March 3, 2015

So I’ve been here in Germany for a little over two months now, whoop!  It didn’t take very long for me to begin calling this tiny town in Deutschland my home.

Getting here, however, was quite a struggle because I brought WAY too much stuff. Note to future exchange students: while there will be differences in the products and they may not have exactly what you prefer, you can buy most necessities once you get here! This includes clothes and toiletries etc. so don’t try to stuff your life into two large suitcases like I did…

I arrived at Frankfurt airport burdened with stuff but thankfully met up with another Aggie so we could travel together the rest of the way. After about two hours of lugging everything across the region by train and bus, we were finally standing by a grocery store in Vallendar.  Here is a view of our little town of Vallendar from a bridge on the Rhein, on one of the few clear-sky moments:


My first impressions of the Rheinland were very positive.  Everything is so lovely and rich with history. Castles dot the hills along the river and the villages and towns are bright with colorful homes. Beautiful cobblestone streets and decorative architecture make it easier to forget this cold, wet, wintery weather.

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And we were off to a quick start! I arrived January 2 and we began classes the next week. First, we had our exchange welcome event where we spent the day doing not-so-fun administrative stuff like registering for classes, applying for a residence permit and learning the rules/common courtesies for our housing arrangements. And then classes and various events that allowed us to integrate better into our little community. [more details about classes in the next blog]


A few observations:

–   Business hours are so limited as compared to the U.S. Not only the fact that nothing is open on Sundays (even grocery stores) but that shops and supermarkets close so early on every other day of the week. If I get the munchies at 10pm and forgot to go shopping that day, I’m out of luck. So it took some time to get used to planning out my food options ahead of time.

–   Everyone speaks English so well (or at least all the students do). It can be difficult for me because I wanted to practice speaking German but many students prefer to use English when speaking with us Tauschies (nickname for exchange students J ).

–   Transportation: I really like that everything is relatively close. Despite living in this tiny little town on the Rhein, I can just hop the bus to Koblenz (which is still pretty small!) for shopping and nightlife etc.  Of course, the transportation costs begin to add up so getting a Banh card is worth it. As a native Texan, I am accustomed to traveling 6+ hours to visit family or go to the beach. Seeing as Germany is actually about half the size of Texas, everything is within reach. Even traveling to another country seems easy and convenient! So far I’ve been to Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain and various cities within the country such as Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Cologne, and other smaller towns along the Rhein.


Homesickness and Making Friends:

That first week was a roller coaster of emotions! I went from being completely amazed and excited about being in Europe, to being depressed about the differences in culture and missing my friends and family. I think the key to adjusting quickly is finding a group of people with which to hang out and talk about it with!

Honestly, it took me a good two weeks to really figure out how to integrate myself here. Because I live farther away from campus than many other Tauschies, and I do not have a roommate, it was harder to make friends. Going to the exchange events that first week really allowed me to meet people and discover common points of interest. We went on a pub crawl, did a sort of activity-scavenger hunt in Koblenz, and went on a tour of the Rheinland region. These events were so much fun and also allowed me to make friends with native Germans!


Best highlight so far:

I have the chance to interact with other exchange students! I have already learned so much about different countries, languages and cultures from around the world and formed some wonderful friendships. The different worldviews that I have discovered are truly amazing and I cannot wait to continue growing and learning from my universal peers.

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

February in Strasbourg only made me appreciate my time abroad more. I was able to continue traveling, meet even more people and continue exploring the city.

By now I have gotten used to the culture differences. I don’t plan on going out to eat on Sundays or buying groceries then, because nothing is open. No service in restaurants is now just a part of life. And I have learned to not even bother emailing any professor or school administrator, it will take weeks to get a response (if I even get one). The French do not seem to understand a sense of urgency unless you are speaking to them in person.

Classes are still pretty much the same, meaning I only go 3-4 times a week for a couple hours a day. However my assignment deadlines are rapidly approaching. I have two 15 page group papers due soon and one big presentation coming up. I have to make a conscious effort to stay on top of my work, because I am constantly traveling on the weekends (not a bad thing of course!). It is hard to remember that I am in school when I don’t have weekly quizzes or tests every month. Although I do like the group projects here, as it gives me a chance to get to know my classmates from other countries better, I feel like the way A&M does the grading system proves to work better in terms of learning. I feel like most of the learning I do here is out of the classroom, which is also not a bad thing just different!

