Howdy! My name is Curt Leland, and I am studying right now in Strasbourg, France! This is my first time in Europe, so moving here seemed pretty dramatic at first. Although it has been amazing to see and learn so much every day and so far, culture shock has only been sprinkled into moments and is not overwhelming.
Firstly, let’s talk about the country as a whole. France is a place that seems to have it all. Mountains, coastline, fields, huge cities, and random lakes all around as well. I am looking forward to exploring the vast differences simply of the landscape of this country. People here are also very proud of who they are and their language. This was something that intimated me at first because I hardly know any French, but I am pleasantly surprised by those who have been helping me along the way. One time I was confused at a grocery market, and the cashier did not speak English but searched around to find someone who did so they could help me. This was a wild experience because, being in Mays business school, I am used to wanting to step up and fill in communication gaps. I had become that gap which was humbling. At the moment, though, most of my experience is still just with the city of Strasbourg.
The city of Strasbourg is unique because of its location. It is so close to the border of Germany that our public transit goes over the border as well. Strasbourg has been in German and French territory multiple times over its history, so the building and culture are a mesh of both. The region this city is in even has its own dialect, a mix of French and German. I have loved this because the town is beautiful with not only different centuries influence, but also different country’s as well. The city is very busy all over, yet slow at the same time. People are always outside being active, yet somehow resting at the same time. This culture seems to define work-life balance vastly different than the United States, and I am thrilled to submerge myself and learn the same hopefully. Also, kids are everywhere. In college station, I seem to go weeks without seeing a single child, but not here. I love seeing kids being able to walk home from school by themselves or playing around in parks. The city seems to have the same feel as a safer small town which I love. Lastly, about this city, there are hardly any chains or big brands. The streets are filled with local shops and markets to the point where there is no way I could try everything even if I went somewhere different every day. This is nothing like I am used to seeing.
To continue zooming in a little closer, I want to share some of the University of Strasbourg. I am in the Ecole de Management school here, which is their business school. My program is for all foreign exchange students with the common language of English. Our classes are in English as well as socials and informationals. The first week of orientation was confusing and not organized well, but I also think I was viewing things through an American perspective of over communication and preparation. Being able to speak English here is such a blessing. It allows me also a group of students to practice French with who are in a similar language level. I have not started classes yet, but they will only be with foreign exchange students, which is a great opportunity to learn to work with those outside my culture. It does separate me somewhat from the French culture, but for one semester, I am so thankful to be able to be exposed to so many different perspectives.