Dijon: science and mustard

28 June 2016

Great events popularising science can be organised in every corner of the world, even in the most distant ones.As proof, take the TEDx university conference organised in the French town of Dijon, until today known mainly for manufacturing mustard. In my memories, this location will remain the place of an amazing scientific adventure.

Everything began on one winter’s day when I received an unusual message form an unknown French student.
She was organizing the TEDx university conference and, completely surprisingly to me, asked me to give a speech there. I felt very honoured and I agreed without any hesitation. And so, on 24 April this year, at the conference of Sciences Po in Dijon, I had a chance to talk a bit on how maths can be useful in life and in science.

One hundred mustards

Dijon is a small town, famous, above all, for the best mustard in the world. When I walked into a local shop selling this delicacy, I saw over a hundred different flavours, and the shop assistant could talk for hours about each one of them! I was delighted. Apart from the culinary values, the town is distinguished by its beautiful architecture.
There are a lot of pretty tenement houses and a small triumphal arch in the middle of the town square.

16 campuses

The Sciences Po university is divided into 8 campuses distributed over all of France, so there are about 160 students in Dijon (16 of which are Polish). At first I was shocked but I also noticed the advantages s of this situation: everybody knew each other and they were all a big family that welcomed me most warmly.

And nine presentations

The conference consisted of 9 presentations, ranging from the fight for freedom of speech, through creating products out of objects that are not needed anymore, to school bullying. What attracted my attention from the very beginning was the warm and friendly atmosphere during the meeting. You could certainly sense that nobody felt obliged or forced to be there, but rather that everyone came to learn something new, listen to one another’s’ opinions and exchange experiences.
For me, very impressive was the story of Leonie Muller who, after terminating her flat rent agreement, decided to buy a yearly train ticket covering the whole of Germany and she simply moved into the train.
Her closest friends and relatives lived in distant locations, so she left her stuff in their houses and started travelling between them.
Also Baris Kastas, a young French speaker, gave an interesting presentation in which he shared his view on the problem of procrastination. He referred to a well-known TEDx talk “Inside the mind of a procrastinator”, in which the author presented the differences between a person inclined towards rescheduling their obligations till the last moment and the one with the opposite attitude. According to Kestas, the problem is in our habits which defend against any changes by our body. Therefore, stressed the French speaker, if for example we want to lose weight, we should not just focus on the effect we want to achieve, but rather on establishing everyday habits like morning exercise or healthy nutrition. Getting along with those changes is the precondition for success.

An honourable mention should go to the organisers who took the initiative to organise the conference, gathered an agile team of less than twenty people and created this impressive event by their own means.
I was extremely lucky to be a part of it! Also two people from Belgium: Sarah and Martin, who told us about the possibilities the European Union offers. They are both members of yEUth (International Youth Projects) and they co-organise projects for young people under the auspices of the EU.

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