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!


My Biggest Inspiration

October 26th, 2014

As I'm writing this blog, my mom is sitting on the tarmac in Dubai, U.A.E waiting to de-board her 12 hour flight from JFK and then re-board her next flight to Singapore.  I'm not sure at what point in her life she knew this international travel spree was going to be part of her career plan, but regardless of when she knew, I'm so proud of all the obstacles she faced in order to make it happen.

My mom has been my biggest role-model for the last 20 years.  There's not a moment I can remember that I didn't look up to her — even when every teenage girl goes through those "phases" that are fun to look back at and laugh.  I can remember the nights she would play with my younger brother and me and then stay up even later working on her computer to receive a Master's Degree.  I also remember the times that I've called her because I needed someone to talk to and I knew she was the one whose opinion I could rely on.  I also remember the times that she used to tell my brother and me not to call her at work unless it was an emergency...and of course we still called if we couldn't find the snacks or where we left our shoes.  I later found out at my internship that those calls are REALLY annoying!

My mom has taught me so many life lessons and I know I should tell her this more often, but she's my biggest inspiration to create my own path towards success and be as wonderful a mom as her someday.  My mom has taught me it doesn't matter where we come from, rather where we choose to go.

She used to live in a small country town in upstate New York with only 40 people in her high school class.  When we visit her family there, I see more cows than people sometimes and she tells us stories of her working on the farm and the countless camping and ski-moiling trips her and her brothers used to take.  Her lifestyle seemed so relaxed, connected with the town, but now she lives in Connecticut working for a fortune 500 company and is traveling the world on the company's dime.  It seems crazy how someone's lifestyle can change so dramatically, but she had a vision of personal success and she accomplished it one step at a time.  She also taught me that if I'm passionate about something, I should go for it.  My mom has been to almost every event I've been part of since I can remember.  And each time I change my mind about what I want to be involved in, she's always there to support me.  She understands that as a kid (and I'm 20 but I still consider myself a kid) there's so many opportunities out there and so many passions to discover that it's important I take advantage of all the opportunities I can to discover what truly makes me happy.  Without her support in the various things I've tried over the years, I may have been stuck doing something I didn't truly enjoy.  Lastly (though I could go on and on) my mom has taught me that work should never come before family, friends, and fun.  Life is all about prioritizing.  Instead of prioritizing importance of tasks, and then trying to squeeze room for family and friends, you have to be sure to add that to the "to-do" list because those are the memories and friendships that make life more enjoyable.

I'll always look up to my mom and though it seems as though when we're younger we'd need our parents more, for me, as I get older I'm realizing how important it is to spend as much time as possible with friends and family and to cherish every minute with them.

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 ~Keep Smiling!

Emily

 

A Weekend Home

October 20th, 2014

Even as a junior I can still get a little "homesick".  It's not so much the "home" part — Bryant is my new home where I absolutely LOVE living and when I say goodbye to my parents and tell them I'm headed home (meaning school) they sometimes look a little confused until I explain.  But my homesickness comes from being away from my family because as I've gotten older and had more experiences and time away from home, I've started to realize how precious certain moments with my friends and family are to me.

Last fall I only went home for Thanksgiving…and then I took a plane to France for the spring after a busy winter of going into the office from 7am-5:30pm to pick up some extra cash for spending money in Europe.  But with that hectic schedule and never scheduling time for family, certain events and memories flew by before I even realized! I knew this year I was going to make the same mistake! (Obviously hanging around for a full year and not going to another continent will make it easier…but still, it's nice to know I have a plan that will keep me close to home!)

My mom called me this past week saying she and all our family friends/neighbors had tickets to the Trail of Terror (a tradition amongst our friend group).  With assignments and work and other plans already in place, I hung up disappointed I wasn't going to be able to make it but happy her and all of our friends were going to have a great time.  Lucky enough, my boyfriend came up with a "master plan" to make all of our original plans work and it turned out to be a fantastic weekend!

My mom and I went shopping at the Providence mall (tax free shopping — $$$ — much better than CT!).  Then her, my boyfriend, and I proceeded to take the 2 hour trip back home and rest up for a fun Saturday!  We went apple picking, watched a movie, baked apple crisp, and ended the night with the Trail of Terror I was so happy to attend.  Though I did get scared more times than I can count on my fingers, it was so much fun!  Sunday morning we woke up bright and early so my brother and his girlfriend could take us back to school.  In order to make the day out of it, we went to a nearby farm and navigated a huge corn maze (getting lost a lot was half the fun!), pet/fed some of the farm animals, picked pumpkins, and carved them later that day after a nice meal.  It was sad to see them leave at the end of the day, but nice to have had been able to spend quality time with them.

With midterms finishing up but the workload still high and heavy, seeing my family was just what I needed this past weekend!  In a high-functioning learning community where grades and deadlines are sometimes all we can think about, taking the time to do things that make us happy are so important and truly necessary so I'm glad I was able to make a fun-filled family weekend possible!

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~Keep Smiling!

Emily

Making History

October 14th, 2014

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We all want to do something that matters.  Whether it's as bold as breaking a world record or as simple as leaving a legacy in a student organization for future members to follow.  We do things and say things every day that will have an impact on the future to come.  Even though some students may have dreams and ideas that can be accomplished "easier" than others, they're all important.  The steps we each take to accomplish these sought after dreams is what truly counts.

At Bryant we learn to be innovators, creators, and forward-thinking individuals with dreams as big as we want and the guts to go out searching for ways to achieve them.  I asked a few people on campus what some of the ways they wanted to "make history were" and this is what they said…

  •  I want to go to "work" every day and not consider it a "job"
  • To marry the girl of my dreams
  • I would love to be a prominent woman figure in the insurance industry, empowering women to have a stronger voice and leadership positions in strong companies
  • I WILL work at Google and I WILL be more successful than the men that surround me
  • I want to take risks and learn to accomplish success from my failures
  • I want to work for myself and be the CEO of my own company
  • My goal is to earn enough money to support a family and my parents later on in life. Eventually, I would like to amass enough wealth to accomplish this goal, while still being able to retire and pursue my real dream; to one day be a political science or history professor

I also looked into some of the great moments in history that occurred on this day (October 12th) in past years.  Because looking at the past can many times give us confidence to keep moving forward.  Did Henry Ford know on October 12th, 1915 he was going to manufacture his 1 millionth Model T? Probably not.  But he worked hard each day from the beginning to make that possible.  A few other things that happened on October 12th in history were…

  • 1492: Christopher Columbus's expedition makes landfall on Caribbean island he names San Salvador (likely Watling Island, Bahamas). The explorer believes he has reached East Asia (OS 21 Oct)
  • 1792: The first Celebration of Columbus Day held in New York
  • 1850: The first Women's Medical School opened
  • 1957: The first commercial flight between California and Antarctica
  • 1969: The first time 5 people were all in space
  • 1999: The Day of Six Billion: the day the proclaimed 6th billionth person in the world is born
  • 2012: The European Union wins the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize

Great people and great groups have accomplished amazing feats on this day and many other days in the past.  As young, educated students, it's important to remember that all of these feats started once as a simple idea and eventually made their mark in history.

~Keep Smiling!

Emily M. Socha

Just Reminiscing……(about study abroad)

October 5th, 2014

I'm constantly reminiscing on the days spent studying abroad last semester.  Last semester about a month into classes marked our first week-long break which set the stage for some travel!  I set my sights for Italy and while I was in Florence this was one of the experiences I had…

The streets were pitch black at 2:00AM as we were tracing the streets of Florence.  I kept looking over my shoulder and scanning right and left to see if anyone was following us.  I felt like I was about to commit a crime.  We were dazed and confused as all the cobblestone looks the same and the mirror image buildings stretch for miles.  Uncertain corners, dark alley ways, and silence in every direction: we must be getting closer.  The more unfamiliar and desolate the streets become, the better chance you have of finding one.  All of a sudden, we knew we were close.  Your nose perks up and your eyes go wide in astonishment as you reveal in the fact that you have stumbled across one: you are so close, you can't give up now, just keep searching.  Stopping now, to take in a deep sniff, we try to envision where the scent is coming from.  When we catch the trail, like hound dogs we scurry forward smiling as wide as our tails would be wagging.  We all know that just a few minutes away there is the answer to our 2:00AM cravings.  There it is!  A dim light, shining through the glass panels of the single lit door on the narrow street.  The panel above it is cracked open, purposefully, in order for the scent to escape the confines of the warm, bustling, building.  All the sudden you see a few others, but you only talk in hushed voices; if it's necessary to talk at all.  No one would dare ruin the secrecy of the business.  Out of the group, only one approaches the door.  Slowly, someone casually strolls to the door, making as little noise as possible, and knocks.  Three long knocks and within a minute there is a young Italian baker peeking through the opening of the door.  As the scent escapes through the crack and fills your nostrils, you are giddy to say "4 Nutella croissants".  Then the door shuts firmly.  Waiting, anxiously, you scramble through your change purse and take out the exact change to complete the transaction.  A quick hand-off of euros for fresh baked Nutella stuffed croissants in individual bags at 2:00AM: a college student's dream.  Walking away, blowing on the croissant that's too hot to hold with your bare hand, you can't help but smile and think to yourself "Wow…this is real.  Studying abroad is absolutely amazing."

I know I'll make it back to Europe and all my other goal destinations some day....but in the meantime, I'm grateful for the memories I have, the stories like this one I can share, and for all of the amazing experiences abroad.

~Keep Smiling!

Emily M. Socha

 

 

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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