Where’s Twenty in Paris?

by Andrea Bouchaud on May 15, 2015


(Top photo by lovebeingretired.com. All other photos by Andrea)

I’ve been MIA lately. Ok, let’s be honest, it’s been a lot more than lately. More like since January 1, 2015. So where has Twenty in Paris been? Everywhere, no where, and in between. 2015 has turned out to be an extremely odd and growing pain year for me. Out of respect for my company as well as not participating in the millennial trend of trash talking on the internet, I won’t go into all the details. But, let’s just say I was thrown a curveball in my annual performance review that profoundly and negatively impacted me for over 4 months. Coupled with that curveball, I’ve been absolutely clueless about how to keep all you TIPsters informed and interested in studying abroad. I am against posting merde which is why I’m not posting as much; it’s also felt really good to unlpug for such a long time. So what have I been doing? Brainstorming, beefing up my Adobe creating/editing skills, making friends, making directorial debuts, and enjoying being a homeowner. I hope that this internet/writing funk ends soon. But in the meantime, don’t hesitate to ask for a particular topic to be covered or video to be made via a tweet. I love to hear from you!

house1 (Here’s a picture of super huge snail I found in my jardin while déraciner une plante)

house 2(portrait d’un potager... or freshly washed veggies!)




(photo by www.scps.nyu.edu)

I’m a big Trekkie. Not so big that I’m willing to drop $5,000 to buy the Captain’s Chair weekend package for the annual Las Vegas Star Trek Convention, plus what I’d spend on a universe accurate costume, but big enough. What I love about Star Trek is that it paints a more optimistic future for the human race. One where there is no more poverty, starvation; where you can pursue any dream because there aren’t things like money or bigotry to keep you from being the best person you want to be (or at least on future Earth. Other planets are a different story). Plus there are some gorgeous alien men. The one thing that really bugs me about this adventurous, idyllic future for us terriens  is that no one has to learn a foreign language anymore. Why not? Because of a pesky thing called a universal translator.

IMG_20130330_112052_820(Proof of Trekki-ness. Here I am as Seven of Nine with Data)

The universal translator has gone through many versions. First, it was as a Hitachi Wand looking thing and part of the ship’s comm system. Then it was either an earpiece or an internal piece implanted in the brain (it isn’t too clear) à la Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Although I understand how useful it is when you meet a new species to be able to communicate with them immediately, but it always bugged me. The universal translator took away the need to learn a foreign language in the 24th century. For a foreign language junkie, this is incredibly stinky! It’s the one thing that I don’t like about the Star Trek universe. A language is so telling about a culture and it’s a key point in learning about another group of people. Using a machine to translate is never completely accurate. If you don’t believe me, try using Google Translate to see how it doesn’t work well; just make sure you don’t use it on your French homework.

trek(First incarnation of the universal translator. photo by filmjunk.com)

I’ve often wondered how many cultural nuances would be lost in translation by using a device such as the universal translator. I had almost given up on the joy of foreign language learning in the 24th century, until recently watching an episode of Enterprise. Enterprise is the last Star Trek TV series made that ran in the early 2000s. The show is supposed to be a prologue to the entire Star Trek universe. It traces the very first deep space assignment. What was a pleasant surprise in this otherwise dull show is a scene in the mess hall between the ship’s doctor and the communication officer. The communications officer (CO) was learning and practicing the doctor’s native language. He is a different species. It was a fantastic scene as she was not using the then brand new technology of the universal translator. This CO was actually speaking and making mistakes in a foreign language. It was such a joy to my inner language nerd to see this scene. It was in watching this scene that I realized why I enjoyed it so much. In the future, the solution to miscommunication is not better teaching techniques and access to native speakers, it’s to eliminate learning a foreign language altogether.

ds9crew(Different species means different language and cultures. photo by www.popcults.com)

As a foreign language enthusiast, I believe that a universal translator is a curse and not a gift to the future. I can only hope that this blog post somehow, someway gets into a database in the 22nd century and helps people realize the importance of foreign language learning in connecting with new alien people and cultures. To boldly go where no one has gone before doesn’t just refer to space travel; it can also refer to the experience of speaking new and alien languages.



Midnight in Paris

by Jordan Murphy on April 27, 2015

paris - jm2

(photo by imgkid.com)

For as long as I can remember, I have talked about visiting Paris. I actually surprised myself by venturing to other European cities first.

I had an indescribable love for this place I had never been to, inspiring the choice to take French in high school. I was going to be fluent in the language and go to Paris – that was the plan. But I have learned many a time, things do not always go as planned. And although it was a little later than I had originally planned, I made it.

