With a hazing introduction to strasbourg after 13 hours of traveling I did not have the most favorable view of Strasbourg the first day. However, as we got settled in my opinion of the city has quickly changed. The first big thing that stuck out to me was the affair of eating meals. In the US meals are made to be eaten in a hurry, even in nicer restaurants they are trying to get the most customers in and out of the door in an efficient manner as quickly as possible. This is not the case in France, meals so far have taken as long as 2 hours with the none of the restaurant staff seeming to be in a rush about anything. The difference in the way that the French eat their meals has been quite a welcome change to the hustle of most US eating.
Something else that has been different than I expected was the treatment of people from the United States. Leading up to coming to France i had heard that the French sometimes did not take to kindly to people from the US who could not speak French. However, in all of my experiences so far most people have been friendly and happy to help us Americans out when we did not understand something or were trying to order food. While people are friendly when you talk to them it seems another difference is the use of manners of the street. Coming from a small town myself, it is custom to smile at people as you pass by, say excuse me when walking around someone, or try to both change paths when it is apparent that you and the other person will run into each other. I have found that none of these things are the case here in Strasbourg. Many people walk like they are on a mission and that you are just an obstacle in their path. For me this has been a substantial change, while it is out of my ordinary, it is not problem with me, just different.
While the social culture is somewhat different in Strasbourg what is truly different from the US is the buildings and city layout. It is crazy to think that many of the building that we have seen walking through out the city were built before the US was established. This has contributed to the way that the city is laid out. It is clear to see that Strasbourg, atleast near the city center, is designed for walking. Everything a person needs is within a 10 minute walk. Just stepping outside of Citardine and walking 5 minutes in either direction you can find grocers, high end clothes, home appliances, restaurants, churches, and nightlife hangouts. This walking layout of Strasbourg has been my favorite aspect of the city so far. I am confident that in the weeks to come I will continue to find new things to love about Strasbourg and French culture.

Categories: 2018 Trip

From the moment we first arrived in Strasbourg, I knew that this place was different than anywhere I had been before but just how different I wasn’t sure. Even on the walk to the hotel I began to notice that the people here had a very different style than what is was used to seeing in Texas. The majority of people were walking around wearing pants even though it was hot outside and that is something that you just don’t see as much in Texas. As a matter of fact, where I’m from you really don’t see too many people out walking around town and that was the next big difference that I noticed. In Texas, most city’s feel like they were designed to get around using a car but that is not the case here in Strasbourg. This city was designed for people to walk everywhere they go and because of that you see so many people out and about in the streets shopping or doing various other things. One thing that is strange about a city design to get around on foot is that pedestrians do not have the right of way, or at least it seems to be that way. Just on our first walk into town I think a few of us almost got taken out by vehicles and they didn’t even seem to notice that they almost hit us. By the time we finally went back to the hotel I think some of us were wishing we would’ve been hit because not having a/c in our rooms was almost unbearable at first. Our room was only equipped with a single fan but luckily my roommates and I used our knowledge of chicken houses to create an a/c unit of our own. Something else that I have realized in the past few days is that I was under the impression that everyone here would be able to communicate fluently in English but that did not turn out to be true. The language barrier has by far been the hardest challenge to overcome since I knew little to no French before coming here. Just ordering food at restaurants is a challenge depending on how much English the waiter knows and sometimes I just have to guess as to what I’m ordering. It is even hard to understand people here who do speak English because their accents can be confusing and make it more difficult to understand. While it has been less than a week, I feel like I have already learned so much about this country and its culture and I can’t wait for what is to come in the following weeks.

Categories: 2018 Trip

Before applying to study abroad I was extremely apprehensive about being in another country for an extended amount of time. But, after enduring the 10 hour flight and finally arriving in Strasbourg, my anxiety has diminished. I really had no idea what to expect before arriving, especially since I have never traveled to Europe before. All I knew about France was what I had seen in the movies and it turns out they weren’t too far off! The city of Strasbourg is incredible. The architecture and scenery is like nothing I have experienced before and the awe that came over me when we first arrived still remains even after being here for almost a week. I am from a very small town and have grown up on a ranch almost an hour from the nearest town, so needless to say this is a major culture shock for me. I usually am not very fond of large crowds or packed cities, but that has not bothered me much in Strasbourg. Every time we roam the city or commute to class we get to see all different types of people and learn a little more about the culture, which I feel is a big part of why students should study abroad.

