Friends Never Say Goodbye

I’ve got to admit that all those happy memories I’ve had with those lovely people I met in France suddenly popped up when I was watching Friends the Reunion the other day. Thanks to them, I’ve enjoyed my study year in France to the fullest.

 Picnic time

It’s still hard to believe that almost one year has gone since my arrival here, as I still remember the day when I showed up at the Nancy train station with my heavy luggages. I had no idea at the time of what the coming year would be like. However, time has proved that it has been absolutely amazing! Not only have it helped me start my future career in academia, but also it connected me with friends coming from various backgrounds. Many of them helped enrich my French cultural experience from a particularly local perspective.

 Playing Mahjong

For example, we organised French cheese and wine tasting event and I’d highly recommend this experience to future EF students. We often played different board games over shared dinners. Sometimes, we had weekend retreats into the the Vosges Mountains. Last weekend, it was my very pleasure to be invited to a friend’s hometown in the Alps. Of course, the list goes on. We live, laugh and we love – simplicity brings the happiest moments!

 Unforgettable time in the Alps

 Look, it’s Mount Blanc!

 “Come closer next time ;)”, says Mount Blanc

Like all the good things, it’s sad when coming to an end… Yet I know there would be more trips on which we can go together soon, mais ne partez sans moi!

 

Building a new lifestyle during the pandemic

Hello everyone, it’s Shaohui Zhang from France again this week. I bet since the outbreak of the unfortunate Covid-19 pandemic, every individuals have to have started adapting their lifestyles so as to compromise on the restrictions imposed by the situation. Of course, sometimes I also feel a wee bit moody and reluctant to working from home and no being able to enjoy my life in France to the fullest; but for most of the time, I have remained content by building a new lifestyle.

First of all, the university was forced to close hence no more contact teaching. Luckily, in France, the second semester is more like an longer version of ‘Applied period’, during which time, you get to choose an internship with the topic that interests you the most. Thanks to this special trait of the second year study in France, I do not feel like much of my time has been wasted. On the contrary, I have more free time to focus on the particular track of forestry, i.e. remote sensing and Lidar, and continue to build up my coding skills in R. Working from home is not much of an issue to me as my supervisor is in close contact with me on a daily basis. For example, we built an R project in which we can freely exchange our code scripts whenever I run into a problem. My supervisor will then correct my codes with some additional comments that explain my bugs.

 Place Stanislas, Nancy

Outside work, I am in a colocation with my French friend. Luckily we both are studying forestry, which gives us many things in common. We both are big foodies; as a result, we often cook together and share. Interesting cultural exchange right? That is why I would suggest that, if you are going to live abroad for some time, living with people from other countries is an amazing experience!

Nancy Cathedral,  Nancy

Lastly, it is almost two years since I left home. How time flies! Living abroad certainly means feeling homesick from time to time. At some point, you start craving for having some friends who share the same language as well as for the food from your local regions. In Nancy, there is a middle-sized Chinese community and several Asian markets. In my case, these things have been a cherry on top of my second year in France. Nancy is pretty, like I have said so many times. Attached some photos taken a few days earlier when it was warm and sunny.

Just a street I like much 😛

Wish more bright times (sunny or not, definitely a time without Covid-19) coming soon!

 

“I am the luckiest person on earth”, second year in France

Bonjour

Hello from France! This week we will give you a glimpse of what Shaohui Zhang is experiencing during his second year at AgroParisTech in France. It seems that he has embarked on a wonderful journal since he jointed MSc EF.

The second year study in France consists of two main parts: fist-semester study and second-semester internship. Shaohui finished his first semester and now he is doing an internship with the French National Office of Forests (ONF). “It is very much his honour and pleasure to work with such an prestigious national organisation in France!”, Shaohui said.

He was very lucky to be engaged on the latest project at ONF, where forest professionals and technicians are developing new algorithms to improve the accuracy of forest inventory in France, with the help of GEDI (Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation), airborne laser scanning data and field surveys.

 (ONF, Nancy centre)

Shaohui is particularly interested in remote sensing applications in forestry and he would like to continue at the doctoral level study in the same field. “Doing my internship with ONF certainly boosts my CV and my coding ability is exercised on a daily basis. I believe this will become my assets in my PhD application”, Shaohui said delightedly.

He expressed that in France there are many opportunities for master students. The fact that you have to complete a 6-month internship before your graduation certainly gives students the opportunity to follow their interests and exercise their skills.

He also said he is very happy to meet up with EF friends from Finland occasionally. Look at those smiley faces!

 (Outside student residence,  Nancy)

 (Place Stanislas, Nancy)

 (Reunion with EF friends from Finland)

 

 

Applied period experience of MSc EF student Shaohui Zhang

 

Hello readers!

My name is Shaohui Zhang and it is my turn to share the experience of my Applied Period (AP) at the French National Institute of Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) in Nancy, France. My AP was relocated to France due to the interruption caused by COVID-19 but I will never regret this relocation!

The institute 

As its name indicates, INRAE is a French public research institution that focuses on issues related to agriculture, food and environment. The institute aims to carry out science dedicated to life, humans, and the Earth and contribute to the goals of sustainable development. It is a top-tier research institution in the world and has a particularly strong influence in the fields of agriculture and forestry. Completing my 2-month internship (July-August, 2020 ) here was certainly my honour and pleasure. 

My tasks and what I learnt 

I was working closely with the Laboratory of Advanced Research on the Biology of Tree and Forest Ecosystems with three major tasks of science communication.

1). Study and synthesise research reports from the last three years;

2). Maintain and update the content of the lab’s official website (English version);

3). Interview influential researchers and create a short video that can provide a holistic picture of the lab.

I have to say that I gained a lot from this internship. Firstly, studying recent reports certainly helped me gain a better understanding of both the lab and its cutting-edge research, i.e., what it dedicates to and what is the latest development in forestry. Secondly, it trained me my ability of website management and aesthetics. I used to care little of this skill but I was proved wrong. Now I think being able to manage websites well is definitely going to be a plus for my future career. Most importantly, through interviewing influential researchers, I built up some networks who helped me secure a internship starting next year. It was not expected but luckily it happened.

Cultural experience

Nancy is a beautiful city with many cultural elements embedded in its architecture. It is also not far from the Vosges Mountains if you fancy a weekend escape away from city life. I had many activities with my co-workers and students from the same university. Learning French had always been on my bucket list so of course I started learning and practising the language. I am not a big fan of taking pictures but below you can find some snapshots of my experience so far. Enjoy!

 

 

PS: I am currently doing my second year of MSc EF at AgroParisTech in Nancy, France. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email at shzhang@uef.fi