I was surprisingly comfortable making my way around. The metro system is not complicated, leaving my directionally challenged self extremely satisfied each time we reached a new destination without much trouble. It was also nice to catch a break from walking everywhere in a hurry while still having a chance to see what we wanted to.

As the brisk Parisian air swirled around me, I strolled up to the Eiffel Tower. It was so much more massive than I had expected and lit up ever so perfectly. After only seeing photographs for so long, this glowing piece of history was finally in my presence. I peered through my lens, hoping to capture it all so I would never forget this feeling. I am not one to get emotional in such circumstances, but I found myself tearing up at the sheer sight of this golden, sparkling masterpiece. My green eyes attempted to focus through the saltiness, not wanting to miss a minute of its unique beauty. The combination of the darkness and the twinkling lights was one of my most magical moments.

I am a lover of the touristy things in life, so I also visited the Love Lock Bridges (yes, apparently there are two). Although I currently do not have the name of someone special to write next to mine, I chose to participate anyway. I am also a lover of the cheesy things in life, obviously. My love lock reads – “Love is worth the wait”. And once I do find that deserving someone, I am going to give him one of the keys.

Paris- jm

(photo by lovelockstory.eu)

The City of Love lives up to its name with the charming streets and picturesque views around every corner. Everything in Paris is simply more lavish and elegant than anywhere else I have been, making me feel a little extra romantic than usual.

Although I cannot form sentences in the language, I recognized a fair amount of words on buildings, menus, and overheard in conversations – more than I thought I would have. One of my roommates and I were out to dinner and I kindly asked the waiter for cheese. He acted as if he understood, walked away from our table, and held up Tabasco sauce. I shook my head in disapproval, but then it came to me. Fromage.

I guess French class paid off after all.


Jordan Murphy

Jordan is a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is currently studying abroad in Florence, Italy. She is a Communication Studies major with a minor in Journalism. Jordan is passionate about writing, traveling, photography, and a lover of social media. She hopes all the thinking she does will take her places one day.


Is it your university’s job to get you a job?

by Andrea Bouchaud on April 25, 2015


(Too many American college grads know this all too well. Photo by globalneighbourhoods.net)

The latest string of news stories on colleges getting richer while students are going jobless falls to Corinthian College. A few weeks ago, it was reported that Corinthian College students are going on strike and refusing to pay back their student loans. Why? Because they paid thousands of dollars to get educated so that they could get jobs, only to find themselves unemployed and in serious debt. Which has sparked the debate, what is a university’s role in finding students’ employment?

money(photo by www.pinterest.com)

With the cost of college only rising in the United States (its average as of 2012 was $20,000 US Dollars per academic year or 2 semesters) and the unemployment rate of workers under 25 years old twice that of the national average, many people are left wondering why universities aren’t helping American students to get jobs. Per the Economic Policy Institute’s 2014 report, unemployment (no job) and underemployment (when a highly skilled/ educated person takes a low skill/wage earning job) are improving, but at a snail pace. Check out these numbers below.

  • For young college graduates, the unemployment rate is currently 8.5% (compared with 5.5% in 2007) and the underemployment rate is 16.8% (compared with 9.6% in 2007).
  • As of March 2014, the unemployment rate of workers under age 25 was 14.5% compared to the overall unemployment rate for the nation of 6.7%

Going back to our protesting grads at Corinthian College, I can easily understand why they’re upset. The numbers don’t look good for getting a decent paying job that will use the skills and education in which they invested lots of money to attain professional success. So, we’re back at the main question: is it the university’s job to get students a job?

The Argument for No

Ever since this story broke out, internet trolls and critics have been pouring out from every crevice. Some of the most popular backlash to this story is about the students’ refusal to not pay their loans and the belief that it is the student’s job, not that of the university, to find employment post graduation. Let’s focus on the second point that it’s a student’s job to find, well, a job. This argument about students’ responsibility for their own future reminds me of the popular Confucius quote,“Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” The lesson in this expression is that is more worthwhile to teach someone how to do something themselves than to do it for them. If universities helped students to get jobs, would students be able to get a job themselves later on? Would they appreciate the job they were given? What kind of employee would a student be if he/she were given or assigned a job by the university post graduation? How is the university able to help students get employment? There aren’t concrete answers to these questions, but I was able to brainstorm a few ideas. Here’s Andrea’s interpretation of how a university could find employment for students:

  • Set up interviews with prospective employers for graduating students
  • Set up work contracts with corporations and/or local employers to guarantee employment post graduation for up to 12 months for the university’s students
  • Create more positions at the university which could employ up to a certain percentage of the graduating class

These might sound like great ideas, but there are two major problems with any suggestion like this: lack of responsibility / initiative on the part of the student and the cost. Having someone make sure you’re employed is taking the power out of your hands and putting it into someone else’s. With my first idea, it’s unclear if the university would be choosing the employers or if the employers would even be of the students’ choosing. It’s also unclear who would be choosing the type of position and if the position would be in the same field as the students’ majors. It’s a very hands off approach on the part of the student which shows a lack of responsibility and initiative. The second and third points would also allow students to not take any responsibility or initiative in their career, but with the added bonus of cost.

responsibility-1(photo by rochemamabolo.wordpress.com)

Whenever your university has an agreement or contract with a business, money (usually lots of it) is involved. Businesses would need to benefit somehow from the second point, maybe free or discounted tuition for their children, which means that you’ll be paying more to cover those students. Wasn’t the whole point of this arrangement to benefit you?

The third idea is the most costly. Remember, your tuition covers not only your professors’ salaries, but all university employees. If more jobs were created on campus than the cost of tuition would have to exponentially increase in order to make sure that x percent of the graduating body had jobs at the university. The argument for no is strong on points about personal responsibility / autonomy and cost. But, what about the argument for yes?

The Argument for Yes

To take a line from this passionate piece by Ronald Barnett, “Shouldn’t we admit that, in the modern world, higher education is just a matter of economic investment, a means of enhancing [USA] Inc, and that’s all?” Ronald says this sarcastically in his poignant article (he doesn’t really believe this), but in the USA this statement holds some validity. Americans will often say that going to college is investing in your career, your future. And, the numbers prove it! The 2002 US Census Bureau study showed that Americans with a college education earned two times more than those without one. So, since there is some truth to American college education being an investment and not just a way to better oneself, should universities be giving students more for their investment in the way of helping them find a job post graduation? Let’s take a look at a France’s VIE program which does just that and more.

The VIE (Volontariat Internationale en Entreprise) is a program created in 2001 by the French Ministry for Foreign Trade. It’s goal is to reinforce the international development of French companies, while offering young graduates an opportunity to benefit from a [formal working] experience abroad(cite it-why is it italicized-is it a quote). How it works is French /European Union college graduates between the ages of 18 – 28 sign up to work for a French company which has a location outside of France. These graduates are young professionals looking to springboard their career and tend to be marketing, engineering, science, financial, and business majors. But, what is a little disconcerting to me is that the student, although working for a company, is under the authority of the French government during the entire length (from 6-24 months) of the VIE.

My American spirit isn’t comfortable with signing myself over to Uncle Sam just to find a job post graduation. I believe that it is my responsibility to carve out my own path in life. I also can’t help but find benefits to this experience. It just seems to make sense. France is supporting French companies and French grads by connecting them in an international environment. It seems like a win-win. Until you find out that there is that pesky cost thing. You see the benefit for the French companies taking on these grads is that they can get a tax credit. I wasn’t able to find any numbers, but a tax credit means that the company is paying less taxes than they normally would. Which means that somewhere, somehow, someone is paying for those lost taxes. And, that’s what worries me. Maybe, it’s an increase in sales tax or property tax or overall income tax. Someone is paying for it somehow. It may be a personal benefit to the student, but what about its financial impact on the rest of the country?

travel-around-the-world(photo by www.download-hd-wallpapers.com)


As you can see in the argument for no, I was thinking very American. I was thinking of how universities could privately help students get a job post graduation. I didn’t even consider government intervention. But in the argument for yes, we discovered the public French VIE program. I’m a firm believer that American college is waaaaaay too expensive for universities to continue to have a hands off approach when it comes to job placement post graduation for students. But, I’m also not a fan of taking the responsibility away from students or having my taxes raised to create a government agency to help students get jobs. So, what do we do?

We start the conversation. Go to your university’s career center. Find out what services they offer to help students find a job. Talk to the Alumni office to find out the stats for graduates who found jobs post graduation in their desired field. Go to your university newspaper / blog committee and ask them to write an article on this subject. Organize a college night  to get students talking (don’t forget to provide pizza!). The point is students need to start talking about the role of college and how it is too damn expensive to only enhance our minds; we need a more solid guarantee of a job post college. I don’t think it means that colleges need to assign students a job or that a new government agency needs to be created, but there has to be a better solution than the current one. So, let’s start talking!