When people think of France most usually think of Paris and the Eiffel Tower (at least I do), but the country has so much more to offer just in Strasbourg alone! I had no idea how rich the history of the city was until we went on the boat tour and got to learn about its background. It amazes me to learn how long some of the buildings have been standing and to hear of the great historical figures that have occupied them.

Over the next few weeks I am eager to become more immersed in the culture of Strasbourg, as well as in the other countries we will visit on the weekends. I feel that this trip will help me grow as an individual and become more aware of the world. I have never had an opportunity like this before, and might not ever again, so I plan on making the very most of it!

Categories: 2018 Trip

Coming into this trip I did not have any expectations really, or I did not really know what to expect. I had never traveled to Europe before, or anywhere close to it. The only time I had been out of the country was going to Mexico and the Caribbean several times.  However, Europe has always been a dream and study abroad was on my bucket list so it kind of worked out perfectly! As far a first impression, I’d have to say that it is everything I hoped. I love being able to see or learn about the history behind a city and its buildings. Strasbourg has plenty of it and it seems like I learn something new about it every day. It was kind of funny the first day when we were doing our walking tour of the city we were just walking down the street looking at all the buildings, the style and all the people, then Dr. Gaspar says something like “Oh, and there is the Cathedral”; I look up and BOOM, there it is in all its glory! I had half way thought that the first church that we stopped at on our tour was the big Cathedral that he had told us about and I remember thinking “wow, I expected it to be bigger and more elaborate”. Seeing the big Cathedral was probably my real first impression where I was thinking that this is what I imagined Europe to be. The history and culture that you can see on every street corner is probably my favorite part. I like to try new things, so it is nice that we can go a new place every night and still get good food! I am really looking forward to the rest of our trips, especially the weekends. I think the best part is that we are getting to travel to so many different places and see so many things on one trip! It will be a trip of a lifetime! Not to mention the people are actually pretty cool to hang out with!

Categories: 2018 Trip

My first time in Europe I was five years old and was visiting Madrid, Spain. Since then I have been lucky enough to travel to Europe numerous times, but I never cease to be amazed by the beautiful countries here. My favorite part about visiting Europe is the diversity and differences in culture of each country. When coming to Strasbourg, I had little expectations and had not done a lot of research on this city. I now wish I had researched more, but I was also pleasantly surprised to see where I would be spending the next five weeks of my summer. I had no idea that Strasbourg houses the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament. I am so excited to be staying in a city with so much importance and history.

Strasbourg is so picturesque, I constantly feel like I am in a movie. My favorite part is the architecture, followed closely by the people. Every building here is absolutely gorgeous whether it is the Strasbourg Cathedral or Zara. I really appreciate the restorative mindset of Europe, instead of tearing buildings down to create a modern look, old building are refurbished and reused. The people in France are amiable, before coming here I had been worried about the stigma of the French disliking Americans. Aside from one uncomfortable encounter with a waitress our first night; the people here have been extremely accommodating and helpful. I really appreciate the dry sense of humor and bluntness that seems to be so prevalent here.

After only spending four days here I am eager to see what is to come. I feel like I have already done and seen so much but I know we have barely scratched the surface. I am incredibly excited for all the weekend trips to surrounding countries. However, I am most excited to be able to come out of this journey with considerable knowledge on a French town that I knew nothing about before. I am so happy I decided to go on this study abroad and meet new people in a country I barely know. It is only going to get better from here, and I cannot wait.

Categories: 2018 Trip

When my buddy Will first convinced me to apply for a study abroad trip at the end of last November, I contemplated the reality of actually living in another country for 5 weeks. Now, that reality has taken over and I’m stunned constantly by what Europe teaches me. First, I learned the many horrors of traveling; not only did our flight get cancelled, but also my luggage didn’t make it to Amsterdam when we arrived on our make-up flight. I made peace with the many obstacles that faced me, and decided to push the worries to the back of my mind in order to enjoy the beauty of Holland. Immediately after getting off the train to Amsterdam Central train station I noticed the unbelievable amount of bikes flooding the city. The innate ability for the bikers to silently communicate and navigate passed through my mind as something beyond understanding. America is riddled with traffic, while Amsterdam moves at its own pace without problem.

After checking out the Amsterdam night life, we woke up the next day to travel to Frankfurt. While in Frankfurt, my travelling companions and I met an English man working in Germany. He opened my eyes to how welcoming and hospitable Europeans can be. He invited us to sit with him at the hotel and we rambled for hours about our different cultural differences. The conversation spurred my excitement towards arriving in Strasbourg and discovering more about the new place I would be spending the next 5 weeks.

Finally, the time came to meet up with the rest of the group and take a bus to Strasbourg. Upon arriving to the hotel, I could tell the jet lag was lulling the rest of the students to sleep and my luggage wasn’t there. Fortunately we had a three hour walking tour to look forward to so I snapped out of my stress and anxiety to explore the depths of the city. Strasbourg’s history and beauty put me in a state of awe throughout the entire day. The mix of German and French culture absorbs itself into every structure, restaurant, and person to form Alsace.

The last 5 days in Strasbourg have felt like an eternity. I’ve felt welcomed by everyone on the trip and made friends I feel I’ve known for a lifetime. If 5 days in this culture rich city can present such an outrageously entertaining lifestyle, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip has to offer.

Categories: 2018 Trip

Bonjour!

After a ten-hour flight we finally landed in Frankfurt, Germany to start our first day in Europe. We got our luggage and started on our bus journey through Germany to our new home for five weeks; Strasbourg, France. During the bus ride I watched outside, trying to get a grasp on how Europe differed from Texas, but all I saw were similarities. How the fields were set up, with trees and brush surrounding them were so similar that it seemed like I was just taking the drive up to College Station from my hometown (after a nice rainstorm of course). After arriving in Strasbourg and dropping off our bags we got our first look of the town, with a walking tour. I kept thinking of how much it looked like Disney World, and I know what you are thinking Disney World really? But the buildings were tall with elaborate architecture, balcony’s, and flowers, with narrow streets that were only made for people to walk on. It was very picturesque and what you expected to see in a foreign country, in a city that has existed for hundreds of years. As we walked though I realized that the city not only held this antique/historical architecture, but was very modern, with many squares holding modern art pieces, like a carousal. When researching Strasbourg, I read about Petite France, Notre Dame de Strasbourg, and the amazing food here, but I never read about the political scene in Strasbourg.

Within the first few hours of walking around the town we ran into a protest on the streets of the city, with police in riot gear. The protest was against Macron, the French president and while I knew he was not in favor with the people, I did not expect to see as many people protesting, with such strong views. While continuing our tour, there was commotion at the protest site, and military running towards the protest with machine guns. During the first two days I had seen sixteen military men with machine guns roaming the city. This surprised me the most because nowhere I had read about political unrest in Strasbourg let alone military walking the city, yet there they were, with only our group being surprised to see them. I later learned that they have walked the streets since 2015 as a precaution to prevent attacks on the city.
Not knowing the language was a worry when arriving in France, and while I had tried to learn some I did not know enough to feel comfortable communicating with locals. Many of them were extremely helpful though and if they did not know English themselves both of us tried to understand each other and there was never a point that I felt silenced with no way of communicating with the locals. As the days have passed more and more words have come back to me and while it may take a second to figure out what something says, I am able to make it here, being an American that knows little French.

One thing that I was not expecting to see in the city was the mix of culture, while I knew it was a French/German town, I had not expected to see people from India, Turkey, and other countries. The diversity of the town shows with everything the town has to offer, from its food to the decorations and the architecture. So while I do not have air-condition and do not speak the language, I have begun to love a town named Strasbourg.

Categories: 2018 Trip

Since arriving in Europe, there is definitely a culture shock that needed to be overcome. Since I have arrived in Europe in Amsterdam and spending a few days there before coming to meet the group in Frankfurt, I have definitely seen the differences in culture and impressions.

