Bonjour from International Space University!

Elizabeth's journal about her experience at International Space University in Strasbourg, France. Read on to find out what she did...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

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Monday, September 04, 2006

I'm home...

I am officially back in Houston. It took 21 hours to get here, but I'm here! The last few days in Strasbourg were very emotional for everyone. Friday we spent the morning "deregistering", returning keys to ISU, and collecting our reports, etc. That afternoon was when the first of my good friends, Andi (from Germany), left. I wasn't really expecting it because I had not had time to think about the fact that we were all really leaving, but everyone was crying. After spending 2 months eating, sleeping, working, and playing with the same people, we've become like family.

The closing ceremony and reception were that evening. The associate administrator of NASA, Rex Geveden, was among the list of distinguished speakers. They were followed by one of the students from our class, James (from Australia). James was selected by the class to give a speech, and he did a great job. He reminded everyone of all of the fun things we did and all of the incredible experiences we had (both good and bad). He made everyone laugh and cry. He even got a standing ovation at the end.

That night everyone that was left went out one last time. There were still people in the courtyard of our dorms at 5 in the morning talking, hugging, and crying. We all had to turn in our keys to the dorm by 11 Saturday morning. There was a small group of us that weren't leaving until the next morning, so we went out for lunch and walked around the city one last time. One of the teaching associates, Jessica (from Canada) was nice enough to let me and Melissa (from Washington DC) stay in her room that night. We were up to say goodbye to Antonio (from Italy), Violetta (from Russia), and Luigi (from Italy) at 4:30 that morning. Then we got a cab to the airport where we celebrated Luigi's birthday before heading off to our gates. Melissa and I had the same flight to Paris, so we spent the flight reminiscing the last two months and what an incredible experience it has been.

This has been an experience that I will never fully be able to explain, but I think I learned a little more about people, life, love, and happiness. It reminded me that I want to enjoy and cherish every moment with the people around me. It was hard to leave ISU because I left 103 pieces of my heart behind with it, but the experiences were worth the pain that I now have in my heart. The moments I will remember and cherish most were the smiles, laughter, and even tears that were shared.

I spent the last two months wondering what I should do with my career, what my goals and interests in life really are, and what is most important to me. I'm not sure I've come to any real conclusions about everything, but the one thing this experience reinforced is that people are what is most important to me, and my goal today is to live with passion. The kind of passion that warms your heart and makes you smile from the inside out. I thank each of the people at ISU for the passion they have shown me for space and for life.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Home Stretch

The last two weeks have been a bit of a blur. The weekend after I last wrote, we had our final culture night. The Chinese crew stole the show that evening. Everyone had been working really hard after the rough few days. It was amazing to see how quickly the team pulled together, but after a long, stressful week, everyone was ready to have some fun.

Our team put together a very nice 150 page report on micro- and nanotechnology related to space. It required lots of long hours and hard work to get it done, but we made it. I was on the editing team, so I am one of the few people that has read the entire report (a couple of times). At one point someone actually made me a paper crown, and titled me the queen of editing. In the end, there was a small group of people that worked for almost 72 hours straight to get it done by the deadline, and it would not have come together without the help of our TAs, Ed and Dustin. I managed to get very sick the last night...I guess it's true that your immune system shuts down at some point when you're not taking care of yourself. I spent most of the day after our project was due in bed trying to recover. I had several wonderful friends that helped take care of me.

That was also the night of the talent show, which I refused to miss. It was hilarious. A group of guys dressed up as the "Space Girls" and tell me what you want. I don't know when I've ever laughed so hard. There were also several really talented musicians, singers, dancers, and even a juggler. Everyone had a great time that night. We were done with our reports and ready for a break!

It wasn't a long break though. All of that happened last Saturday, and we had another deadline for our 15 page executive summary on Monday. Again, the team worked really hard and put together a great summary. The last two days have been spent preparing our presentation, which will be given tomorrow morning. It involved creating videos, scripts, presentation slides, costumes, and more. I think everyone has enjoyed working on this final piece of the project and using their creativity, but you can also tell that everyone is tired. I know I am much more easily annoyed at this point. I think patience is one of the first things to go when you loose sleep. It's all coming together nicely though. We will present in the morning, get feedback in the afternoon, and have our closing ceremonies on Friday. Then we are all headed home. It will be hard to say goodbye to all of the wonderful friends I've made here, but I'm looking forward to coming home!

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Another week has gone by since I've found time to write. It's been a roller coaster ride of a week. We presented the letter of intent for our project to some folks from industry last Saturday. The people giving the presentation did a great job. People have been encouraged to take on roles that they don't normally do. A couple of our presenters are not native English speakers and do not give presentations often (much less in a foreign language). I was impressed with their willingness to do it to begin with, but I think they surprised even themselves with how well they did.

That afternoon we were given feedback from our co-chair, teaching assistants, and the members of industry that attended. Overall the feedback was positive. They felt like we had decided on a very ambitious scope for our project, but they are looking forward to seeing the results. There were also some suggestions for improvement in a few areas, but all seemed fairly minor.

There was another culture night after all of this on Saturday. Some of my good friends presented that night. They are from Germany and Australia. Both presentations were funny and entertaining. However, the country that won that night was Portugal. Rather than giving a presentation, Andre sent us all on a team scavenger hunt throughout the dorm. We were given 4 questions about Portugal. The correct answers gave you a room number. If you got the room number right, you got the next set of questions, which went through the same process. The 4th room was the end of the scavenger hunt, and the prize for reaching the end was a sample of a local beverage. It was a blast. There were 10 teams (the people on the teams were required to hang on to a rope the entire time) running through the dorm trying to finish first. The first team to finish received a bottle of port from Portugal...our group came in 2nd. It was a fun night.

