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

Well, where do I begin? To say that I learned a lot about myself over the past five weeks is an understatement when reflecting on my experiences. Six countries, six cultures, six very different experiences.

If I possessed the time, I could go on for days about all the things I learned, but I boiled down the skills I gained to three. First, knowing how to navigate the rail system when traveling is extremely important. Eventually, I learned that the itinerary that the train station attendants give you for your trip is not binding, unless you have a reservation, and those are the key to smooth travels. Also, allowing yourself at least thirty minutes between trains gives you enough time to find your train number and arrive at the correct platform, unless you find yourself coming from Barcelona in which case no amount of time would be enough. Second, ordering food in each country is very different. For example, I would try my best to pronounce the item on the menu in France, I could easily point to the menu in Germany, and I already knew how to pronounce everything in Italian because we are spoiled with Italian food in America. Lastly, and most importantly, know how to split a check. We got lucky having four accountants on the trip totally willing to take over this task.

While these skills are extremely important to develop, the personal growth aspect of this trip was far more impactful, and Strasbourg was the perfect place to facilitate this. Being in a singular place for an extended period of time gave me the opportunity to truly settle in and relax to an extent. Traveling so often becomes exhausting, but Strasbourg quickly became my home away from home – a place I looked forward to returning to, a place of comfort. While from the outside looking in, European countries seem relatively similar, the story reads far different from the inside looking out. I quickly realized that these countries only truthfully share one thing: borders. Each possessed such unique, identifiable people, foods, customs, and languages. I felt as if right when I got comfortable operating in one way, I needed to adapt, which placed me in a very different state of mind than when I was in America. I now recognize the melting pot that the United States is. I consistently experience multiple cultures daily, whether in the food I eat or the people I come in contact with. I am truly lucky to live in a place that gives me the opportunities to continue this growth that I started abroad.

At the end of the day, if I needed one word to sum up what I take away from this study abroad, it would be grateful. I am grateful for EM Strasbourg for hosting me as a student and providing me with every resource needed to be successful, for Dr. Gaspar for guiding me through this very nerve wrecking experience, but most importantly, for my parents for giving me the opportunity to broaden my horizons. To all of these individuals, thank you!

Categories: 2017 Trip, Reflections

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

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

My time in Strasbourg, up to this point, has been some of the best five weeks of my life. Being back home, it is hard to process all I saw, did, and learned while traveling Europe. Never traveling outside the United States besides close borders, being overseas for the first time has really changed my perception on the rest of the world. Experiencing different countries, cultures, and languages gave me a first hand view not only how people live their lives but also their perception of Americans. Of course the academic side of the trip made it even better as we got to learn about international finance and the EU all while living in France. In Dr. Gaspars class we learned concepts like different currencies and exchange rate exposure. Ms. Coyez taught us about the EU, its different institutions, and how it has shaped Europe. Both classes were very influential especially with everything currently going on in the EU such as Brexit. Visiting the European Commission in Brussels and Parliament in Strasbourg made the EU more intriguing and after learning about the decision making process was interesting to see these institutions in person. I really enjoyed our corporate visits as well such as watching Mercedes build cars in a factory filled with robots or visiting Germany’s central bank Deutsche Bundesbank. My favorite parts of the trip is hard to narrow down but some memorable ones include white water rafting in Interlaken’s glacier waters and eight of us missing our last train back to Strasbourg after traveling all day from Barcelona and being set up in a nice hotel in Paris for the night. I cannot forget the food. I can proudly say I did not have one bad meal over the course of five weeks. Trying to think about my final impressions all I can really form is I loved it and will miss it a lot. Whether it was hiking to the top of Interlaken in Switzerland or sitting under the Eiffel Tower drinking wine with the locals. Getting a panoramic view of Munich at the top of the St. Petersburg Church or sitting in on a session of the European Parliament. Swimming in the Mediterranean in Barcelona or visiting the Palace of Versailles and watching the music fountains. The list goes on with memories that I will never forget. However, the best part of the trip was all the new relationships I gained while traveling with the rest of the group. I’ll never forget all the newly shared experiences and sights Europe had to offer. This trip has only made me want to travel more and see what other cultures and traditions are out there. Even after a short five weeks, I will always consider Strasbourg my home away from home.

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

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