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Spring in Paris

Mar 21 2007 19:30
Oliver Broadbent
The final installment from our French Correspondent.
Grande Arche de la Defense, Paris. In the 2004 film, Godzilla: Final Wars, it is one of the Parisian monuments destroyed by the giant insect Kamacuras. It was rebuilt in time for the Civsoc trip.

I was just getting used to Paris in the spring: warm balmy days, there was even talk of going out without a coat. Then this morning it was ?all change?, and with a shower of sleet, we were given a sharp wintry reminder. It has also been all change for the three of us studying at ENPC this year. At the end of February, our semester at ?Les Ponts? finished. In my last article for this column I was still shaking a little from my first engineering exam in French, but now with a dozen or so of them in the bag, sitting my exams in the local lingo has become ?old beret?.

Now in the second semester, our French is really being put through its paces as we undertake a four-month placement in an engineering company. Rather than doing a final year project in parallel with our final year studies, ENPC sends its students off to either a company or a laboratory in order to do their projects. They are then expected to produce a report and to sit an oral examination back at the school when they are done. It was not entirely obvious, however, how to go about getting a project; Dan, Tej and I all have our stories to tell. In the end I received an offer from a company that I didn?t even realise had my CV!

I have now been with my employer Setec for a three weeks (did I forget to mention that we get paid for doing our projects?). The plus side is that from my office, I can just about see the Eiffel Tower: it?s a sort of stand-on-a-box-and-lean-out-the-window affair ? you get the gist. Setec is a firm that takes on a lot of students on placements, so much so that at lunchtime it feels like the school has simply been relocated. I am pleased to be working on a prestigious project, but I am disappointed to report that progress has been slow. It counts for seventy percent of the year, so I will be seeing to this state of affairs quite urgently.

Outside school, life in Paris is never dull. Recent deals on train travel have also meant a few weekends away. Skiing in the Alps for a weekend is possible thanks to the night train that goes right to the bottom of the ski lift. Next it?s off to Perpignan on the Mediterranean, because? well because it was cheap and so why not? And then there are four bank holidays in May to look forward to? not bad eh?

And so, I find myself coming to the end of a series of columns that have been nothing short of propaganda really. I knew really very little about the people in the years above me that had taken a year abroad, and so I have sought over the last few months to share some of my experiences as well as to put across some of the benefits of going away in the fourth year. I am happy to see that the Erasmus scheme is becoming more fashionable: last year there was just one Imperial student at ENPC, this year there are three and next year there will be a staggering eight of you out here. Clearly somebody has been reading?


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