Now that I’m back home and able to look back on the past month and a half of life in Europe, I can confidently say that studying abroad in Strasbourg has been one of the defining moments of my time here at A&M.  I’m taken aback by how many amazing things I was able to do and learn about whilst abroad with such a great group of people.  Learning can sometimes become monotonous when conducted within the same setting over and over again, so the change of scenery offered by studying overseas came as a welcomed refreshment mid way through my college career.  Both International Finance and European Integration proved to be interesting and worthwhile courses.  I walked away with a solid understanding of the purpose of the EU and its functionality, as well as a solid foundation of knowledge over the formation of multinational businesses and how they ought to conduct their business in such volatile and unpredictable global markets.  Both subjects, as well as the cultural and personal insights gained outside of the classroom, will surely prove valuable for any future of a student within Mays.

During my time in Strasbourg, I was able to travel to Interlaken, Brussels, Paris, Positano, Frankfurt, and Prague, all of which were absolutely incredible.  I could not name a favorite weekend trip as each destination proved to be invaluable contribution toward such a holistic European experience.  Each culture provided its own lessons and experiences, each of which was completely different from anywhere else visited during the trip.  Strasbourg itself provided the ideal host city for a program such as this.  It was large enough to keep us entertained and anxious to explore, while small enough to not seem too overwhelming or overbearing.  The locals were friendly and the mix of German and French culture was engrossing, while its central location provided an excellent launch point for any weekend expedition.  I would certainly recommend the experience to anyone that is willing to step out of their comfort zone and embrace the change of setting and lifestyle for a month.  It will definitely be worth it.

 

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections

Five weeks sure fly by when you’re having fun! I can’t believe this trip has come to an end. I returned home 3 days ago and I already miss the daily adventures with all of my classmates. Traveling by bus, train, metro, and foot made it interesting and a great bonding experience with everyone. We took advantage of the long train rides by consistently packing our school notes to study for our classes. Our weekend trips were amazing; I honestly can’t pick a favorite. We traveled to Interlaken, Brussels, Paris, Barcelona, and Munich.

Our first weekend in Interlaken was more of an outdoorsy trip that I enjoyed immensely. I went paragliding, paddle boarding, and walked around the city enjoying the view of the Swiss Alps. Paragliding was amazing!! The view was breath taking! We spent our next weekend in Brussels and Paris and although we only spent one day in Brussels, it was a day well spent. One great memory was trying a Belgium waffle for the first time, it was the best waffle I have ever had. The next day we traveled to Paris by bus where we spent the remainder of the weekend. Sitting under the Eiffel Tower with my classmates while it lit up the sky, was by far my favorite part of being in Paris.

The following weekend a group of us traveled to Barcelona on the night train. That was definitely something I will never forget. Our trip included a visit to La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, all while on a city bike tour. We spent our last day at the beach.
We saved Munich for last and it turned out to be a great idea. It was more of a relaxing weekend hanging out at the beer gardens with everyone reminiscing about the trip and soaking up the remainder of time we had left together.

After each weekend it felt good to be back in Strasbourg with a routine of riding the tram to class and hanging out at the square after a long day. Strasbourg was the perfect home base. The city is beautiful and there is a bakery and gelato place on almost every corner. After living in Europe for 5 weeks I have learned to appreciate the little things that the United States has to offer. For example: Air conditioning, free water, and soft bread. I missed those things the most. One thing I do wish is that I took French in high school because the language barrier was probably the most difficult part for me. Ordering food was the most interesting, I never knew exactly what I was going to get unless I had google translate to help me. Europe was such a great experience that I will never forget. I am so thankful that I had this opportunity to study abroad with such a great group of Aggies. These past 5 weeks have been filled with great memories, new friendships, and unforgettable stories.

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections

Coming back to the United States feels like coming out of a dream. Despite being in Europe for an entire month, it seems like the trip was much shorter!

There were so many differences between America and France. For one, so many French people knew English, as well as another language. Being so close to other countries I assume it’s more necessary to learn another language. In America, I rarely find someone who speaks more than one language. The experience has encouraged me to finish learning french and move on to Spanish.

