France is renowned across the globe not only for its culture and rich history but also for its commitment to a high standard of education. This country is famous for creating a comfortable environment for international environments – be it in terms of education quality, travel, accommodation or culture. With excellent research and funding opportunities, Toulouse, in particular, is regarded as the French capital of aeronautics and is an excellent city to explore the space industry further. With my background in electrical engineering from India, I knew I wanted to combine my skills in this field with space engineering. ISAE-SUPAERO in Toulouse is one of the leading institutes across the globe for engineering and research, providing a rich multicultural and interdisciplinary environment for students. As a student intrigued by the space sciences and driven to pursue a master's in this domain, I knew ISAE SUPAERO was the place to be!
After a long travel journey of over 24 hours with Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa, I finally arrived at the Toulouse-Blagnac airport around 1 AM on the 29th of August. Taking an Uber to ISAE-SUPAERO, I arrived at the campus to find students all dancing and enjoying themselves in the campus foyer. I got my first look up close that night at a majestic retired Mirage III fighter aircraft which is situated near the campus entrance. I had decided to stay in the student residence inside the campus itself and was able to quickly get to rest to recharge for an adventurous next day. The next day started with me getting up early and going off with my friends to get groceries and utilities. The Tisséo bus ride took us right across the entrance to the Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES), the French national space agency and what a wonderful sight it was to see! With a gigantic silver model of Saturn outside its entrance and the beautiful logo of the CNES in blue, it was extremely inspiring to behold and reaffirmed my decision to choose Toulouse as the city for my higher education.
Following this, we went to see the Capitole de Toulouse, a magnificent monument that houses the Théâtre du Capitole and the town hall. The inside of the monument was decorated with breathtaking murals and statues that all depicted France's rich history. It was marvellous to be surrounded by architecture and murals that were centuries old. With a gorgeous Renaissance portrayal in the courtyard, the Capitole hosts the council chamber of the city of Toulouse. We were amazed to discover that in the city of Toulouse if people wish to get married, it is mandated by law for them to get married in the city hall which is the Capitole. Next, we went to Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse, one of the largest Roman churches preserved in Europe and the former abbey church of the Abbey of Saint-Sernin. One of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Basilique houses the largest number of relics found in France. We were lucky to witness a wedding happening inside when we visited and were able to listen to the glorious tunes being sung by the choir. After the beautiful ceremony, we went around and admired the stunning sculptures and relics present inside the Basilique.
Hungry by that point, we went to the city centre - Jean Jaurès, where we had ratatouille and crepes for lunch. We also got to try the world-famous Amorino ice cream, where they served us hazelnut gelato in the shape of a rose. Subsequently, we decided to go to Jardin Japonais, which was created to fulfil the wishes of a French mayor in 1981. A highly serene place, the garden consists of a conventionally red wooden Japanese bridge and boasts a variety of plant and aquatic life. Visiting the garden immediately filled me with a sense of calm and contentment.
The city of Toulouse is very well-connected when it comes to transportation. We were able to travel to numerous places that day using the different metro and bus lines. Since the day was drawing to a close, we agreed to go to the Ferris wheel located on the banks of the river Garonne, near Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in the city crossing the Garonne. The breathtaking panoramic view we got from the top of the Ferris wheel of the entire city was a sight I will forever remember. To relax a little after the hectic day we had, we sat on the banks of the river Garonne and enjoyed the calming breeze from the river. We returned to our accommodation around 11 in the night and I unpacked all of my luggage and purchases from the day, after which I hit the sack.
The second day saw us rising early again to participate in a campus tour organised by our seniors, where they showed us the numerous labs and research facilities present in ISAE-SUPAERO and how best to avail them. We had the amazing opportunity to see an engine of one of the Concordes, which is present on campus. We were treated to a delicious breakfast of croissants and tartines, along with juice and café au lait. All the clubs and chapters in ISAE-SUPAERO hosted an exposition of their activities later in the day. The institute has a variety of such clubs, from skydiving to clubs which build satellites from scratch. I found myself particularly interested in the SUPAERO Space Section, which builds rockets and the Debate club, a member of the French debating Association. During this exposition, I got to meet people from all kinds of backgrounds who shared the same interests as me. I had a wonderful time learning about their cultures as well as sharing mine.
Life since then has been as exciting as my first day in Toulouse. The people of Toulouse have shown themselves to be extremely generous and welcoming. This has made it quite easy to fall into a routine here and adapt to a new country. Each day I get to learn something new, meet new people from diverse backgrounds and discover something novel about this beautiful city that I will call home for the upcoming years!
Throughout the journey of this post I will share with you some of great excitements and challenges that came along with my first few days in France. More specifically Bordeaux, a city that with hindsight I can now safely call home.
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