C'est si bon!

Bonjour à tous! Je suis Vanessa, étudiante de 20 ans en France pour le moment. Je viens de Pékin, mais j'étudie à la fac à Chicago.

Hello! My name is Vanessa, a 20-year-old student in France for the moment. I come from Beijing, but I go to college in Chicago.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Internship 101: tips for newbies

me at an art exhibition opening at Guimet Museum

Bonjour à tous!

Even though I've only been an intern for six weeks myself, today I've come to pretend that I can offer advice to newbie interns. Okay just kidding, even though six weeks is not long, I've actually learned a thing or two that might prove helpful to you if you've never interned before.

So here we go:

1. Never, ever assume.
When your boss gives you a task with instructions that are a bit vague or bewildering, never, ever assume. You think you know what your boss is talking about, so you stay quiet and accept the task and go spend hours on it. And when you turn it in, all you get is, "That's not exactly what I had in mind, can you redo this and this and this?"

Too bad. But that's actually what can happen - and what did happen to me once or twice - when you don't ask questions when you don't completely understand something. Sure, sometimes vague instructions mean that your boss wants to see your creativity (or simply just because he/she hasn't thought of the task enough and just wanted you to do it instead), but it never hurts to ask a few constructive questions. If you have questions about the instructions themselves, ask on the spot. If you think they are too vague, think about how you would approach the task, and the rephrase your idea and ask if that's what your boss wants. Of course, no one wants to sound dumb and confused, so try saying things like "Is (insert your understanding of the instructions) what you had in mind?" or "Does something like (insert your own idea) seem good/doable to you?" That way, you will save a lot of time just by asking a few simple questions.

2. Double check, triple check, you get the idea.
Whether it's an email to a colleague in another department, to an important client, or it's something you wrote that needs to be put to print in mass, never hit send or print as soon as you finish. Take a sip of water, or a short break, and come back to this thing you created. Read it again. Read it aloud to yourself if it applies/if you have your own office. More often than not, you will catch several mistakes, even if you were being uber careful on the first go. 

Also, if you need to print something in mass, first printing a sample of it and showing it to your boss could be a smart idea. I once printed fifty copies of a booklet I designed, only to realize that there is a formatting error after I picked up the stack of paper from the printer. Oops. So don't do that. I've learned to always print one copy first, and either check it myself or show it to my boss, if it's something very important. My boss was actually impressed that I took the extra step of double and triple checking, so I'm sure yours will appreciate it, too.

3. Get to know your boss's work habits.
Actually, this is a bit hard to put to words. What I want to say is that you should know when your boss is busy, and have at least a vague idea of one thing he/she needs. The reason I say this is because when your boss is busy, he/she will more likely be a little absentminded when you ask for his/her permission for something. In this case, even after your boss has approved of your work, still check and double check. You may catch things your boss didn't, because he/she is simply too busy. Secondly, always have at least a vague idea of one thing your boss needs. And if this thing is something you can help with, do it and surprise your boss. Back to the booklet I designed. I knew my boss was taking me to a conference with some Korean businesses where these booklets will be distributed. So why not make a Korean version? I asked a trustworthy Korean friend of mine to do the translation, and printed out a dozen the following day. I can never forget the happy look on my boss's face when I handed them to her. Trust me, you will make your boss feel like you are indispensable. 

Okay, that's all I got for you all today. I know it's only three small tips, but all of them come from my personal experience (mistakes, fails, blah blah blah), and I've learned a lot and improved a lot by keeping to these three rules. 

Good luck with your internship, I hope you find these tips helpful.

Vanessa :]

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

3 American foods I took for granted , and 3 French foods I will miss


Bonjour à tous!

The other day I was just having a nutella banana crêpe and suddenly I realized, holy cow, it's going to be quasi-impossible to find this in America after I leave this beautiful country in less than two months! And that thought, my friends, inspired me to write this post.

3 American foods I took for granted:
1. Peanut butter
I can't tell you how stunned I was to be unable to find this little delicious jar of brownish thing called peanut butter. I personally feel that my astonishment is justified because even back in China, I could find peanut butter in supermarkets, so I didn't even think that it was a possibility that it doesn't exist in France. (Okay, it does, if you go to stores that sell foreign imported foods, but it's rare.) In fact, when I lamented this absence to a few of my French friends and colleagues, they were like, ew (yes, they said that), peanut butter? Which is interesting; because it is true that French people deteste foods that are artificial and overly processed. Tant pis that there's no more pb & j's, but I've got enough Nutella to get me occupied...

2. breakfast foods
Cinnamon rolls, muffins, donuts, omelettes, pankcakes, French toast (this one is quite ironic), waffles... you name it. After coming to France, my breakfast  became more or less 'nonexistent' in comparison with American standards. Here, for breakfast, French people usually just eat a small croissant with a small cup of espresso (think very small). I'm not saying it's unhealthy, I just miss the chocolate chip pancakes from Le Peep's diner in Evanston.

3. burritos
Okay, this is technically not American, but with Chipotle and the like being so popular and ubiquitous in America, parting with burritos in France turned out to be kind of hard. Mexican food in general is not very big here, therefore it is also pretty hard to make it at home- words like sour cream and jalapeno will earn you strange looks from the supermarket staff.

