Christina Boyes, April 13th, 2020
Doing my reciprocal exchange in Strasbourg, France was an experience that I will forever cherish. This was probably my only chance to really get to travel the world on my own while simultaneously getting college credit. I made friends with people from all over the world from countries like Hungary, Germany, Slovenia, Australia, Canada, and that’s not something everyone gets to take out of their college experience. I will always remember the memories that I have with these people traveling to amazing places all over France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Czech Republic, and Austria.
Reflecting on my entire experience, though unfortunately it was cut short, I can say I learned so much about French culture and Europe as a whole. Strasbourg was overall a great international program, bringing all of the international students together in certain events as well as ensuring that we received our classes and credits. The school system was a bit unorganized compared to TAMU, but that was a common theme that we discovered throughout Europe. The expectations for undergrad classes were much lower than TAMU, but that allowed us to be able to travel and experience life in France freely without a lot of stress for academics.
Since Strasbourg was so close to the German border, I got to learn about German and French culture. Even the sheer differences between these two countries was crazy, from restaurant etiquette to language barriers. Since most of my time was spent during the week exploring around Strasbourg, visiting the old town and admiring cathedrals, enjoying a baguette and a glass of wine, taking day trips to other German cities was easy and enjoyable to change it up on the weekends. The fashion industry was impressive in France, shopping the different brands was fun to do as well. I ended up buying a nice winter coat from Zara, a huge European brand. Walking through Petite France, one could always enjoy live music being performed by local street artists playing a violin or saxophone, as well as a 50 cent baguette and 2 euro bottle of wine.
I lived in a tiny apartment close to the city center, and other students lived in dorms in Strasbourg. Living standards were quite minimal, but it was manageable for the time I spent there. Since you end up traveling so often, you don’t quite mind living in a smaller space while you’re in town. Also, the amount of studying was minimal, so there were no worries about trying to study too much while at home.
Your reciprocal exchange is what you make of it; it requires a lot of effort but, even though my exchange was cut short, it was definitely worth it. I had to get out of my comfort zone to learn French, take public transportation, plan trips efficiently, and most importantly—to make new friends. It’s hard at first, but you can’t be shy, especially if you’re going into this exchange alone with no friends. Be yourself, be outgoing, go up to people and start talking to them. Eventually, you will find the right group of people who you enjoy traveling, partying, and learning with. France is definitely not the easiest place to do exchange—the culture is so different from the US and there are often negative views toward Americans. As long as you are ready for this, and ready to embrace the culture differences, you will love your time in France. Strasbourg was very central in Europe, and this allowed easy travel to other countries which satisfied with my desire to explore Europe.