Friday, June 4, 2010

A Meeting of the Minds

Thursday, June 3

On Thursday we visited École Centrale Paris, a professional applied science and engineering university.

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Thursday, June 3

On Thursday we visited École Centrale Paris, a professional applied science and engineering university. It is a university that has strong ties with industry and trains its students in leadership, business, and innovation.

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Classroom Ingenuity: The front row seats of the lecture room are made the most comfortable in order to encourage students to sit in the front row.

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Nikos Paragios gives a lecture

When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by James Brown, a Pennsylvanian and the Head of International Mobility office. Fluent in both English and French, he introduced us to himself and École Centrale. In his PowerPoint presentation he described the visit of us students to the university as "a meeting of the minds." This description implied a sharing of knowledge between the University of Minnesota and École Centrale Paris. While we did learn a lot about the university, "a meeting of the minds" seemed to be an overstatement of the prospect of intellectual collaboration between American and French universities. A language barrier acts as a roadblock to international exchange between us. James Brown was an exception to the notion that Americans can only speak English. The truth is that undergraduate study in France is very limited for those who don't speak French well.

To help improve our French, our hosts gave us a 30 minute lesson with a French teacher. It was unfortunate for us that the teacher did not ask us how much French we knew until afterwards because, for the lesson, she had decided to prepare the lyrics to "Chanter Pour Ceux Qui Sont Loin De Chez Eux" by Michel Berger, and she asked us to sing along as she played a YouTube rendition of the song. The lyrics to the song are given here. While imagining the spectacle that ensued, know that when asked about how much French we knew, professor Sobelman spoke honestly for us and said, "Zéro."

Celui-là passe toute la nuit
A regarder les étoiles
En pensant qu'au bout du monde
Y a quelqu'un qui pense à lui
Et cette petite fille qui joue
Qui ne veut plus jamais sourire
Et qui voit son père partout
Qui s'est construit un empire
Où qu'ils aillent
Ils sont tristes à la fête
Où qu'ils aillent
Ils sont seuls dans leur tête

{Refrain:}
Je veux chanter pour ceux
Qui sont loin de chez eux
Et qui ont dans leurs yeux
Quelque chose qui fait mal
Qui fait mal
Je veux chanter pour ceux
Qu'on oublie peu à peu
Et qui gardent au fond d'eux
Quelque chose qui fait mal
Qui fait mal

Qui a volé leur histoire ?
Qui a volé leur mémoire ?
Qui a piétiné leur vie
Comme on marche sur un miroir ?
Celui-là voudra des bombes
Celui-là comptera les jours
En alignant des bâtons
Comme les barreaux d'une prison
Où qu'ils aillent
Ils sont tristes à la fête
Où qu'ils aillent
Ils sont seuls dans leur tête

{au Refrain}

Quand je pense à eux
Ça fait mal ça fait mal
Quand je pense à eux
Ça fait mal ça fait mal

In addition to the technical lectures and the French lessons, there happened to be an annual event occurring at École Centrale by the rugby field, and we were fortunate enough to attend.

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A fun event at École Centrale Paris

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Lunch being served outside

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Having lunch

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École Centrale students playing bocce ball

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French lessons

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