It is officially the first week of classes for the exchange students at EM Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France. Although it may be a few weeks later than Texas A&M, it certainly feels like I have already learned a semester’s worth of cultural and historical knowledge.
This semester, I am studying abroad in France in an effort to become closer to fluent in French, travel, and learn more about European history. Three other Aggies are doing the same program with me so we decided to room together. Though we did not know each other before, it has been a grounding and helpful way to have a familiar community amidst a lot of chaos. One of my roommates and I decided to arrive two weeks early in order to travel. We timed our flights to arrive in Paris at similar times in order to take the train to Strasbourg together. Let’s just say that was a good idea because lifting a semester’s worth of luggage onto a train is something I never want to do alone. It was blatantly clear from those moments running through the airport and arriving at the train station that everything was different here.
We settled into our apartment and left the next day for Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. In those first two days, I felt a bit of culture shock and homesickness. Though I expected most changes, it was little things like not knowing what to buy at the grocery store, cleaning a leftover mess in our apartment, and trying to navigate around the city that left me feeling overwhelmed. We had still not been introduced to the students or anyone else in Strasbourg. It really felt like all I had was my roommate! Luckily, our trip was a lovely experience that really got me accustomed to European norms through immersion. This is why travel is something I highly recommend — in addition to bringing my roommate and me closer!
Upon return to Strasbourg, international student programs and school information started to pick. We started to meet friends and quickly find our way around the city. It was like everyone was back to freshman year trying to make friends — this time with better food! The people in Strasbourg have been very welcoming, as is typical of Alsacean people.
After a confusing week of orientation, classes began. There was a distinct feeling of lack of organization and communication about the exchange program from many of the international students we spoke to. However, when classes started, the professors were great and excited. An especially cool opportunity of the school is the sports programs that they offer. We can take classes from Acrobatic Yoga to Rock Climbing virtually for free. These classes have been a great opportunity to get outside of the international student bubble and immerse ourselves in more French. I look forward to continuing to do this as well as joining some student clubs. Otherwise, it can be very easy to remain in the English-speaking international student bubble.
I cannot wait to see what more Strasbourg has in store! From the medieval streets to the vintage stores and fresh bakeries, there is plenty to explore.
Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange