By Kristen King
Any anxiety this American girl had stepping off the plane from New York was quickly relieved by the welcome I received. Shortly after touching down in Paris, I was met by a new classmate and his mother, who were also inviting me into their home. A quick kiss on the cheek that said “hello” and “welcome” and “nice to meet you” was all it took.
The next morning arrived too quickly, as it was still the middle of the night in New York, and soon we were on our way. The destination was Fontainebleau and an introduction to our project, China, and the next 8 months. The schedule for the week was full: introductions, the necessary history and best practices for negotiating in China, and (of course) ice breaking, team building activities where we all learned a bit more about ourselves and our fellow classmates.
The end of the week came with cooler weather, and everyone embraced the desire to be outdoors. The forest surrounding the town of Fontainebleau, which includes the campus of MINES ParisTech, served as a great location for a hike. This forest had dominated some of our early discussion and educational activities earlier in the week. Though it is now nationalized, this land had once been owned by the King and was utilized as hunting grounds. It is now protected land, serving as a representative of an important source of fuel over the last centuries.
As our group took their first steps through the trees, I let my mind wander and reflect over the last few days. Earlier in the week our group had participated in the Graves Model, used to help identify personality traits that drive our actions and also how we interact with others. I was amused as I observed who followed directly with our tour guide, who broke off into smaller groups, and who took to their own path, playing on the stones or tempting the trees to fight back. Guesses as to which group I fell into? The fresh air and clear views were a serene way to say “Au revoir until January.” And now, we say hello to Beijing.