Weeks 12-13: Savannah’s Final Blog

The SLS-France 2021 Program has officially come to a close, and as we prepare to return home, it seems as though the semester has flown by in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, as with all good things, the program must end, but we certainly went out with a bang! Within the final weeks of the program were some of my favorite activities of the whole semester. Thanksgiving occurred during this time, and it looked much different than in years past. Leaving friends and family and entering a new culture while being a full-time student is nothing short of a challenge. For many students, myself included, the homesickness began to set in with the arrival of the holiday season, especially because Thanksgiving is not celebrated in France. It just so happened that the Pompidou in Metz had a wonderfully interesting exhibit based on five different theoretical worlds so, Dr. Boulard made our own little SLS celebration by taking us to explore the exhibition on Thanksgiving. The five worlds that the exhibit presented were Globalization, Security, Escape, Gaïa, and Gravity. Each planet had a section of the exhibition and featured everything from art pieces to videos that portrayed the overall theme of the planet. I found Planet Globalization and Planet Gaïa to be the most intriguing. Planet Globalization is essentially a representation of the world we are living in now, a world of never-ending modernization with no regard to the limits of our planet. The art pieces (figure 1) in this section represented a willing ignorance in a world of increasing social and environmental terrors. Planet Gaïa, on the contrary, is an imagination of a world not yet created where innovation exists in harmony with the health of the earth. In this section, a fascinating piece featured a room of test-tube-looking structures (figure 2) filled with water, small marble-like pieces, and granite slabs. The water in these tubes was constantly flowing in a circular motion moving the marbles along the granite slab. This combination of elements created a simulation of the erosion that occurs on the bed of a river from the current and moving sediment. The exhibit did a fantastic job of showing the contrast between the grim reality of now and the hopeful outlook of what could be. 

Figure 1: Huang Hai-Hsin, River of Little Happiness 2015
Figure 2: Chang Yung-Ta, scape.unseen_sample-T 2020 & scape.unseen_meta-T 2021
Figure 3: Laura admiring Aluaiy Kaumakan’s piece in planet GaÏa
Figure 4: SLS students at the Pompidou Metz

Possibly the coolest and most unique visit of the entire semester was our visit to the Cattenom nuclear power plant. This visit made me feel like a top-secret spy because of the intense security and billowing clouds of vapor from the cooling towers that greeted us as we arrived at the facility. We spent a good bit of time in class discussing the problem of non-recyclable nuclear waste produced by plants such as Cattenom, so it was surreal to see the source in action. Once we were all geared up and had made it through the many security checkpoints, we made our way to see one of the four pressurized water reactors. The building that housed the reactor shocked me by its size as we climbed several stories of metal grates to reach the top, where we could finally see the reactor itself. The science behind the logistics of using the energy created by nuclear fission is incredibly complicated, and it was mind-blowing to me how people have thought up this process. Essentially, in the most simplified terms, the plant uses nuclear fission to split and release energy from Uranium (a highly unstable element). This energy then heats water which is then converted to steam that turns a turbine to produce electricity. The steam is then cooled by contact with water from the Moselle River in the cooling towers. We learned so much about nuclear energy during this visit, and we were all very grateful to have had such an irreplaceable opportunity to experience one of the biggest nuclear plants in the world! 

To close our semester together, Dr. Boulard scheduled a French cuisine cooking class to teach us how to make one of the most classic French treats: le macaron! This class was such a fun conclusion to the semester. We all had a wonderful time as we took turns aggressively stirring the mixture that would become the delicious filling for the cookies. We were shocked to learn of Lauren’s macaron-making expertise and simultaneously of Alex and I’s lack thereof. I am so thankful for such a good conclusion of my time here in Metz. After months of being away, I am excited to go home and see my family, but I will miss this lovely city I have gotten to know so well and the community that we have created here in the SLS-France program. This program has given me lifelong friends and memories that I will never forget, and for that, I am eternally grateful. Thank you so much to those who have read along with me throughout this semester. I have loved being your window into our fantastic program, and I hope you have enjoyed reading about our many adventures. 

Merci beaucoup et à bientôt!

Your 2021 SLS-France Program Blogger 

Savannah Simpson

Figure 7: Megan and Nate with their perfect macarons
Figure 10: Ngari and Megan in a stirring battle
Figure 11: Lauren showing us how it’s done!
Figure 12: finished product