During our winter holiday, I took a trip to Portugal and Spain with 6 of my friends. The weather was beautiful, the wine was amazing and I met some really interesting people on the trip. We went to Porto and Lisbon in Portugal and Seville and Barcelona in Spain. Seville was hands down my favorite! I stayed at a hostel that had family dinners with authentic Spanish food every night and I got to see a flamenco show. Flamenco is a type of dance that began in Spain, and Seville has the only flamenco museum in the world. In March I plan to travel in France more, I want to take advantage and explore the country I am living in.

Time is flying by, and I am going to make the most of the time I have left in Europe.

Categories: 2015, France, Reciprocal Exchange


Alright, I know everyone says this, but I genuinely cannot believe the second month of my study abroad has come to a close. I thought that the first month went slow, but the second one really zoomed by. My first month in France was quite the adjustment, but the second was more about enjoyment and acclimation.

Classes haven’t changed much since my first post in January. Still attending a couple classes a week and the curriculum is a little slower-paced than A&M’s is, which I’m grateful for. I am learning a lot of interesting and different things than I would in the U.S. My wine business classes are by far the most interesting (go figure…). Our class is a melting pot of different cultures and people and they all do presentations on their own countries and the wine business in that particular country; interestingly enough, we end up learning a lot about the country itself from people who live there. Group projects and presentations are a big thing at the EM! Back at A&M, I was used to quizzes and tests and assignments, but here it’s all lecture and group-focused activities.

I also have become more and more happy with living Strasbourg. The weather is slllloooowwwly becoming better. There are more and more sunny days, and occasionally the thermometer will occasionally work its way up to 10 degrees celsius (look it up & get used to celsius). I also really am coming to love the “Petit France” area of Strasbourg. It’s so beautiful and ornate and just so… French! I love that we are just a 10 min bus ride from the German border so that traveling in Germany is incredibly cheap for us. I also find myself loving the French food. Of course, I miss America’s wealth of food choices.

One Friday in February, our grape and wine knowledge class took a field trip to our professor’s vineyards in Ribeauxvillé. It was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen and the trip was so fascinating! We toured the vineyard, went down into the wine cellar, and participated in a wine tasting. Most interesting field trip I have ever taken. Here are a few pictures…

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I’m am so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given to travel. We have traveled every single weekend in February, and I hope to be able to do that in March as well!


-Paris, France. My mom flew over for the first weekend in February (and for my 21st birthday on the 10th). She and a friend stayed in Paris, and that first weekend I went to visit them. Paris was great! It was an even better experience than most students will get because, since I was with my mom, I was eating delicious foods and staying in a beautiful hotel with a view of the Eiffel Tower. For three days, I was eating 3-course meals twice a day in the best French restaurants we could find. It was H E A V E N! I was so spoiled. We also were blessed with fantastic weather which made for perfect outings to the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. After a few days in Paris, my mom followed me back to Strasbourg.


Munich, Germany. Victoria, Courtney and I were itching to go to Germany for the weekend so on Friday we decided to buy a train ticket and explore Munich until late Monday… and MAN was that a great idea! We left Saturday morning and spent the day in Munich shopping and walking around the center of the city. That evening, we visited the world-famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall. We ate good food, drank German beer, and really enjoyed ourselves. The next day we took a tour of the Dachau concentration camp; this was by far the saddest thing I have ever experienced, but I am so glad I did. Dachau was one of the first camps and served as the “brutality model” for the rest to follow. Almost all of the camp is still untouched and original, so we took a guided tour and visited the whole campsite. The sickening feeling of the Holocaust hasn’t left me and I think everyone who visits Munich should see Dachau. We met up with another guy from Erasmus in Strasbourg and met a girl studying in Berlin, so we had a lot of company and fun. The last day in Munich was easily the highlight! We took a train to the spectacular Neuschwanstein Castle and hiked around the castle grounds. Despite the snow that covered the mountains and the castle, the weather was warm and comfortable. The castle was unbelievable and the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen.


Porto and Lisbon, Portugal. Winter break has arrived, and the first half of it was spent in Portugal. A group of 7 of us flew to Porto, spent a few nights there, and then took a bus to Lisbon and spent another few nights there. Portugal is just a beautiful country in general. There was so much Spanish influence in the buildings, food, and culture. Sangria is really big in Portugal and all the girls loved it! In Porto, we spent our Saturday night exploring the (rather late) night life and joined a big pub crawl. It was so cool, however I am definitely not used to the stay-out-until-7am life. In Lisbon, we took a day trip to Sintra and Cabo de Roca. Cabo de Roca is a gorgeous cliff on the Atlantic ocean and the very most western part of Europe. We didn’t get to visit any beaches, but we made up for that in Barcelona. Loved Portugal and would love to go back and stay longer!

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Barcelona, Spain. Some of our group opted to spend an extra day in Lisbon, another part decided to go to southern Spain and visit Seville, but Zach, Courtney, and I decided to go straight to Barcelona and spend the remainder of our winter break there. I wish I could say we spent our 5 days learning a lot about the history of Barcelona or visiting famous museums, but we did not! Courtney and I really enjoyed our time in Barcelona by going to the market daily, visiting the beach on the Mediterranean, hiking up to castles and parks, and eating TONS of good food! The days and nights were more about enjoyment than education. I really loved the warmer weather in Barcelona and, of course, the beach! The nightlife in Barcelona was really fun and a great experience. We spend 3 solid nights out at the famous Barca clubs and I’m still trying to catch up on my sleep… We stayed in the famous “Kabul” hostel, located right on Las Ramblas. What a great way to end February!

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Categories: 2015, France, Reciprocal Exchange

March has been a great month for me in Sweden! Because school is divided into quarters here, I am now finishing up my first 2 classes. School here is so different from A&M in a lot of ways, the main one being the lack of structure here. There are no set class times such as “Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 2:00”. It is more like “how about we just meet next week sometime to finish up this chapter, how does that sound with everybody?”. The 2 classes of my first quarter were “Business Ethics” and “Project Management”. Both of these classes were actually really interesting and consisted almost completely of group projects and papers, no exams.

These classes have really taught me a lot about working on projects with people from all parts of the world, which is definitely going to be useful in my life. I have also learned that I have a huge advantage over other students here for 2 reason. First because I am a native English speaker, so I automatically have a much easier job of writing papers and reading textbooks compared to most of the other students! Second, A&M seems to be more rigorous than other universities here, so I am used to spending a lot more time on school than others. The university itself is located right on the shore of Lake Vattern, the second biggest lake in Sweden, so that campus is really beautiful. Here is a picture below!


The on campus culture is also very much different from A&M. Everyone is really well dressed all the time, and there is even a pub on campus! The university’s student organization also owns a nightclub in the city center which is open for JU students only every Wednesday. After this first quarter is over, I have about 10 days off before I start my next round of classes! I am really settling into the Swedish life now, and I cant wait see what else I will experience here!

Categories: 2015, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden

Today is February 28th, and I have now been in Vienna, Austria for one month. Hopefully my blog will give you a good idea of what to expect in this city and the obstacles many face!

The days leading up to my departure from Houston were by far the most exciting/stressful/busy days I have ever had in my life. After I had filled out my visa paperwork, and stuffed my suitcase, I paid one last visit to Chipotle! I couldn’t believe I was about to spend the next 5 months in The City of Dreams.

When I first arrived in Vienna I was so taken aback by the differences. Austria is not what I excepted, it is much more of a cultural melting pot than I previously thought! My apartment is a modern 4 bedroom unit with a shared kitchen (I have three other roommates). Luckily, It is only a two minute walk to Westbahnof, a large shopping center and train station. From here I am able to quickly access the U3 and U6 subway lines…putting the entire city within reach! I spent much of my first day with major jet lag. I was so stressed with all of paperwork given to me; registration with the city, visa formalities, lease paperwork, etc.IMG_1014

Overall and with everything considered, my first impression of Vienna was positive. First things first, the food here is crazy good. I can’t put into words how amazing walking through a bakery after being on a plane for 9 hours is! The people are definitely not as friendly as Texas, but I expected this so I’m not surprised. A good example of this is at restaurants, where instead of the customer being king, the waiter is in fact the king. Most of the time you will only see a waiter when it is time to order, and pay. This brings me to my next realization: Payment. You would think that in a large European city in 2015 people would mostly pay with card, right? Not really, everyone prefers cash. Cards are almost always accepted, but not without a frown and a sigh from your waitress or cashier. This is going to take some getting used to. 11016729_10153090443429706_2162401011928572789_n

Differences and initial stress aside, I am very excited to explore this area for the next five months. I have already meet some amazing people in my orientation group, as well as done some pretty cool things. Attended a masked ball in Hofburg Palace, Stood on the summit of Der Untersberg in Salzburg, tasted over 200 variations of chocolate at Zotter Chocolate factory, and ate goulash in Bratislava, just to name a few. As this blog continues, I will share how I am adjusting, how classes are once the semester starts, and what I am learning. IMG_1128

Categories: 2015, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange