Monday, March 26, 2007

Paris Day 4

This was a rather relaxed day as we were visiting Ecole Centrale Paris (ECP), where we were staying. So, we could catch some extra sleep. We started off with a great breakfast at the Deputy Director's office. There were the usual pastry and also wonderful brioche. My goodness, the French really know how to make good food. The Deputy Director was kind enough to give us a talk in English. He gave us the unofficial talk, which was very interesting.

I learned about the French education system, which was modeled after the Chinese system of national entry examinations for universities. Ecole Centrale is the second school in line to pick their candidates. This meant that they got the best students in France. They are also very open to the need for students to gain foreign exposure. To encourage this, they have 'exchange' programmes with various countries, from the US to Indonesia.

They are also very proud of many of their alumni. Every great French engineer seems to have graduated from ECP. Names like Schlumberger, Eiffel, Michelin, Peugeot and other people were from there. One thing that caught me about the ECP is the establishment of a student run consulting company. This student run company does little translation and research projects for various local French organisations.

After the talk, we were given a tour of the various labs of their structures, materials and aero departments. The tours were a little short as we were running late. However, there were many interesting experiments that we got to see. I've learned one thing from these lab visits though. All PhD student labs look exactly the same. Every PhD researcher is instantly recognisable. Haha!

In the afternoon, we were supposed to have visited another French giant, Bouygues. However, they had cancelled our visit. And so, we ended up touring Paris instead. We visited Notre Dame, which was beautiful. I noticed something very interesting here. The confession box was an interview room, rather than your classical wooden box. The churchgoer sat face-to-face, across the table, from the priest. Very modern and interesting.

I also got to seem some fairly interesting bits of regular Paris. There were little stalls set up all along the Seine. At first glance, these stalls looked like dumpsters. But when they are opened up, they contain all kinds of cool stuff for sale, typically art related. Some people bought some French manga and comics. Wonderful.

In the evening, after a quick dinner at Quick, we visited the Louvre. It had discounted tickets after 6pm and opened till 10pm. So, we all split up and went touring. Our group decided to cover as many of the highlights as possible. We just checked off as many of the main exhibits listed, in the guide, as possible. Some of us even got goosebumps after viewing some of the artwork there. After the louvre, we ended the day by meeting up with some of the hosts and going to an Irish pub for a drink and to chat.

*** photo: psyche revived, possibly the most romantic sculpture at the louvre. ***

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