Monday and Tuesday were a little shaky for our team project. We definitely hit the chaos stage of the team forming process. We are broken up into sub-teams by chapters for the report, and one of the sub-teams had a lot of trouble early in the week, which impacted the rest of the team greatly because their contribution was what the rest of the paper would be based on. There were a few meetings with people loosing their tempers. However, by Tuesday morning an agreement had been reached, and progress was being made least until that evening when our co-chair sent an email to the team that brought everything to a grinding halt. I'll just say that the email was not the appropriate means of communication for the content included. It was also a little late for the type of comments he had to make. It basically boiled down to a lack of communication on both parts (the team and the co-chair), which caused half a days worth of work to be lost. There was a meeting that went into the wee hours of the morning to clear up the mis- (or lack of) communication. The one positive thing that came of this email was that the team got past the chaos stage and started bonding. Everyone joked that a common enemy will bring people together. ;-)

Wednesday morning our co-chair made a presentation to the team to clarify and help get things back on track. Since then the team has been working hard, and we got a very rough first draft put together by Wednesday night for a preliminary review. Today was spent editing and writing and conceptualizing additional ideas. We have what ISU calls a "final review" tomorrow, which is really a review of the first draft with feedback. The final report is due on the 26th, so we have done a lot of work in the last week and have more to do over the next week. People are sleep deprived, stressed out, and on edge, but overall everyone has gotten to the point that it will be hard to leave this new group of friends...we only have two weeks left!

Today is mine and Ross' 4 year anniversary! He was very sweet and sent me a playlist of songs that make him think of me. It was perfect! Although, it also made me sad. While I'm having a good time and making new friends, I'm ready to come home and see everyone! I miss you all!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Moment of Silence

Things have been busy but a little more relaxed this week. We've been working on our team project, which requires a lot of research at this stage. We had to provide a letter of intent about the project today, which was about 15 pages, and we will give a presentation on the status of our project tomorrow where we will get feedback from the staff and people in industry. The report will be around 150 pages, and the first draft is due at the end of next week, which means we have a lot of writing to do in only a week.

Today we got some really bad news. One of the staff members at ISU passed away unexpectedly this morning. She was out sick for a couple of weeks, and we got the news during one of our lectures today. We took some time to have a moment of silence this afternoon, and one of the other staff members read a nice poem. There will be a memorial service for her next week.

Otherwise, things are going well here. I'm keeping busy, but I'm also trying to have fun and sleep occaisonally.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Colmar & Schwarzwald

Ross and I had a great time hanging out together. This morning Ross left to go back home. It was hard to say goodbye, but that means I'm more than halfway through the program. One more month and I'll get to see everyone!

Friday was the Alumni Conference here at ISU. I spent the morning in meetings while Ross hung out with people. Then we listened to presentations by some of my classmates and alumni. We also got the results of our tests back on Friday...I passed. :-) After the presentations Ross and I hopped on a train to a nearby town called Colmar. It has actually been raining most of the time that Ross was here, and our time in Colmar was no exception. We walked from the train station in the rain in search of our hotel. The map we used didn't have a lot of detail, so it took us longer than it should have. When we arrived we went for ice cream and walked around a little more, but didn't do much else that evening.

Saturday was more of the same. It rained most of the day, but we got out, found a great pastry place, did some walking and shopping, and more eating. It seems like most of our time was spent walking and eating this weekend. The rain actually stopped for a couple of hours in the afternoon, which was perfect since we had arranged to meet my photographer friend, Jean-Michel Heuber, at that time. He took pictures of us in an area of Colmar called Petite Venice. It was a lot of fun, and we got some great pictures. I'll try to post some next time I get a chance. It was actually kind of funny because we sat down with Jean-Michel after we finished taking pictures to have a drink, and it started raining. The timing worked out perfectly! We spent the rest of the day walking and eating.

Sunday was very similar to Saturday. We did more walking and eating before catching a train back to Strasbourg. I had to do a little work in the afternoon, but we went to dinner with some of our new friends from Germany.

This was our long weekend. Since they have us work most Saturdays they gave us this Monday off. We spent it in Baden-Baden, Germany, which I may have mentioned before. It's a small town known for its spas. We had a wonderful time relaxing in the pools. From there we drove through the Schwarzwald (Blackforest) and had dinner in Mummelsee. The drive was beautiful. We stopped a couple of times to enjoy the scenery and the setting sun. There was a small lake in Mummelsee where we went out on a paddleboat. We stayed there for dinner, which may have been the best meal I've had since being here. It was delicious. The rest of our drive back to Strasbourg was beautiful. The moon was almost full, so the mountains were glowing.

Now you're caught up on our activities for the last few days. I'm back at ISU settling into the reality that Ross is gone and I have a huge report to help write over the next four weeks. I know there will be lots of ups and downs over the next few weeks. We are working in groups of ~30 people day in and day out, so there are bound to be some interesting stories...actually, there already are. I can't wait to get back and share them.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

New Contract

Just thought I'd let everyone know that we won the contract for the business department yesterday! They actually decided to award it to two groups...not sure that would happen in the real world, but they said both of the proposals were above expectations and deserved the contract. :)

I forgot to mention yesterday that we went on a field trip on Monday to EADS Astrium in Friedrichshafen, Germany. We saw several satellites that are in production and also went to the Zeppelin Museum. It was very cool.

Yesterday we watched the engineering department's rocket launches, which were entertaining. Several hit the damage though. Last night Ross and I had dinner with my friends Andy and Marco and visited with people at the dorm. Then I had to do some work for my team project. All in all it was a fun day.