The stereotype of obese Americans is a reality, as I went to buy some clothing in Amsterdam and in France, there sizing is radically different. I typically purchase a medium in polos, but in Amsterdam I had to get an Extra Large and that brought to my mind that I really do need to start being aware of what I am eating and it is so much easier in Europe to eat much healthier as I have seen that fast food is typically more expensive than their healthier competitions. There is a lot of more daily exercise in an average Europeans day, as their cities are more pedestrian friendly and public transit is more practical and accessible, unlike American public transit.

Growing up in a home that spoke multiple languages on a daily basis, it is great to have real-world practice and application of my French that I spent studying for quite some time, but have lacked to practice since I have not been home as much. The first day in France was for sure different than my first day in Amsterdam as they did not speak English immediately, but as get the French back ordering food and interacting with locals it is great! Don’t be discouraged as if you try to speak their languages they will help and be more sympathetic as well! I cannot believe how close the group has gotten in the last 4 days and I am excited to see what the rest of this month has to hold for the 25 of us on the trip.

Categories: 2018 Trip

What a culture shock it has been from the day we arrived to only a few days following. I have never had the opportunity to travel Europe let alone live here for five weeks. So as most Americans would I armed myself with all of the tips, tricks, and insider information that I could find on the internet but I knew not even that could prepare me for the lifestyle change. The first thing that took my by surprise was the ability to travel between countries without any realization. In the U.S, if you travel into or out of Texas in a vehicle most could tell you the moment you cross the state border even if they were blindfolded just by the feel of the road. There is a dramatic state border welcome center with a HUGE(as it should be) Texas flag. However, from France to Germany I don’t even know if there was a city limits sign. The cars seem to be majority BMW and Mercedes which in America are recognized as luxury foreign cars but here they are just casual local made cars that everyone owns.

After exiting the bus the weather was a little warmer than I thought it might have been but it was hard to think about weather with the beautiful and historic buildings that surrounded us. The past few days have been a complete change in lifestyle. I can walk 100 yards from my hotel and be in city center and walking distance to everything I need or want to do in a city of 265,000 people. The grocery store, the Cathedral, the market, where I am sleeping every night, and every restaurant in between are closer than my TAMU class buildings and I don’t think that is an exaggeration. The people in this city seem live such a fast pace lifestyle and definitely don’t let anything get in their way, figuratively and literally speaking.

I can’t forget about the abundance of restaurants that are tucked in and out of every nook and cranny of the city. Even with the extremely difficult language barrier that I would expect, the restaurant workers seem to be speaking almost three languages each which is a needle in a haystack in America. This city has an incredible way of bring all of us Aggies together even if it is due to the isolation of our language in a different country. It will be very tough adapting to life on another continent where everyday is a completely new experience but if in four days I have had the time of my life I can’t wait to see what the rest of this trip entails.

Categories: 2018 Trip

I finally understand why Americans are so fat. Being here for less than a week and the culture and relationship Europeans have with food is what has stood out the most for me. Almost everything here seems to be especially fresh and made with great care. When we have eaten out our meals are especially long and I have noticed it is because the French don’t view meals as a way to stuff themselves, but instead as a way to get together with friends and family with food and a little wine bringing them closer. I noticed a family that was sitting next to us at a restaurant that was there when we walked in and were still sitting there chatting away when we walked out almost 2 hours later. The French do not seem to concern themselves too much with time, which is completely opposite from the U.S. where everyone is always multitasking and doing something and there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day. The French move at a much more leisurely pace of life and when you are around it, it just seems to make you a little more calm.

Another thing that has stood out to me is how European towns are designed for walking and while most cities and transportation systems in the U.S are tailor made for cars, cities in Europe seem designed for people first. The first day my body was not used to all the walking and my legs were sore but the town was so beautiful and made up for it,  I can really see how the French Quarter in New Orleans has taken after these French cities, they are very similar from their long alleys to the vertical structure of the buildings, where you have shops and restaurants on the ground floor and hotels and apartments in the floors above. All in all, this city is great and I can’t wait to spend the next 5 weeks here exploring it while also going to other cities across Europe to see how they compare to here and also how different they all are to U.S. cities. I’m sure I will discover much more but for now I’m just absorbing it all and maybe losing a little weight along the way.

Categories: 2018 Trip