Flying in to Frankfurt to embark on my very first European adventure was exciting to say the least. I had dreamed of the baguettes, crepes and croissants we would eat from the moment I had signed up for this trip and I was ready to touch down across the pond! My initial reaction to Strasbourg was that it was a lot bigger than I had expected, and I really do not know any French. (yikes!) I was surprised how incompetent and flat out dumb I felt in my effort to buy my long sought after baguette at the local café. A feeling of helplessness and dependence on others flooded, as my only hope was that these native French people spoke my foreign language. I quickly learned and understood the perceived disrespect and entitlement that came with initially speaking to a French person in English. To be completely honest, there was a mix of homesickness and frustration with the unexpected heat wave and the inevitable language barrier. In my first, very sleepless, night I longed for my comfortable queen sized bed in an air conditioned house back in America. I quickly came to the fortunate conclusion that I am not here to be comfortable. This place half way across the world is not my home, but it is many others’. What an incredible opportunity I have to immerse myself in their culture and learn more about their perception and outlook of the world. The days to come will fly by and I will soon look at them as a memory, but I am excited for the adventures that are yet to come!

Categories: 2017 Trip

Bonjour from France! I have been in Strasbourg for 5 days now and I’m in love with this cute city! The first day we got here Dr. Gaspar gave us a long tour of the city and showed us the cool spots to eat and shop. It was honestly the longest day of my life considering I only slept for an hour on the plane and for some reason it felt hotter here than in Texas (I guess we brought the Texas heat with us or something.) Although my day was long and hot, I enjoyed touring the city. The architecture of the buildings are so breathtaking here and the gelato is amazing! Since I’ve never been outside of the country it didn’t really hit me until we got here that the language difference was going to be a problem. As the days go by I have gotten a little bit better at certain words in French, or I just point to the pictures on the menus when I want to order something. My goal is to be able to order something without having to point by the end of this trip. We have already done so much and it has only been 5 days. We visited Mercedes Benz, the Haut- Koenisbourg castle, and the beautiful cathedral here in Strasbourg. One thing I have learned so far from walking around this beautiful city is that no one wears t-shirts, I now regret stuffing 15 t-shirts in my suitcase while trying to keep it under 50lb for the plane. Strasbourg is much bigger than I expected and I’m so happy to call it home for the next 5 weeks. I have already learned how to get back to our hotel and where all the good sandwich and ice cream shops are. I was a little worried about school but Dr. Gaspars class is super interesting, just make sure to drink coffee if you aren’t used to sitting in a classroom for 2 ½ hours. We have our European Integration class tomorrow with the professor from here so I hope I like it as much as I’m enjoying international finance so far! We are going to different countries each weekend and I can’t wait to experience more of Europe with my classmates! I just know 5 weeks is going to fly by and it’s already making me sad!

 

Categories: 2017 Trip

The first week here in Strasbourg has been pretty incredible.  I’ve never traveled abroad before and failed to anticipate the effect of not knowing the native language or culture of a country prior to visiting can have on you.  For the first day or so I felt like a stranger in a strange land, struggling to properly acclimate to this new environment while feeling humbled by my loss of ability to communicate simple messages or transverse the streets in an acceptable and safe manner.  Thankfully, the people in Strasbourg are friendly and willing to work with foreigners (for the most part), and I’m surrounded by a group that is also having to adapt to these changes.  After a day or so of getting my bearings and dusting off jet lag I began to feel at home here, walking down the streets more confidently and feeling capable of accomplishing most anything that I would normally be able to do back in the states. Strasbourg itself has got to be one of the most aesthetically beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.  It’s defining blend of French and German culture is intwined everywhere within the city, making walks to class worth waking up for in the morning and finding a good place to eat one of the easiest tasks of the trip.  When first arriving within city limits I was taken aback by the bustling streets I saw out the bus windows.  I had previously envisioned a quaint community akin to something you would find in a Charles Dickens novel, not the sprawling urban jungle that I was witnessing upon arrival.  But after days of exploration the city is starting to feel small and personable, with any location of interest being only a few minute’s walk away and the streets seeming not as busy as they once were.  I have definitely enjoyed my time here in Strasbourg so far, and, with early hurdles cleared and cultural differences in check, I can’t wait to see what’s to come in the upcoming weeks.

Categories: 2017 Trip

It has been 6 days since we have arrived in Strasbourg and it has already been a wonderful learning experience. It is quite different from College Station and I have already noticed stark contrasts in the culture.

One of the things about Strasbourg that has stuck out to me most is that people take their Sunday rest seriously. I was so shocked on Sunday to find almost every business closed. Honestly, I was annoyed. I wanted the convenience and instantaneity of stores being open all day, every day. After reflecting on the idea for a little, I started to really like it. I love that people take Sunday off from their busy lives to relax and spend time with their family. That time is often needed. This is in stark contrast to America’s culture where you can walk into most any restaurant on Sunday afternoon and expect them to be waiting to serve you. Although I enjoy this convenient luxury, I cannot help but think family life would improve greatly if adults had Sunday’s off.

