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...

Friday, June 30, 2006

Travel Day

Wow! What a day (really couple of days) and a range of emotions. Leaving Houston was, of course, hard. Ross and I had a great evening together before I left. Yesterday morning, which was actually today for me, was spent finishing up packing. Ross took me to the airport, and my journey began. The trip to Dallas/Fort Worth was fine. I had enough time during my layover to get a snack, check email, and call Ross. Then I was off to Paris. I slept most of the trip, which has helped me tremendously through the rest of the day.

Paris was a little confusing because the guy in Houston told me I would have to go through customs and get my boarding pass to Strasbourg once I got there. I didn't end up having to go through customs, which I found out AFTER waiting for my luggage. I successfully got my boarding pass and found my gate at the Charles de Gaulle airport, but my plan was to also get minutes for my cell phone while I was there. It turns out that once you've gone through security and gotten to your gate, it's virtually impossible to get back out to the area where the shops and restaurants are. I asked several people at the airport, and no one could help. Eventually, I just gave up and decided I would take care of it in Strasbourg.

Once I finally sat down at my gate, a man sat down next to me who I could tell was from the US because of his English. I asked him if he knew anything about recharging minutes on a French SIM card. He didn't, but I quickly found out that he was from TX...specifically Houston. Then I found out he works at NASA on the Constellation project. He asked if I was on my way to ISU, and to my surprise, I found out that he, John Connolly, is a co-director for one of the departments at this year's ISU SSP. We discovered as we boarded the plane that the travel folks at NASA had seated us together on the flight.

The flight into Strasbourg was beautiful. The mountains and the country are gorgeous. In the Strasbourg airport, John helped me find customs and showed me where the ATM would be. After getting some money I found a place to add minutes to my phone, which means it works now, and I headed outside to attempt to get a taxi. Fortunately for me, a young man named Martin was walking out at the same time I was and asked if I was headed to ISU. When I said yes, he asked if I wanted to share a taxi. The fortunate part about it is that Martin is from Canada and grew up speaking both French and English! He did all of the talking with the taxi driver, which was one less thing for me to worry about. We got to the FEC (the taxi ride was ~27 euros), got registered, and I eventually got my bags to my room.

The place we're staying, the FEC, is a maze. No two rooms are alike to my knowledge. It's an old mansion that was converted to dorms at some point in it's history. However, it appears that they did not want to interfere with the original structure...there is a toilet/shower box in the middle of my room. I'll have to post a picture. It's really unbelievable. Oh...there's also no AC, which isn't too bad in the evening, but it's pretty warm during the day. At this point I was exhausted and really missing home, so I called Ross crying. I know God provided help for me each step of my trip, but I was still just overwhelmed by everything. After I calmed down, I went for a walk and found a department store that sold hairdryers...I didn't bring mine because I almost blew it out when I was in Paris in November. The walk was great. There are tons of cute shops and restaurants in the area, and the cathedral is just a couple of blocks away.

Everyone I've met at ISU so far has been extremely nice. I think they told me that there are 105 students from 27 different countries attending this summer! Talk about being immersed in different cultures! I've only met 2 other Americans so far...however, there are a lot of Canadians. We all had dinner together and went for a boat tour of the city. The part of Strasbourg that we are staying in is actually called Strasbourg Island because it is surrounded by the L'Ill river. It was a very pretty ride, and very informative...although, I'm not sure how well I'll remember any of it. We were all pretty exhausted at that point. Since then I've just been reading through some of my ISU materials and getting organized. It really is like being back in college. We live in a dorm (fortunately in single rooms), and most of the people here seem to be big partiers, which is not really my thing.

Tomorrow I'm going to meet my coworker Colin's brother and girlfriend, Dave and Shaina. They are in Strasbourg to see the Tour de France. I think we're all going to go to dinner with their Aunt who used to live in Strasbourg. It will be nice to find out more about the city. Sunday we get started into our classes, so I'm going to try to take care of all of the little things, get to know the city, and enjoy hanging out with some Americans one last time.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

International Space University

So I figured I better explain what I'm doing this summer and how this came about. I will be participating in the Summer Session Program (SSP) at International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg, France for two months. ISU is focused on what they call the 3i's: international, intercultural, and interdisciplinary.

The ISU SSP is an intense nine-week course for postgraduate students and young professionals of all disciplines – a unique educational experience. The curriculum covers the principal space-related fields, both technical and non-technical and ranges from engineering, physical sciences and satellite applications to life sciences, policy, management and humanities.

In other words, this isn't going to be a vacation like so many seem to think it will be. :) There are some neat things going on while I'm there though. For instance, the Tour de France starts in Strasbourg the day after I get there!

How did this opportunity come about? Believe it or not I just happened to read about it in the JSC Today, which is a daily newletter sent out at Johnson Space Center (JSC). NASA's JSC offers a fellowship to one person each year, and I decided to apply. Honestly, I didn't think I had a chance, but after a long application and an interview, here I am! Even Louisian Tech University thought it was a big deal and decided to do a short article on me for their Tech Triumph's webpage.

I'm now less than a month from heading over there. I've been trying to learn some French before I go, but finding time is always a challenge. I know this will be an amazing, once in a lifetime experience, but I'm also going to miss Ross, my friends, and my family. So keep in touch!

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