Hello again from Strasbourg, France! It is completely impossible to grasp that I have already been in France for two and a half months! I swear the month of February literally went by in the blink of an eye! They weren’t lying at the beginning when they said to make the most of each moment while you are here because before you know it you will be heading back home!
February and the beginning of March have been more low key months in comparison to the January. In January I was constantly trying to figure things out such as the public transportation, where to buy food, how to pay all my student fees, I was running around like crazy. But with time all of those stressful tasks have become daily mundane tasks that I complete without even thinking about. Classes have been very steady. I go to about 3-4 classes each week. The difference with school here though is that so far all we really have to do is go to class and take notes. There are no quizzes, no homework, they barely even take attendance. It makes it difficult to actually do work when it is needed. EM Strasbourg focuses a lot on group projects I have had 2 so far and have 2 more this month. As frustrating as they can be, you do learn a lot, especially working with other Erasmus students from all over the world. I did have a few “mid-terms” at the end of February and those were also frustrating because the teachers here are very vague on what will be on the exams and barely even tell you how it is formatted (essay/multiple choice etc) so it makes it very difficult to know what to study. I am personally not impressed with the business school and really miss the quality and efficiency of Mays Business School back home. Last week we found out the offices completely messed up the dates of final exams and scheduled them during the week we were told was Spring Break, you can imagine the panic as we had all already made travelling plans.
Towards the end of February we got a week off of school for “winter break” and our group of merged Americans took a trip to Portugal and Spain. We flew to Porto, took a car to Lisbon, flew to Barcelona, flew to Paris, took a train back to Strasbourg. If I can give any advice it is to NOT go to so many different places in just one week’s time. We were all absolutely exhausted by the end of this trip and the travelling costs really did add up. Nonetheless, I did enjoy this trip very much! My favorite place was Portugal! Porto was such a cute small town where we were able to do a river cruise, shop the local flea markets and enjoy a pub crawl with the hostel we were staying in. Lisbon was absolutely beautiful! We went to visit a historic castle at the top of the city right around sunset and the view was breath taking! We also had a VERY good hostel here (Lost Inn Lisbon) for only 10 euros a night! Can’t beat that! Barcelona was personally my least favorite part of this trip. I think it is because of the part of town we were staying in as well as our horrible hostel. Note to self: don’t choose the 222 bed mixed gender room. The culture of Barcelona is VERY different! If you are walking up and down the main street during lunch time the restaurants will have a person out front who will literally block your path trying to convince you to eat there. I wasn’t even hungry, so this became very annoying. Our hostel was apparently much more of a party hostel… the main floor turned into its own club around 10 pm but here is the real kicker… people did not LEAVE to go out to the clubs until 2 am! They returned about 7 am. Given that Barcelona was at the end of the trip a few of us were exhausted and just wanted to stay and sleep, which was nearly impossible due to the odd hours of their nightlife. All in all, a very big learning experience. Barcelona had some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my life and the Sagrada Familia is a MUST SEE!
I would be lying if I said that at this point in my time abroad (months 2 and 3) that I have not been homesick. The beginning of this experience is such a stressful and hard period that you tend to wonder if things will ever get better. For me there were just so many things I was unaware of and people who never knew the answers to my questions. As time passes and you learn your town and the culture you will be spending the next few months in, IT DOES GET EASIER! There are several things that I miss back home and didn’t even realize I would. Such as: free refills, service in a restaurant, the Texas heat, a normal sized affordable cup of coffee, the convenience of having a TV, internet/wifi/texting everywhere I go. There are several more differences that I come across often but I have to remind myself “It’s just their culture Kelsey”. I am thankful to have skype and social media to keep in contact with my friends and family, but I have also found that talking with people back home can cure and cause homesickness. Be careful with how often you reach out to the states, it is easy to find yourself so wrapped up with the happenings there that you miss out on what is happening right in front of you in your new home country. I love when my friends reach out and tell me how much they miss me, but it also makes me wish I was there and not here so easily. Keep in mind you are abroad for a reason and that they will all be waiting for you when you get back, don’t rush the return.
Sorry for such a long post! There is just so much to share! It is currently the middle of March and I am trying my best to write a paper and work on two group projects ahead of time because the next three weekends I will be travelling! Paris, Amsterdam, and Southern France. Before coming abroad I thought I would get to see 2 or 3 countries, well it is looking like my final number will be 7! The travelling is the best part, so save your pennies to make it happen like I did!
Until next time!