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

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