Being home now, I miss the public transportation and how close everything was. France has done a wonderful job of making car usage minimum, whereas in america a car is a necessity. (Mostly just Texas).I just want to walk everywhere here, but with the humidity and lack of shade in Texas it would be incredibly difficult!

I also learned about the European Union on the trip. I had never really thought about the government in Europe and the importance of becoming an economic entity to compete with the rest of the world. I think it’s interesting that the EU controls so much in the countries, down to the appreciation and depreciation of the euro, despite economic problems in Italy and Greece. But I think the EU is important to make Europe a global trade competitor, and to install peace.

When thinking about the architecture and the environment, I can’t help but miss it. Everywhere we went was so green, and there were many lights, places to eat outside, and beautiful mountains. The Europeans sure have an eye for beauty. You could tell by the way they eat dinner together looking over the beautiful sights and live music. It was way more relaxed than eating in america. I never felt rushed. I enjoyed it immensely.

All in all, my trip changed me. I was more independent then I’ve ever been, I fully jumped into the french culture, and I learned things about finance on a new international level. The people I met were so kind, and genuinely interested in America’a politics and culture. The food was different, but delicious. (Only annoying part was not having free water or ice!) It was odd being around so much cigarette smoke, but besides that the place and weather was lovely!

I 100% would like to go back. I would like to go back and much like this trip, live in a less touristy area of France and speak with natives. I think it’s important to start accepting other cultures, learning from them, and adding them into my character here in america.

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections

First and foremost I want to state that I could not be more thankful for Texas A&M for creating and giving me the opportunity to experience a summer I will remember for the rest of my life. It was life changing in so many ways that I don’t even know where to begin.
I left home, with little to no international experiences, but with lots of space in my heart and mind to absorb the life in Europe. I wanted to live life to the fullest every second I could, while being as open-minded as possible and I promise you it is the best way to approach this trip. We were told by Dr. Kevin early on that the best way to learn about the world around you is to learn about yourself first. I took that to heart and tried to make it a huge emphasis this summer to really focus on learning about who I am and what I believe in to really see what the culture around me is truly about.
Everyday was a new adventure in more ways than one. From starting the day eating the world-famous french croissants for breakfast and a baguette for lunch, to soaking in all the knowledge from Dr. Gaspar and Mrs. Coyez in regards to international finance/European Union, then roaming the streets of Strasbourg looking for new foods to try, Gelato to eat, and places to enjoy the sunset. The group was perfect, even the imperfections of each one of us made it all the better. We gelled better than gum stuck in hair, it was such a great time everytime. The jokes, the differences, the love, the care. It is safe to say there was never a dull second since the moment I met up with the group at the Houston airport.
Weekends in themselves were one of the greatest learning experiences I could ever go through in life. Not to mention the funnest moments I have ever lived. My life on the weekends were of like a dream. The jaw-dropping Switzerland natural beauty, the Brussels uniqueness, the Paris one-of-a-kind city that captures your heart, the Barcelona heart-pouncing fun and joy, and the Munich history and passion. All were worth it, and gave my mind a whole new impression of the world around us. But definitely did not take away from the beauty of Strasbourg. The incredible mix of German and French architecture and cutlure was fascinating. The safeness, friendliness, and the accomidating we felt gave us a true sense of a home away from home. Making it a lot easier to adapt and be able to truely explore and absorb as much of the society as we could. The Language barrier was real creating limitations on ordering food, asking for help, and understanding how people thought. but nonetheless we made it work, and the hardships of adapting are 100% worth it.
All in all, I could write a book on this trip and talk about it for days on end. I truly felt like I came, I saw, and I conquered. As talked about with a group of us, “It is a summer that we will talk about for the rest of our lives”. It re-energized my life and sparked a new outlook on life in more ways imaginable. Merci, Strasboug. Long live the 2017 study abroad group. Mark the calanders, the Summer of 2047 at the fountain around 10PM.

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections

In the past five weeks I’ve learned a lot about people, culture, and the systems that define them. Europe is a fascinating, beautiful place where the people are independent, and deeply rooted in their cultural identities. Their behaviors (on average) differ from ours in a lot of ways: more public transportation, smaller coffee mugs, and more quiet/private meals. One of things I learned is that though their behaviors are different, it’s really the core values that they hold that define those behaviors. In Europe, they put so much more emphasis on ideals like family, community, the environment, and personal indulgence. They don’t preoccupy themselves with a lot of personal wealth, materials, or even religion, which to my “American scope” was unusual. I loved living in Strasbourg. The city was big enough to constantly enjoy myself and learn, but small enough to feel like a temporary home. My favorite city was Paris. Paris, to me, is the cultural, historical, and diversity hub of the western world. There was so much that you could learn just from walking the streets and sight seeing. It was also interesting to me getting to learn about the “European project”, and then getting to step outside and see how it holds potency in real life. For example, the high unemployment in countries like France and Spain were evident, you couldn’t walk 50 meters down the sidewalk without seeing a homeless person. And then learning how those problems could be fixed (particularly in an economic sense) through the international finance course felt like some of the most effective education I’ve ever received. The trip left me much more educated than I was prior to leaving, and with a whole new world view. I feel like I have a much better grasp on not only what it means to be informed on world affairs, but how to act as a better global citizen. Prost.

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections

I can’t believe that our time in Europe went by as fast as it did! It feels like I was writing the first blog just a couple days ago, however in reality I have been to 5 different countries, taken numerous train rides and multiple exams since then. Looking back on all of the things I did over the course of the trip definitely makes me realize that I made the most of each day.

Every weekend trip came with new memories and hilarious moments. Personally, my favorite weekend was when we all went to Interlaken, Switzerland. I was hesitant to go paragliding, but I am so glad that I did because it turned out to be one of the most incredible moments. I have never visited a place as beautiful as Interlaken and, despite the rain, loved every second! Our weekend trips to Barcelona and Paris were some of the craziest, most exciting couple days of my life. We were constantly on the go and probably running on 4 or 5 hours of sleep each day. The Eiffel Tower, The Palace of Versailles, The Sagrada Familia… each a masterpiece that I am so happy to have visited! Of course all of these trips came with their fair share of hiccups… Trying to make a train that was leaving in 1 minute, almost accidentally eating horse in Munich, forgetting sunscreen on the beach in Barcelona, attempting to get 20 people on the same metro at midnight in Paris, having to avoid escargot (snails) because French people love to sneak it into every type of food imaginable… The list could go on forever! It’s funny how the hectic, unpredictable moments are the ones you end up remembering the most. Each week we all grew closer and closer as a group and I think that is what made each day better than the day before! There is nothing quite like traveling Europe with a group of Aggies.

When we arrived back in Strasbourg each Sunday, I always felt happy to be “home”. Strasbourg had everything we needed and it was more of a relaxed pace compared to most of the cities we were visiting. I can’t say that Strasbourg is full of the friendliest people we met on the trip, but that just helped make our day more interesting. It was easy to forget you were taking 2 classes when you were having as much fun as we were! Monday’s were a little bit of a shock, but school in general wasn’t too bad. The material was interesting and, despite the long hours of lecture, I enjoyed each class. Monday – Wednesday went by pretty fast and, before you knew it, you were off on another adventure. I experienced some of the best days of my life on this trip and am so grateful for all of the new friendships I made!

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections

Since returning to Texas I had the opportunity to reflect on my past five weeks in Europe. It was an incredible experience where I made some great friends, tried interesting food and learned about European culture. During one of our first classes Dr. Kevin Mac Gabhann told us that to discover what it means to truly be a Texan we must leave and experience the world around us. I think he was right. Living in Europe gave me a greater appreciation for the things I love about Texas such as air conditioning and Tex Mex. My five week experience in Europe also gave me a greater appreciation for other cultures. It taught me that my way is not the only way. At meals for example I had to get used to a slower pace. At first I did not like it because I am accustomed to eating fast and keeping to a schedule when I am home. As the trip progressed I ended up liking slow meals because it gave me a chance to catch up with friends and enjoy the food I was eating. Although it took some getting used to, the European pace was not that bad after all.

Every weekend we had the opportunity to travel outside of Strasbourg. We used planes, trains and automobiles to get to every corner of Europe. By the end of the trip I had visited six different countries and went through the shock of trying to communicate in a language other than English five times. All of our weekend trips were adventures in their own way. In Interlaken the whole group went on a “two hour hike” that ended up lasting three hours. It was exhausting but the view at the end made it all worth it. On our trip to Brussels and Paris with Dr. Gaspar we ate Belgian waffles and hung out under the Eiffel tower to watch it sparkle at night. In Positano we saw Italian shoes being handmade on the streets and rode up and down the scenic coastline. On our final weekend we went to Prague where we learned about a time when the city was under communist rule and we also got to see a baby Jesus doll that had been blessed by the Pope. Every place we visited offered a different language, different people and different experiences. I was able to go on so many adventures and I am truly thankful for that. At the end of all of these trips we were excited to return to Strasbourg. It was the place we called home by the end of the trip and I think that shows how great this experience really was.

These past five weeks are something that I will never forget and I will always be thankful for the experience.

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections

When I finally got home from the airport, my family asked me, “Well, how was it?!”. I didn’t even know where to begin to start telling them all of the adventures we went on and all of the memories that were made throughout the past five weeks. From hiking the Swiss Alps to lying on the beaches of Barcelona, the 32 of us made memories that we will never forget. A huge thank you to Dr. Gaspar and assistants for making this trip possible, and thank you Mrs. Coyez for how passionate you were about teaching us everything we needed to know about the European Union. It has been an eye opening experience learning how other countries work together to challenge each other and set goals to encourage its people to succeed. And also, another huge thanks to my wonderful parents for helping make this trip possible J. It has been such an incredible experience to travel and study with such an awesome group of students. I am so fortunate to have gotten to know everyone and have made friendships that will last a lifetime.

 

Who knew people lived in such a different world. When I walked into the grocery store in France for the first time, I realized why everyone was so fit and skinny. Our HEB’s are 15-20 times the size of their tiny little food stores. The portions at dinner are much smaller, yet the families and friends that go to eat stay twice as long. That is one thing that I enjoyed about Europe, is that everyone emphasizes setting time aside each day to enjoy one another’s company. We as Americans are all about fast service and are always go go going, when we are missing out on so much in life. I will definitely want to bring the concept of quality time back to America with me.

 

If you asked me what my favorite weekend was, I don’t think I could be able to answer it. Everywhere we went was absolutely breathtaking, with Switzerland definitely being one of them. Whitewater rafting through the freezing waters of the Swiss Alps was one of the most exhilarating and one of the coldest moments of my life. I don’t think I can ever complain about being hot ever again after jumping in the ice-cold glacier waters. The next weekend in Paris was as if we were living in a dream. Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time was a moment that I will never forget. You see it in pictures and movies all the time, but seeing it in real life sent chills down my spine. Sitting under it at night was absolutely breathtaking, seeing thousands of lights twinkle in the night sky. The next weekend we went to Barcelona. After our bike tour the first day, I fell in love with the city and culture. Jumping in the cold waters of the Mediterranean on a hot summer day was so much fun! We also went on a night cruise around the coast of which was a blast as well. The final weekend in Munich was icing on the cake. We visited Dachau on the second day and I will never forget walking through the main gates of the concentration camp. The air even felt weird while walking around the camp and the aura is still so incredibly sad even after so many years. On a happy note, the Englischer Gartens were a blast as well! We were able to find a spot to jump in and float down the river.

 

After every weekend, we would walk out of the train stations and make our way back to Citidines, our new home away from home. I sure do miss waking up every morning with my friends and walking together to class, but living with them will be something that I will never forget. So thank you Texas A&M for such an incredible opportunity that I will be able to hold onto for the rest of my life.

