A Summer in France

The French are known for the following things: French bread, expensive fashion, fragrances, Grey Poupon, wine, and engineering.


Why not engineering? Remember France is the same country that constructed the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, two of the greatest engineering feats in history.

University of Hawaii civil engineering student Meris Ota spent last summer taking engineering courses in Chtenay Malabry, France. She was the first student from the University of Hawaii College of Engineering to participate in the Summer Engineering Study Abroad program in France, which is coordinated by Texas A&M University.

Meris and the Eiffel Tower.

Vous ne comprenez pas des francais?
(You don't understand French?)

Aucun probleme. On enseigne tous les cours d'ingenierie en anglais.
(No problem. All the engineering courses are taught in English.)

Meris decided to participate in the program for many reasons, "I wanted to meet other students and I also want to do an exchange to a foreign country, but this was one of the few programs that offers engineering courses in a foreign country in English."

"It looked exciting and the students who participated were very diverse, some were from Brazil and Canada," Meris said. "I thought of it as a study abroad and a student exchange all-in-one because I was meeting students from different parts of the world, while in a foreign country."

Meris was able to select from a variety of engineering courses, almost all of which transfer back as University of Hawaii College of Engineering equivalent courses. She took two classes over the summer. One of the classes she took was called the Mechanics of Materials, which teaches students to calculate and study the stress, strain, aerial loading, thermal stress, bam deflectors, fatigue and failure of buildings and structures. Meris also was able to take a class called Finite Element Fundamentals and Engineering Applications, which teaches students the theories and basic concepts of finite elements applied to bars, beams, and plane frame structures, as well as two-dimensional elastic solids.

"The courses are taught in the dorms," Meris said. "So we went downstairs in the morning in our pajamas on. It's really casual, but the teachers are still very professional."

Other engineering-related classes offered included:

Engineering Ethics
Teaches techniques of moral analysis and their application in ethical problems encountered by engineers.

Principles of Materials Engineering
Provides students with practical knowledge and a reference base useful for materials selection, engineering, and design.

Mechanics of European Structures
An advanced course in structural analysis and design.

Intercultural Communication
Gives students a better foundation in dealing with intercultural contacts.

Like most study abroad programs, it's not all about studying; it's also about taking in the culture, or as the French call it "culture." The program included two excursions: a 7-day trip to the south of France and a 5-day trip to the northwest coast.

The 7-day trip to the south of France included a stop in Arles (the "s" is silent), home of four famous Roman ruins: the Forum, the Amphitheater, the Arena, and the Roman Baths. The excursion also included a visit to France's second most populated city, Lyon, which was a major center of culture and trading during the Renaissance.

The 5-day trip to the northwest coast took students to the first of France's great classical palaces, Chambord. It contains 440 rooms, 356 chimneys, 13 great staircases, stables to hold 1200 horses, and a wall that measures 22 miles in circumference. Another stop was Chenonceau, a castle that stretches across the Cher River and once served as a temporary hospital for 2000 wounded during World War I.

"The excursions were a great time to bond with the other students," Meris said.

Big Ben and the Parliament Building in London.

The students were also given two free weekends to do whatever they wanted. Meris used these weekends to explore more of Europe. During one free weekend she visited the Guggenheim Museum in Spain and her other free weekend was spent in London, visiting Parliament, Big Ben, and the Tower Bridge.

There were many experience that Meris will remember, like seeing the Eiffel Tower in person, figuring out how to ride the Metro to get around, and trying to negotiate the country. "Experiencing a different country for that long of a period helps you really get to see what the country is like. It's not like the brief glimpse you would get in a one or two week vacation; instead you have a chance to absorb everything."

Meris admits she had lots of fun and encourages other students to take the opportunity to participate in the Study Abroad Program. "It was fun because I got to try something different, meet other people, and do something I've always wanted to do, see a different part of the world," Meris said.


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