Another notable difference in France’s culture is how they eat. After my first few days here, I was baffled by the fact that there is not an obesity epidemic in Strasbourg with the amount of bread and pastries they eat. Bread is in every meal and bakery shops are on every corner. In America, protein centered meals are more common. It is pretty hard to find a meal without bread here. The french also spend long periods of time at the table. Meals are seen as a time to sit and enjoy the company of other people. I have gone out to multiple restaurants with friends and each time, I find that we all get a little restless when waiting for the waiter to bring by a check. It is such a good reminder to enjoy the moment and appreciate the company around me.

Although this week has been exhausting and extremely different from my life in Texas, I love the way that the French live and think that implementing some of their ways would improve my life. I am looking forward to the next few weeks and know it will be an experience I will never forget.

Categories: 2017 Trip

So far, Strasbourg has been such a fascinating place to call home! Culture, language, and food is different from what we are used to, but what has stood out the most is the juxtaposition of the French and German architecture. One street will be filled with timber-framed German buildings, and the next with French Baroque buildings. The city teems with interesting details like that that make its history very clear. The Alsace area has been passed back and forth between the French and the Germans. Walking around in the evening is so pleasant, and I am loving being in this city. People here may not have the same customs as we are used to in Texas, but they are still very helpful and willing to welcome us into their city. They are on the train in the mornings when we are, going to work just as we are used to in America, but when evening time comes, they enjoy time and people they are with, often at long dinners and strolls on the quaint streets of Strasbourg.

 

Being here just under a week still has me feeling like a tourist, so I am looking forward to getting to know the culture even more! This afternoon’s class with Madame Coyez has already helped me in feeling more educated about current events and issues that European people are dealing with. I feel encouraged to keep up with other nation’s current events more so now than I have before. I love that her class is factual and detailed, but she also has personal experience with the European Union, making discussions so interesting and relevant! I appreciate her honesty about issues, revealing what in their system she perceives to work well and what, admittedly, doesn’t.

 

I am thankful to be in Strasbourg and look forward to the next weeks here, learning, experiencing, and seeing new things with new people.

Categories: 2017 Trip

I have been waiting in anticipation to arrive at the legendary “Citadines” in Strasbourg ever since I applied for the trip in early November. I heard rumors of the awesome restaurants, awkward encounters with locals, late nights in the square, and fun weekend trips from friends that had previously been on the trip. But nothing could have prepared me for, what I already know, will be some of the best five weeks of my life. Though I have only been here for a few days, I have already learned numerous tips and tricks about Strasbourg and French culture in general. First and foremost, we are loud. There’s no getting around that. It is nearly impossible to walk the streets of Strasbourg without causing a scene and receiving countless glances from people sitting on outdoor patios enjoying their meals. My favorite part of the trip has been all of the different places we have stopped while walking around during the afternoon and evening. I have found that this is the best way to experience all that Strasbourg has to offer. The incredible cathedral, gelato shop, cigar store, the square next to the hotel, and the river are just a few. The visit to Mercedez-Benz has been one of the highlights of the trip. Never before have I seen manufacturing on such a large and complex scale. Additionally, boat tour, though very long and somewhat tiring, taught me how much history and culture truly lies in Strasbourg. The combination of hundreds of years of German and French culture makes the city one of a kind. Lastly, my biggest take away from the trip thus far has been all of the new friends we have already made with the rest of the kids on the trip. I’m a firm believer that there is no better way to get to know others than to visit an unfamiliar place and experience it together. There are already countless stories of hilarious things happening, and I know that there are still many more to come. I am very much looking forward to visiting Interlaken, Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, and Munich, and the awesome memories that will come with each destination.

Categories: 2017 Trip

After 10 hours on a plane and 2 hours on a bus, I was really eager to see what my 5 week home away from home looked like. I wish I could say that the bed is a normal size, that the kitchen is spacious, and that there is air conditioning… but this is Europe. And those would be lies. Thankfully a long walk around the city of Strasbourg immediately put an end to all of my concerns! Strasbourg is bigger than I expected it to be, and although being American may earn a few bad glares every now and then, many people are friendly and go out of their way to try to understand English. Things like ordering food are relatively easy, but the grocery store has proven to be a whole different story. Pro Tip: Google translate is a must around here! We have found that a lot of our questions can be answered just by knowing a few key words. Visiting the train station is also slightly tricky when you have a ton of questions to ask and a person on the other side laughing at you because he doesn’t understand a word you’re saying. I’ve learned that somehow you just struggle through it and end up with another funny story to tell! I am also slightly jealous of how much European’s value their home life. Shops close around 6 or 7 during the week, but the good news is that the best part about Strasbourg is the scenery. We are constantly finding new cathedrals and spots to hang out that make us feel like a local. I think I’ve had gelato every day since we arrived and I don’t plan on stopping that pattern anytime soon! We had so much free time our first couple of days here that I almost forgot we had to go to school. I was kind of dreading it on our first tram ride to the business school, but both classes have been really interesting so far! Overall, I am pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to live here. It’s going to be tough to leave this beautiful place in 5 weeks.

