Monthly Archives: November 2010

Elementary, my dear Watson

Six months, 45 books, five drafts, and incalcuble cups of coffee later, my Watson Fellowship application is finally turned in.  The Watson is an amazing grant given out each year to a few chosen seniors at select colleges around the U.S. In in a nut-shell it gives the recipient 25,000 dollars to complete their passion- whether is be saving emu’s in Uzbekistan or making a movie about skate-culture around asia; Pretty darn cool if you ask me. For a few of us at CC these past few weeks and months have been consumed by our Watson ideas. Researching, writing, mulling, re-writing, working out kinks in ideas, and getting contacts have many times trumped social time, sports and even class. When you’re competing against students all over the nation for the same money, you can bet your application (finger’s crossed) is a shining beacon of good writing and well-thought out ideas. Soooo anyways, I turned it in last month and a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders- there was no more I could do besides hope to make it into the CC round and get an interview slot.

Two days later I heard from the committee that my Watson quest was at its end.  No CC interview, no National level, no 25,000 dollars, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars: done, finito. After so much work I was more than a little crushed. My shoulders sagged a bit, I retreated to the art studio, stared out the window, did a little moping. Then I remembered that, really, what the Watson is about is doing the grunt work, the research, getting the contacts. It’s about understanding what your passions, wants and dreams are. Its isn’t about the end goal. Getting the Watson is the icing on the cake, going out and accomplishing your idea on your own, now that’s a grand plan.

My Watson Idea- Why the Rivers Run Dry- a documentary by kayak of the people and places most affected by climate change.

Uganda, Zambia, Australia, India, Chile, Argentina, Thailand, Turkey



Happy Sunday!

I woke up at 8am and knew that today was going to be more magnificent than yesterday.

So I’m going to make homemade biscuits (for the first time, yikes!). I love baking, nom nom nom.  Hopefully they’ll turn out delicious!

For your listening pleasures, I present to you my favorite Tiny Desk Concert:

[youtube][/youtube]  If you didn’t know, I am in LOVE with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. They make me EXPLODE with love and happiness.

Man oh man you’re my best friend,
I scream it to the nothingness,
There ain’t nothing that I need
– Home

-Love, Melissa



I made heart-shaped biscuits! They turned out delicious! (It was only 2.25 cups flour, 2 tsp. of baking powder, 1 stick of cut COLD butter, .5 tsp of salt, and .75 cup milk. Too easy.)

recent life

First block break in Aspen, CO, at the Maroon Bells:

2nd block break in San Luis Obispo, CA, visiting my best friend from home at Cal Poly:

Lupe Fiasco’s new single for your listening pleasure:


I hope everyone is enjoying fall and that college applications are going well!

À la faveur de l’automne

Bonjour tout le monde!

Today I’m writing from my cozy room in the hamlet of Palette, just outside of the French city of Aix-en-Provence where I’ve spent the past two and a half months studying. It all seems like a whirlwind, especially considering how long I’ve been here already.

The beginning of the trip was probably the most challenging part; adapting to living with my (fantastic) host family, making incredible new friends (both French and American), and getting used to five different classes in French. But in French there’s a word for figuring it all out–“se débrouiller”– and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

My program, the American University Center of Provence, AUCP as we call it affectionately, is pretty challenging but puts a lot of emphasis on plopping les Américains right in the middle of French society. Between daily interaction with my host family, meeting with my language partners, regularly participating in a French association (in my case, a pottery studio), and doing community service with local middle schoolers, I get dynamic French practice and also make some awesome friends. There is of course, also that thing called class…

A typical week here looks like this:

Monday– Translation class (my favorite!) from 9-10:30; French Cultural Patterns course from 10:45-12:15; eat delicious French things (or packaged turkey and yogurt) for lunch and hang out with friends and the American Center;then Provençal Lit and Film class from 3:15-4:45. Ensuite, high tail it to the bus stop for a 4:55 bus that takes me back to my village, where from 5:30-7 I hang out with and tutor a middle school student who really likes Linkin Park. After that, walk home to the other side of the village, check in with the host fam and then we eat around 8. After that, homework and skype.

And since that was so long, I’ll condense the rest:

Tuesday– no class all day, noon head over to the Fac, the French university, to hang out with French college students; 5pm movie screening for my film class; 7:30pm pottery studio time; 10pm le dîner

Wednesday– 9am (bleh) Translation (yay!); 1:15 Painting and drawing class–woohoo!; 5pmish bus back to the village, host family time and then dinner

Thursday– 9am (bleh) Identity of Immigrants class until 12:15 (argh…it’s mostly lecture, unlike CC classes); lunch slash catch up on homework for; Provençal Lit and Film at 3:15. Thursday after class, two friends and I get a glass of wine and then walk an hour home to our villages.

Friday– 10:45am French Cultural Patterns, 5pm cooking class with one of the city’s top chefs (so awesome…this will be my next blog topic!); after that, digestion and hanging out with my friends.

On the weekends, I generally spend a lot of time with my host family around the house, going to dinner at their friends’ houses, or going on school outings around Provence. Saturday night is usually dedicated to hanging out with my language partner, Christophe, and friends, practicing French and getting into general shenanigans.

I’m loving my experience here so far, and am glad to have two months to go! More blog entries to come soon. À bientôt!

And as for the namesake of this entry, here’s a song I love by Tété–“À la faveur de l’automne”

[youtube width=”444″ height=”344″][/youtube]

Dear Blog Readers,

It has been months since I’ve last posted.  I sincerely apologize.

Let me catch you up on the ‘exciting’ world of Melissa.


  • I worked at high school job again. I secretly love it, but I disliked waking up at 4:30 in the morning to open the bakery.
  • My friends Hannah and Justin drove to see me in all my Oklahoma glory. Accent and all!
  • I went to Disney World and Universal Studios (including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!). Six theme parks total in six days. phew!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Now the new school year:

  • I co-led an New Student Orientation trip to an organic farm. It was lovely!
  • I was the First Year Experience mentor for Freedom and Authority taught by Susan Ashley and Tip Ragan.  The students were brilliant! I loved baking them goodies all the time…
  • I took Social Theory with Jeff Livesay blocks 1 and 2. Hardest sociology class I’ve taken.  Definitely loved the last couple of weeks where I learned about modernity and postmodernity (maybe it’s the history major in me?).
  • Now! I’m in Hero! Honor, Outlaws, and Order in East Asian History and Culture with John Williams. I haven’t been in a history course in about 8 months! GASP! I’m really enjoying the class.  I’ve so far grasped that the course is about studying the concept of ‘hero’ and how its definition changes through historical context. An interplay on tradition versus modernity (modernity, again…?! Maybe I truly am a historian-ish).
  • Also, I’m working as the research assistant for the History Department. It’s lovely, except that I have to be at work at 7:30 in the morning! eek! I get to see this in the morning (win/lose situation):
  • I’ve been freaking about what I’m going to do once I graduate from CC in 2012.  My options: masters in social work, masters in education, masters in public affairs (focus on nonprofit organizing), Teach For America, and taking a couple years off to learn French so I can apply to programs for European history…

My life, thus far, in a nutshell. Sorry everyone!

With much love and MANY apologies,

Melissa Tran

p.s. Here’s a funny picture to make up for everything.

the aspens

“I like being near the top of a mountain. One can’t get lost here.”
Wislawa Szymborska

Colorado high country is known for its aspens. The beautiful, color-changing trees lose the green of summer leaves and take on a rich yellow hue in the beginning of fall – generally around mid-September. Travelers come from all over the country to watch the aspens turn gold, and to explore Colorado in car, on bike and on foot. Over the year’s first block break, a few friends and I went up to the Maroon Bells outside of the city of Aspen to spend some time outside and watch the colors change ourselves.

maroon bells

Though our original plan was a four pass loop, we ended up backpacking over Buckskin Pass and camping near Snowmass Lake, taking day trips away from our beachfront home. We were completely isolated and alone – surrounded only by water, trees, sky and 14ers. We passed afternoons lounging by the lake, eating trail mix and peanut butter, and mostly appreciating the peace and four and a half days to adventure in the mountains.


It was a great first block break and a perfect way to relax between classes, spend time with friends and breathe in some fresher, high-altitude mountain air. And, of course, to walk amongst the aspens as they changed color.