It’s been about 3 weeks since I’ve left Strasbourg and I cannot even put it into words how much I miss my beautiful city.
I miss my breathtaking cathedral, I miss the rivers around the city, I miss strolling around all of the wonderful parks, I miss the abundance of food and WINE, I miss the Christmas markets!!, I miss being around crowds of people at the Christmas markets, I miss being outdoors all the time and watching people ride their bikes everywhere, I miss the sustainable attitude that the French people integrate into their everyday lives, I miss all of the languages I grew accustomed to listening to everyday (even though I didn’t understand a word of any of it), I miss the freedom and independence I felt from living on my own in EUROPE of all places, but most importantly… I miss my friends.
I miss my friends so incredibly much. They became a part of my daily routine and I felt as though I was going to see them everyday for years to come, so it feels so strange now that we’re all worlds away again. But, of course, this doesn’t change the fact that we are all a part of each other’s lives one way or another and I now have friendships with some of the most amazing people I have ever had the honor of knowing. The people I surrounded myself with, people from all over the world whom I didn’t even know existed until about 4 months ago, they are what I fell in love with the most about this beautiful city of ours. I mean, we all fell in love with our city together. But my friends and the memories we all share are what make Strasbourg home. And I thank my lucky stars everyday that I got the once in a lifetime opportunity to become friends with all of these uniquely incredible people.
But enough with the sappy stuff. I do have to give a bit of a recap of my two weeks in December that I spent in Strasbourg:
• Classes/exams ended for me on December 7th. I got lucky because I only had one final exam (all of the rest of my classes ended before that in mid/late November or early December and they only required a final group project presentation). So, anyone who asked me “How many finals do you have?” or “When are you done with finals?” wasn’t very happy for me and my lucky streak… (*insert nervous/soft smile emoji here). I’m pretty sure I failed that one exam (I wasn’t too keen on studying for it, but if I had it would’ve been a piece of cake) but I had done well in the rest of the class and I only had to pass each course soooooo, eh I wasn’t too bothered. After Dec. 7th, I had one week left in Strasbourg so I decided to fill my last week with as much fun, friendship time, and Strasbourg-y things as possible!
• I visited local museums, went on a boat tour, and went to parts of Strasbourg I still hadn’t been to because I didn’t do as much of the touristy things as I should have when I first arrived!! Better late than never I guess!!!!!
• Christmas Market season was in full swing!! Since Strasbourg’s Christmas Market, or Marche de Noel, is the original and biggest in Europe, I enjoyed it for as long as I possibly could. My friends and I would stay there around the cathedral for hours on end! My favorite thing to do was walk around and see everything each little hut/stand had to offer. After going through security and getting our bags checked (they took extra security measures because of all the terrorist attacks/threats in France recently), my friends and I would walk around and get mulled wine (aka gluhwhein in German, vin chaude in French) and crepes as we passed by each stand with all of their cool candle holders, Christmas presents and decorations, knick knacks, trinkets, food, drinks, chocolates, souvenirs, and any other thing they had to purchase! There would be street performers and carolers entertaining crowds of people and we would all dance or sing along to whatever song they’d be treating us to. We would stop several times to get more food and have our cups refilled with vin chaude (oh how I miss being able to legally drink) and indulge ourselves with more of the smells, sights, and sounds that the Marche de Noel merrily provided for us. It truly felt like Christmas there, and I have never been happier.

I never wanted to leave.

After my two weeks in Strasbourg, I ended up traveling around the UK for a week before finally touching down in Texas on Dec. 23rd. Now, don’t get me wrong, as much as I wanted to see my friends, family, and my pup here, I D R E A D E D leaving Strasbourg, and Europe in general. I got here and it didn’t feel like Christmas anymore. Yes, I got to be with my family so that felt wonderful, but it was 80 degrees here!!!!!! I WAS SWEATING SO MUCH. The holidays should not be the time to sweat and wear shorts outside. But, alas, as much as it seemed like such a dramatic change being back home, I honestly felt like I never left. Everything felt the same. I remember in one of our departure meetings that “reverse culture shock” is something that some people have experienced after studying abroad, but not me. To be fair, two or three things had me floored and reminded me of “how America is”, but nothing surprised me too much, it all just felt normal. So now looking back, it’s so crazy to think that I was actually gone for 4 whole months living a whole different life. Like, the memories and experiences are there in my head, but when I’m the only one here to remember or recall them, it feels as though no time has passed at all. It’s a very surreal thought/feeling. But, even though I’m the only person here in Texas remembering everything, I still have my friends who are now all scattered across the globe to remember them with me with just a text, phone call, or video call away. I’ve kept in touch with my best friend/long lost Scottish twin Laura every day since I left Strasbourg, even visiting her in Scotland before coming back to the U.S. 🙂 And since being back in TX, we haven’t gone a day without talking and have already FaceTimed multiple times. 🙂 🙂

Looking back on everything, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world. Through all of the ups and the downs, the home sickness and the adventures, the confusion and the certainty, the heartache and the overwhelming happiness, I have found more of myself in these short months than in all of my adolescent/adult years so far put together. I am still at a loss for words to describe just how much I’ve cherished this experience and will continue cherishing it for the rest of my life. I miss Strasbourg and the people I met there so much. And if I had the chance to do it all over again, I would and I would not change a single thing. I have no regrets. And although everyone has their own experience, I CANNOT RECOMMEND STUDYING ABROAD ENOUGH. Even for just a week, or two, or six, or a semester, or a year! This has been the most challenging, eye-opening, and life changing experience of my life.

I truly won the lottery on this one.

– Carmen Pilarte
For any questions about my time abroad, Strasbourg, or studying abroad in general:
FB: Carmen Carolina Pilarte

P.S. Y’all know how I love lists, so to give an idea on how my travels went (especially since my parents told me I had to earn my traveling money myself and therefore I was on a VERY limited budget), here’s a quick overview on all of the villages/cities I traveled to in 6 different countries in Europe on a $1400 budget (it requires some sacrifices, but it’s definitely possible!!!):
• Strasbourg, France
• Kehl, Germany
• France – Obernai, Barr, Ribeauville, Colmar (Wine Route of Alsace)
• Switzerland – Zurich, Luzern, Iseltwald, Isenfluh, Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen Valley, Montreaux, Shillon, Etoy, Lausanne, Nyon, Geneva, Bern (Switzerland Roadtrip)
• Munich, Germany (Oktoberfest)
• Eguisheim, France
• Paris, France
• Vienna, Austria
• Basel, Switzerland
• Amsterdam, The Netherlands
• United Kingdom
o England – London, Four Marks, Alresford, Winchester, Leavesden, Alton
o Scotland – Edinburgh, Dunfermline, Rosslyn, Stirling, Loch Venachan, Falkirk, South Queensferry, Anstruther, St. Andrews

Thank you for reading my blogs and sharing this experience with me! And if you plan on studying abroad, I sincerely hope these blogs helped! 🙂