Okay; now that I kind of vented my food cravings, let's get on with the literally endless list of French foods that I will miss. For the sake of being succinct, I'll just share 3 from the list.

3 French foods I will miss:

1. salade de chèvre (Goat cheese salad)
I could literally eat this thing all day. Warm fresh goat cheese on baguette slices on a bed of greens and thinly sliced tomatoes - what's not to love about this dish. It is super filling, super healthy, and ridiculously tasty. I'd love to recreate this after I return to the states, so wish me luck on finding the right kind of goat cheese. The goat cheese in France - oh la la, it brought my life onto a whole new level.

2. confit de canard 
This duck dish that I don't have words for will for sure make me have drooling dreams after I leave France. My best experience with it was once at this obscure little bistro down the street I live: it was late into the evening, the duck meat was perfectlly soft and soaked through with flavor, add to that a bed of tenderly mashed and buttered potatoes. I think that first bite counts as one of my happiest moments in life.

3. Religieuse au chocolat
I believe that everyone who has ever tasted this heavenly creation understands why it's called 'chocolate religious' (okay, the name makes more sense in French). A bite of this beautifully shaped dessert will send you straight to the high heavens with your mouth full of thick, creamy chocolate and puff pastry.

About time to wrap up this post, otherwise I fear I'll drool all over my keyboard. A la prochain!

Vanessa :]

Friday, October 17, 2014

Art intern perks: a night of crystal

Bonjour à tous!

So last week, my boss casually passed me an invitation - "It's to the private premiere of an exhibition on crystal at Petit Palais," she said, "I can't go that night, so there, if you want it."

I honestly could not believe my ears. What! A private premier (vernissage)! At Petit Palais! On an exhibition about crystal!

And so quite obviously, there I was, at the front gates of the Petit Palais under the huge poster for the exhibition "Baccarat: la légende du cristal." Needless to say, I was positively floored by the exhibition. As I walked through the dimly lit exhibition hall, maneuvering my way through the shiny glass-cased displays of glittering crystal everything - from all kinds of flasks to perfume bottles to entire vanity tables made of crystal and gold - all my brain was capable of thinking was, "holy cow, how does something this magnificent exist on Earth!"

The dark exhibition halls made the crystals shine even brighter, stunning everyone, reflecting in all visitor's awed eyes. One of my favorite sections of the exhibition was a dining table decked out with crystal dinnerwares in the way the French royals used to take their meals. The most genius part was the mirrors placed at both ends of the table, turning the average-sized table into an endless banquet. The crystals glowed so much I was scared that they were going to set themselves on fire. Staring at this extravagant fare, I almost heard the lighthearted laughs from hundreds of years ago, the leftover scent of the women's perfume, the men's talks about hunting and politics, and the whispers of royal gossip among soft clinking of crystal champagne flasks.

The climax, however, was well tucked away in an obscure room near the exit of the exhibition. I almost missed it - if that was the case, I would have only had more or less half the marvel I actually had. 

The room is very dark, almost pitch black, save for the brief moments each of the handful of chandeliers lights up. They are such breathtaking objects that I wouldn't be surprised if someone told me that they had souls in that moment. The room was moving, to say the least. It was simply too beautiful to be real. The reflective floor made me feel like I was floating somewhere midair, and all around me was magic. In the almost sacred silence, all I could see and feel is the light, the heat, the shine, the dying down of the everything, and the rebirth of another round of light, heat... If I held my breath, I could almost hear the sound of the light coming and going, illuminating every tiny piece of exquisite crystal. 

To everyone who is currently in Paris or coming to Paris this winter, I recommend this exhibition with all my heart. It is truly a work of genius, a sight of pure wonder. As I'm typing, I can feel my heart swell with that awe again.

Vanessa :]

Thursday, October 2, 2014

100 liters of champagne in my office? That intern life

check it out - 100 liters of champagne that's right
Bonjour à tous!

I know when you saw the title, you're probably like, what? What kind of internship is that? But you didn't read wrong - indeed, I was quite stunned myself when I opened the office door and saw all these boxes of champagne in my office. And that was only day two.

Bizarre things aside, I am glad to announce that I have started my internship at Musée Guimet in Paris! Musée Guimet is a French national museum dedicated to asian arts, and it has Europe's largest collection of asian artworks! 

I intern in the Marketing department of the museum (yes, there is such a thing in a museum, unexpected, right?). With my two awesome bosses, I mainly work on the upcoming exhibition on the Han arts, an exhibition in the context of China and France's 50th year anniversary of diplomacy. So far I've mostly been doing a lot of translations of texts for the exhibition, French to English, English to Chinese, so on and so forth. It's quite exciting! 

To be honest, I never knew working full time is this tiring! Every day on the metro back, all I want is a long nap. Compared to this, schoolwork and classes is a skip in the park... The main reason might be because at school, I usually switch between subjects and activities, so my brain is never too "tired" or "bored" of one thing. At work, sometimes a task requires a long time of concentration, which is very different from classes.

However, if you asked me, I would still say I prefer working. Even though it's not even been a week yet, I already love my job. Different from studying, which is more like brain exercises, working makes me feel like I'm creating value, that I'm in some way contributing to the good of the society. And that is a very empowering feeling. 

Anyways, stay tuned for more rants from this excited intern!

Vanessa :]