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections

As my study abroad in Strasbourg has come to an end and I have had the chance to be home for a couple of days, I can’t help but miss what I called home the past 5 weeks. What an experience it was traveling Europe with 30 other college students and having the time of our lives. The day after when I woke up in my own bed without my roommates and getting in a car to go around rather than walking or taking the train everywhere was quite different. In Europe, I was able to learn a lot in the classroom as well as so much more about myself. Through our european integration and international finance class I learned a lot, but what helped me understand it even more is our visits to european commission, world bank, etc. that went right along with what we were being taught in class.

One thing that drew me in with this trip was the fact that you had the weekends to travel and adventure to whatever parts of Europe you please, and we did just that. With each trip, there was a new experience that blew us away. The first weekend I went to Interlaken, Switzerland and right off the bat went chasing a waterfall around the lake and through the mountains on bikes with some friends. Turns out the one “small” hill we thought we were going to run into was actually more like 10 giant hills. 28 miles later we ended up back where we started never finding the waterfall….. but what an experience with some of the most breathtaking views. The next day we went white water rafting, and if you have ever been rafting in Colorado, this one is on steroids compared to that. It was a blast!! Our second weekend, we all went to Brussels and Paris with the whole group. Doing Paris within a couple days is quite the mission but we tried! We went to the Palace of Versailles, the louvre, but nothing quite compared to the Eiffel Tower to me. My favorite thing at night was laying down under the Eiffel Tower while it was lit up, so beautiful. Our third and long weekend I went to Barcelona where I spent most of my time at the beach and it was perfect. I also went to the Park Guelle, La Sangrada Familia, and Font Magica which were all gorgeous. Our final weekend I spent in Munich, Germany which counldn’t have been a better last weekend. My favorite spot here was the Englisher gardens. There was a river that flowed through and you could also find some people surfing in the middle of it.

This trip was such an amazing experience for me. Not only the places I visited but the friends I met along the way that helped make it such worthwhile. The crazy thing about the trip as it went on was that after a weekend full of traveling everyone would say they were ready to go home, and by “home” we were all referring to Citidines in Strasbourg. I will forever cherish the memories I’ve made in Strasbourg and I recommend this trip for everyone!!

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections

After leaving Strasbourg 4 days ago, I have had a little time to reflect upon what I’ve learned. While I will continue to learn from and reflect upon my experience in Europe for the rest of my life, here are just some of my impressions.

Perhaps what left the biggest impression on me during my time in Strasbourg, Interlaken, Brussels, Paris, Barcelona, and Munich was the everyday culture of the people who lived there. While each place was entirely unique, there were some similarities that held true for the most part. First of all, the people were very culturally diverse. It seemed like every country in the world was well represented. The streets were crowded and energetic. In Strasbourg, bikers were everywhere. People weren’t necessarily very friendly. My theory was that the crowded nature of European cities has made the locals indifferent towards tourists. At many points during the trip I felt like a fish out of the water. Another observation I made about the people of Europe is how active they are in politics. Several times a local who could speak English would ask me what I thought of Trump and would promptly share his or her own opinion. Strasbourg was in many ways the consolidation or all these impressions. It was diverse, the people were reserved with the exception of talking politics, and in many places it was very crowded. The people of Strasbourg were not a showy or loud people. Strasbourg also felt just as German as it did French. The food was mostly French but a lot of the architecture seemed very German. I’ll miss the cathedral in Strasbourg. It will remain the most physically imposing building I have seen in Europe thus far. I will also miss La Petite France.

Most of all, I’ll miss the people who went on the study abroad with me. The trip was some of the most fun I have ever had in my life. Making new friends and experiencing new things never gets old. I jokingly called our study abroad “freshman year in France” many times. The similarities are uncanny. Everything is new and there is an overall feel of excitement in the air. You also learn so much. Whether it was European Integration, International Finance, or a broadened cultural perspective, you never stop learning. I honestly believe I learned just as much or maybe more outside than inside the classroom. Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned during my time in Strasbourg was to respect the differences of the European people. People are shaped by their environment and their experiences. I cannot expect them to see the world in the same way that I see it when their environment and life has been so drastically different from mine. My time in Strasbourg will remain some of my favorite memories of all time.

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections