by taking a trip to the coastline town of Cassis.  So far it has been one of the most BEAUTIFUL cities I've ever been to.  This town is famous for the "calanques de Cassis" which are the beautiful port inlets.  You can visit them by boat or enjoy hiking through the nature trails to see them.  We were having so much fun and of course, this day offered many opportunities for tons of laughter…

1.       We thought we were going to miss the bus as we took a few wrong turns in the morning to make it to the bus station…luckily the street spit out right where we needed it!

2.       We had to change buses in Aubagne to get from Aix to Cassis.  When we got off our first bus, we saw the next bus we had to take but the driver was talking to others and we arrived early so we just figured we'd wait for him to be done talking and then get on the bus.  Luckily we were paying attention as he got on the bus and closed the door.  We quickly walked up to the door and putting my hands in the air with a very confused look on my face, he laughed and let us in.  We paid our ticket and sat down.  The bus pulled 30 feet forward to the actual stop where the other passengers were let on the bus.  They were probably very confused where we came from haha.

3.       We decided to use the public restrooms before starting our hike to the first calanque.  These restrooms fully sanitize themselves after each use.  Therefore, when you close the door after you leave, the door stays shut until it is done sanitizing and ready for the next person.  I had heard about these restrooms before but didn't quite fully understand how they worked.  So, as my friend goes to use the bathroom the light won't turn on, so she opens the door back up and asks if I can hold it open while she wipes off the seat.  No problem! Now the door shuts for the second time.  All the sudden I hear a massive WOOOSH of water and AYEEEEE coming from the bathroom!  SHE'S GETTING SOAKED was my initial thought! Luckily my friend came out within a few seconds with only her shoes wet!

4.       We spotted people with HUGE baskets of french fries and knew we had to treat ourselves.  We walked up to the snack shack that everyone was crowding and got lost in all the flavors of gelato.  After deciding our lunch would be gelato and fries, we walked up to the register.  Seeing quickly on the menu "steak frites" we ordered that thinking we were going to get the big steak fries we saw everyone eating.  To our surprise, they handed us a long narrow bag, and that's when it hit us.  We had just ordered a "steak-and-fries sandwich".  This was the first time I'd ever ordered something I didn't mean to…but it was the best mistake we made all day!  We got a delicious sandwich that was perfect to share, gelato, and we even went back and got some shoestring fries that weren't exactly what we saw everyone eating, but they did hit the spot! (:

5.       We almost missed the bus back…even though we wrote the schedule down in the morning.  We were sitting at the stop and were trying to read the schedule because it hadn't arrived.  Good thing we happened to look up and see the bus we were supposed to be on!  It was definitely our lucky day as everything continued to work out just right.

I'm making the most of every opportunity I have while I'm abroad —seeing the town where I live and the surrounding area!  I'm hoping to get back to Cassis soon and hike the other two calanques to see more of nature's beauty! By that time I'll probably be a professional at navigating the buses as well! (:

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Southern France - Great Choice!

March 27th, 2014

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                I debated for a while between Paris and Aix-en-Provence, France.  Yea it'd be cool to say I lived in Paris for four months, but at the same time, the experiences I'd be getting in Paris would be extremely different than the ones I'm getting in Aix.  I ended up choosing Aix because I'm an outdoor, adventurous person.  I wanted to be able to go hiking, visit smaller towns, and travel the coast to kayak and spend time on the beach.  This past weekend I was yet again so happy with my choice to study in Aix as our school took a trip to the Le Luberon valley.

                Le Luberon is a small collection of villages in Southern France.  It's one of the most picturesque areas and many of the settings in these towns here have been used to film movies.  We started our day by driving around the eastern edge of Aix and taking a rode through Puyricard and Rognes, up through a pine forest that covers a low range of hills called the Trévaresse.  After we passed the beautiful blue lake of St. Christophe, which is part of the Marseille city water system, we stopped at a beautiful Abbey Church of Silvacane.  This abbey is one of three sister abbeys in the Provence region that housed monks of the Cistercian order.  The monks prayed most of the time and when not praying, they were growing their food and making clothing.  The simplicity of the stone work of the abbey is reflective of their very serene lifestyle.  The abbey was built on a slate of rock, therefore, the people who built it could not dig down into the earth in order to level off the ground floor.  Instead, the abbey slowly declines in gradient on the inside and the main three sections are all of differing heights.

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After visiting the abbey we took the bus across the Durance River into the department of the Vaucluse.  Our next stop in this department was the beautiful city of Lourmarin.  Here we got to see the 15th-16th century chateau that was built on top of a fortress from the 12th century.  We also were able to pay our respects at the local cemetery for the Novel prize-winning author Albert Camus who is buried in Lourmarain.  His daughter still lives in the small village and cares for his grave site as well as his reputation.  Lastly, the day of our trip (March 23rd) was municipal Election Day in France.  Always held on Sundays, a small group including myself went with the dean of our school to learn more about the French elections and see them in action.  It was interesting to see how the French System differs from the American. Upon entering the town hall, residents would show their ID and be able to pick up a piece of paper and envelope that correlates to the person they wish to vote for.  For example, if there were 5 candidates, there would be 5 sheets of paper, each paper being specifically devoted to one candidate.  From there, the individual can either pick up the candidate he/she wishes to vote for, place it in the envelope, and then place the envelope in the clear Plexiglas urn on the way out.  Many times, people will take an envelope but a few of the papers before going behind the curtain in order to keep their vote a secret.  At the end of the night, the urn will be opened and the papers will be counted.  It's a public event to go and watch the votes being counted and anyone is welcome to watch.  This was a very unique stop on our trip and I'm glad I went with the small group to see it!

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 After grabbing some lunch in Lourmarin, we traveled to our last destination: Roussillon.  The local legend of the town of Roussillon is that the hills were died red in a tragic love story.  Really, the town mined the ochre in the city for centuries and now people are able to visit the old quarries.  Ochre was used as a pigment, notably for barn and boxcar red paint.

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   Visiting these three locations would have been impossible had we not traveled with the school because they are such remote villages.  The towns were all beautiful and had their own special distinctions.  My favorite part of the day was visiting Roussillon — the ochre quarry was simply magnificent.

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