Bonjour! My name is Carson Turner, and I am currently an exchange student at EM Strasbourg business school, in France, for two semesters. As for a quick description of Strasbourg, it is a city that could truly be called a city of many tongues. Walking around city quarters such as Petite France or the around the grand Notre Dame cathedral in the Coeur de Strasbourg, the building which was once the tallest in the world, it would not be unusual to hear French, English, German, and other languages all being spoken in the span of about five minutes. Strasbourg, being situated on the border of France and Germany, has been influenced greatly by the two cultures. It is also the site of the European Parliament which represents twenty-seven different member countries, and twenty-four separate languages. This cultural diversity makes Strasbourg an exceptionally fascinating place to take part in an international exchange.
The placement of the city in the center of Western Europe, and its history make it an attractive place for international students from around the world to study as it is known for being a prominent place in the scene of international politics and business. In my brief time here I have encountered students from Hungary, Germany, Ukraine, Spain, Argentina, South Africa, Mexico, China, South Korea, and of course France itself. Each of these students has had a different perspective on the world and their studies, which have really broadened my cultural horizons.
My time in France has also grown and challenged me as an individual. I’ve had to push myself to operate in an environment where my native language is not the primary means of communication. Not only has this greatly improved my understanding of the French language itself, but It has also brought me much humility, knowing that I am truly at the mercy of the patience of others. This, perhaps, will be the truly beneficial part of my exchange. When you are in your home country, you have a sense of control. You know the ways of the land, the language, and customs. You have social contacts and understand the little things that ensure you are able to get by without too much difficulty. However, on an exchange, you lose many of these things, and while the receiving University does much to ensure you are in a good position to acclimate to your new environment, it is ultimately up to you to push yourself into integrating with it.
My experience so far in Strasbourg has been an incredible one. I’ve seen beautiful sights, and tread on streets that people 500 years my senior carried on their daily affairs. I’ve met people that are completely foreign from my traditional circle of potential encounters, and I’ve had to humble myself to adapt to the local culture. While my stay is far from over, I’ve already grown much as a person and am thoroughly grateful for the experience in which I am undergoing. For anyone who is considering going on an exchange or even a longer exchange such as myself, I would very much challenge them to take that step and fully commit to it. Don’t just stick to what you know, but step out into where you are not comfortable. Spend time around locals and people from different nationalities. Make an attempt to learn at least the basics of the regional language of communication. As the French say Prendre votre courage à deux mains, you will be surprised how much you grow when you no longer have guard rails to hang to.
Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange