Over two weeks, a group of 11 other students and I received the opportunity to learn about French culture and how food is intertwined with it. We took a bread baking class, a macaron making class, did wine and cheese tastings, toured restaurants, and of course saw all the beautiful sights in Paris. We learned a lot about how much the French truly care about their food and where it came from before it ended up on their plate. We then discussed and compared how the French food system is quite different from the United States.
One of the most valuable experiences I gathered from this trip was when our group passed out sandwiches to the homeless that lived along the River Seine in Paris. Many of these people were refugees from the Middle East that were promised a better life and jobs to work. Now, many of these highly educated people are living in tents on the streets. This has impacted me in a way that I never imagined. Moving forward, I will always be conscious of the life I have and how lucky I am. Not only that, but to make sure that I give as much of my time as possible to help those who are not as lucky as I am.
I think it is impossible to pick one memory from this trip as the "most memorable." I think that I will always remember the great time I had with all of the other students I met on this trip. Ever dinner we had was very relaxed and we were all joyful to be together. We never really had tension and it was great to feel so relaxed with people I didn't really know that well, especially since we were all in a very new place together.
What did you not expect?
While in France, we had many many types of cheeses. A lot of them were very strongly flavored. In France, they do not pasteurize their milk and they have very different food safety laws. I was very surprised when we went to a small goat farm to see the workers working directly with the cheese not wearing gloves, nothing over their faces, and wiping the sweat from their heads as they were working. However, the all of the cheese we had tasted amazing, no one got sick, and the French eat that type of cheese every day, yet have lower instances of foodborne illnesses. This taught me that moving forward with my profession, just because the United States treats their food one way does not mean it's the "best" or "right" way. There are a lot of ideas on food and how it should be treated and we should always keep an open mind to how other cultures treat and consume their food.
What advice would you give?
Some advice for future students is to go into the trip with a complete open mind. Don't be afraid of anything and be willing to try everything because you never know when you will be back. Many of these trips are once in a lifetime experiences and you will see a lot of different cultures and meet many many people so make sure you go with an open mind and soak in as much as you can.
How has this experience impacted your life?
This experience has impacted me in a very large way. I now think about my food very differently in terms of instead of eating quickly and on the go, eating more foods for their taste and sitting down to take the time and enjoy them. The French are also much more sustainable in their food system so I pay much more attention to this in my life now as well. As for long term goals, I have decided that it would be incredible to work abroad some day and this trip played a huge role in that. I really enjoyed the culture and environment I was in and I think it would be incredible to spend a year or two working abroad someday.
How did you learn about this experience?
I first learned about this opportunity when I was just scrolling through the programs on Iowa State's study abroad website. It seemed interesting to me so I decided to apply and I was fortunate enough to be asked to go.International Connections