A visit to the city of love was kind of a let-down for blogger Kaavya Raveendran. As a tourist, that is. When she went as a student of WUR, she got to see a whole other side of Paris.
© Sven Menschel
I have been to Paris before and did all the touristy things to make my Instagram feed look pretty and my stories sound fun. That was my first time to Paris, hence I went with the expectations that all the movies like Mission Impossible and The Devil Wears Prada put in my head. And since I went as a tourist, I must say I was quite let down. The city of love, of course, is beautiful, but far too commercial for me to handle. On the roads, I could see traffic (almost reminding me of home), and it lacked the posh European feel.
Then exactly four months later, I visited Paris again, but this time as part of an online course offered by WUR. It involved a more comfortable bus journey, staying almost within realms of the city centre, fancy free dinners and a longer stay, but most importantly: a visit to SIAL, which is the world’s largest food innovation exhibition. Being a food technology student, I literally felt as though I had been dropped in paradise, fully surrounded by interesting information.
Creeping and crawling
The online course started at the onset of period 1 and kept me on my toes for more than 6 weeks, with weekly assignments and online group presentations. It was quite a handful to cope alongside my day job, that is my internship. But somehow creeping and crawling, I managed to make it till the grand end, that is the SIAL visit. Hundreds and thousands of companies and start-ups displayed their works of art in the well systematised and decorated pavilions. I, along with my group that included a few Italian students from the University of Turin (who also followed this course like us), roamed across this vast area filled with new and exciting developments in our field.
No doubt, we had an enriching and fulfilling experience interacting with companies and tasting products from all over the world, but by the end of our visit, we all had sore feet, from walking almost 25kms within the exhibition each day. SIAL’s vastness was almost intimidating. But metaphorically, it also showed me two things: one, that I am tiny drop in the ocean called the food industry, and two, that I am surrounded by so many opportunities that I could make use of.
My six-day stay in Paris taught me so much technically, and even more with the cross-cultural experience (working with fellow students from Italy), giving a presentation in English to a French client (highlight being that I had to use a translator), teaching me so much about the professional world that awaits me, and lastly, how by being a traveller (not a tourist) I built an absolutely new and different impression of Paris. Paris, a city with ginormous monuments ironically believes in compact living, yet I realized eventually that Paris is an elegant host who caters to so many travellers who visit seeking contrasting expectations yet return with beautiful experiences.