Categories: 2017 Trip

Upon arriving in Strasbourg, I was immediately struck by how old everything is. I was expecting it to be a newer city built around a few prominent, old landmarks. I quickly realized that this is not the case. Downtown Strasbourg, surrounding the beautiful cathedral, is very old, historical, quaint, and beautiful.

The other thing that surprised me is the cultural diversity present in Strasbourg. Obviously, located in France, Strasbourg has just as much of a German feel as a French one. Italian influences can be seen as well. It truly is a melting pot and this is well reflected by its cuisine. Traditional French cuisine can easily be found, however German, Italian, and Greek food is very prevalent as well.

Many different languages can be heard on the streets. The language barrier has very comically posed an issue in many cases. However, it is amazing what an extremely limited vocabulary and sign language can do for you.

Most people I have interacted with have been reserved, some people rude, but never to the point of hostility. Another thing I have also noticed is shopkeeper’s strictness of hours. They will often close their establishment during prime hours because it is time to go home and see their family or drink with their friends. I look forward to exploring the streets of Strasbourg even more and immersing myself in the incredible culture.

Categories: 2017 Trip

My first week in Strasbourg has been an interesting one to say the least. Upon arriving in the airport in Germany, I was pleasantly surprised by the English translations underneath the German words on almost every sign. Traveling to Europe for the first time with absolutely no experience speaking the language of the country I would be living in for five weeks was a daunting task, but my experience in the airport provided me with hope for an easy transition.  Unfortunately, the fantasy of an easy translation under every written word went away when we got outside of Frankfurt Airport’s walls. Strasbourg does have some places that accommodate Americans who only know one language, but a majority of the people and restaurants operate primarily using French. Even in my first week abroad, I think I have grown a lot in my thoughts about the “American way of life”. A vast majority of the European people I have encountered thus far on my trip have spoken two or more languages. This is not something that you find as widespread in the United States. In my experience, our education system promotes the minimum of two or three years of high school foreign language. This is not seen as a path to individual growth, but rather as an item on a list that must be checked off before going to college. I believe this lack of emphasis on learning not only other languages, but also about other cultures, has led to a narrow view of the world in the minds of most Americans. I have seen countless people in America frustrated that some people do not know English, yet they don’t know a second language themselves. The language barrier has caused me the most stress so far on this trip, but I can already begin to see great improvements in my ability to communicate, albeit very slowly, with the citizens of Strasbourg. I’ve been told many times that immersion is the best way to learn a language, but it never fully resonated with me until I arrived in Europe. After only one week in this country, I have seen my own perspective on the world begin to widen, with a newfound respect for people who put in the tremendous effort required to learn the language in the country they are in. It is not easy, but the satisfying feeling communicating with someone that is from the other side of the world is hard to put into words. The incredible thing about this trip so far is that everything mentioned in this blog is only related to the language component of the trip. I have experienced a vast array of new experiences. The food, architecture, people, and overall attitude of Strasbourg have been very enriching as well, but the language aspect has been the most impactful thus far. I can’t wait to see the continued personal development and fun experiences that are on the horizon in the coming month!

Categories: 2017 Trip

France. Even the word itself paints a picture in most people’s heads and fills their hearts with a certain feeling and joyful attitude. France has always been a dream for me, a location in which I saw in the movies, but never imagined I would be able to actually visit.

It seems like this trip is going to fly by so fast. I still can’t believe I have the opportunity to live in this glorious place, and visit so many amazing countries through excursions on the weekends.

One of the first places we visited on the tour with Dr. Gaspar upon arrival in France is the Notre Dame de Strasbourg. After just a first glance at the beautiful cathedral that was in front of me, I was already excited to see the beauty inside.

Colors. That is all I can say. There are colors everywhere in Strasbourg. Gorgeous. It completely fits my personality-bright, happy, energetic. I notice how young and lively everyone is-I don’t think I have seen anyone out of shape! Walking everywhere here seems like a blessing rather than a chore.  The weather is perfect, the location is glorious, and the people are young and carefree.

Tax. That is something which has been strange to me. I am so used to having tax and tips added to my bill at restaurants, and now it never happens. Also, the long and relaxing meals at restaurants here is such a contrast to the US, I am constantly wondering “Have they forgotten we are here? Should we ask them for the check?” But, I must remind myself that it is culturally appropriate to spend lots of time at each meal, something I enjoy, because I feel a sense of relaxation with it.

I am still slightly worried-not about my safety, not about having an amazing time-but about the fact that I know little French. I took French for 3 years in high school, but sadly, French class was what people took as a “GPA Booster”, so I never truly learned how to hold a conversation. I remember random words, such as the French words for 30, cat, and potato, but it will likely be difficult to hold a conversation with just those words. I have downloaded a few apps on my phone, so I am hoping if I have any spare time, I will be able to brush up on my French!

Overall, I am a mixture of emotions. It is difficult to not talk to my family every day, and the jetlag is still getting to me. However, I don’t think I have been this happy or excited in a long time! I am so overjoyed and curious to see what is to come!

 

Categories: 2017 Trip