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

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

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

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

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

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

France 2017

Looking back on the month I spent in Strasbourg, I can truly say it was one of the best months of my life. I could not asked for a better place to live or a better group of friends to experience it with. This trip was an incredible learning experience inside and outside of the classroom. In Dr. Gaspar’s class, I realized that I previously knew nothing about International Finance. That being said, I have come away with greater knowledge and interest in how international corporations operate and how foreign exchange markets work. Ms. Coyez’s gave us an insightful look into the inter workings of the European Union. Her first hand experience working within the EU allowed us to learn about it from an entirely different perspective. After learning about the legislative process of the European Union, I am able to see the similarities and differences between the EU and the United States. On the weekends, we traveled to different cities which allowed us to see first hand some of the many different cultures that make up the European Union. While visiting Interlaken, Switzerland I had the opportunity to paraglide and white water raft while also seeing how similar to culture of that small town is to the United States.  The weekend traveling to Paris and Brussels with the group was definitely one of my favorite weekends; seeing two of the most important and historic and important cities in Europe with the whole group was so much fun. While in Barcelona, the most unique city I visited, I learned about the history of the Catalonia region and witnessed some of the current separatist movements occurring there. Our trip to Munich made for the most relaxing weekend as we mainly walked around the city and English Gardens trying out Beer Gardens and eating pretzels. As stated previously, this trip was one of the greatest learning experiences to this point in my life. I will no doubt encourage my friends to study abroad while they are in college. More specifically, I will encourage people to go on this study abroad program as going on it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections

During my month in Europe, I noticed many small differences between there and here. Reflecting now, I have recognized how truly different it was living there. Being back in the United States has made me comfortable again, but has also shown me how my abroad experience pushed me out of my comfort zone. I not only practiced more independence, but also learned to navigate confusing and unusual situations. It’s one thing to not understand a process, but an entirely different one to not even be capable of understanding the language that explains it. I am appreciative and thankful for those who worked to bridge the gaps between languages and cultures for our group. The varying customs across countries were diverse to say the least as we traveled across borders. We traveled from France to Belgium to Spain to Switzerland to Germany to Austria, and noted vast differences at every corner.

In class, we learned about the European Union, and how they work to integrate all of Europe, while also maintaining the rich cultures across all of the member states. I was genuinely impressed by the European government as they have to rely on translators to convey their messages in the 24 official languages of the EU. In debates, each politician has to wait patiently for the translation before continuing. I believe this was a prime example of what the European Union stands for; integration with respect for the individuality of the nations.

Before this trip, I had little to no knowledge of the concept of European Integration, or even International Finance. Our classes at EM Strasbourg gave me a well rounded knowledge of both of these topics, and helped to explain what we were experiencing everyday while immersed in European culture. I am thankful to have broadened my knowledge of the world I live in, and for being a part of such an unforgettable experience.

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections

All throughout this past year I’ve looked forward to studying abroad in Strasbourg, but as I look back on these last 5 weeks I realize how much more I got out of this experience than I could have possibly imagined.

I was so thankful for our classes on international finance and the European Union because they gave me a much better understanding of the structure of Europe, its history, and current political and economic situation here. I felt bad enough for not knowing French, so I was glad I could at least understand what someone meant when they referred to the Schengen area.

While I did learn so much in the classroom while I was here, some the biggest lessons were learned beyond the orange brick walls of EM Strasbourg. I learned how to problem solve when faced with (many) different challenges, how to deal with language barriers, and I learned to appreciate the ways European countries do things differently as well as appreciate things I missed about America. I realized there are a lot of things we take advantage of back home: the free tap water, air conditioning, not having to pay to use the restroom, larger hotel rooms, and of course Mexican food. I also learned to appreciate that the American way is not always the best way. For one, I’m going to miss walking everywhere; not only does it keep you more active, but it’s an opportunity to spend time talking with others as you walk.

I learned that it’s very possible for the most expensive meal of your trip to be chicken nuggets, French fries, and a beer; just order them from a mountaintop in Switzerland and I promise your wallet will be much lighter. I learned that neither the Strasbourg Cathedral nor a cone of gelato ever get old. As Strasbourg began to feel like home, I even learned to resent tourists, despite still being one myself. We really are the loud Americans that attract attention and take too many pictures. Nevertheless, the people nearly always treated us kindly and made us feel welcome. I learned that friendships formed while traveling and experiencing the world together are friendships that will last a lifetime. It’s hard not to grow closer with people when you miss the last leg of your train back to Strasbourg and have to stay in a hotel in Paris together and catch a train in the morning just in time for class. I learned that Interlaken is one of the most beautiful places in the world, that Paris truly is as magical as they say, that Barcelona is best experienced with a glass of Sangria in your hand, and that Prague has the most incredible rooftop restaurant overlooking the city that I’ve ever seen.

I can honestly say that my time in Europe was some of the best weeks of my life with some of the best people I have ever met. I will miss it dearly, but I can’t wait to reminisce on these experiences back in College Station with these 32 other people I have come to know and love.

 

 

 

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections