I spent my summer with the International Engineering Certificate program at l’Université de Technologie de Compiègne in Compiègne, France. The UTC is one of the original engineering schools in France to bridge the gap between the elite Grand Ecoles and the lower level technical colleges. During my time there I worked in a chemical engineering lab testing UV tube sterilization reactors for use in water purification.
My research consisted of proving that a new, polymer-based tube in a UV radiation reactor worked just as effectively as traditional quartz-based models. This involved measuring the quantity of radiation being received by each at identical conditions using the decay of hydrogen peroxide while in the devices.
My time in Compiègne was amazing. I have always loved the French language and this gave me a great chance to perfect my speaking ability as well as to learn the common everyday language that French people actually use. Every experience, from hitting the clubs, hanging out with friends, or even just grocery shopping became an adventure. The international student program at UTC (known as Esperanto) was quick to include me in parties and activities, and I quickly made many friends from places as diverse as Lyon, Brazil and Rhode Island. Esperanto was connected to a larger, pan-European program called ERASMUS that connected me with students and gave me special opportunities my entire stay in Europe.
In addition to experiencing small town Compiègne, I could take a 45-minute, ten-dollar train ride to Paris whenever I wanted after work or on the weekends. Bastille in Paris was unforgettable―one million people gathered at the Champs de Mars next to the Eiffel Tower for a concert followed by a spectacular firework and light show on the tower itself that I will never forget. From Paris, I could also travel all around the country and even the continent, whether a weekend trip to the mountains in the east to see a friend from CU, or a couple days spent crashing on an air mattress in Lyon with some French friends. Some days I would meet friends in Paris just to sip wine and watch people in the sunny Tuileries Gardens, or set off on my own to find the original Roman foundations of ancient Lutèce with nothing but a magazine and a Google map (they were under a Chinese restaurant, interestingly enough).
I highly recommend taking advantage of this program, even if just for the summer. Everything is organized beforehand; it is engineering-related and will give you memories for a lifetime. My favorite memories are the simplest in the end, like deciphering the French supermarkets or watching the countryside blur past me from the train. I plan on returning sometime soon. Maybe I'll see you there!