Hello, my name is Megan Konvicka and I am a Management Information Systems junior studying abroad in Strasbourg, France for Spring 2023. I chose this exchange program because of its central location, established international program, the moderate city size, and I wanted to get to know the French culture more. My goal in this program is to immerse myself in the French culture, travel to nearby countries when possible, and meet new people from all over the world. I have not really been in Europe before, so travel is high on my priority list and I came into this study exchange prepared to see a lot of differences in the cultures here. This blog is representative of my first month of being in Strasbourg
City: Strasbourg is such a pretty town! The architcture is a beautiful French and German blend and walking the streets of cobblestone is both peaceful and lively. Strasbourg is the second biggest student city in France (Paris being the first) so the environment is super friendly and I have seen students everywhere. Everyone I have met so far has been super nice and I have felt safe walking around town. I love how Strasbourg is the perfect size town: big enough to have things to do but small enough to feel homey and manageable. The tram system is extensive, but easy to understand (make sure to go to the CTS store to get a monthly student tram pass because it makes it so easy to travel the city freely). The first two weeks, I was nervous to ride the public transportation alone, but the tram really is quite safe, and so now I use it alone! The weather here is super cloudy (consider bringing or buying Vitamin D pills to compensate for the lack of Texas sun!) and I believe the weather doesn’t hit 50 degrees Fahrenheit until the end of March, so make sure to pack clothes to bundle up correctly (and bring Vitamin C or other medicine in case you get sick). In terms of food, I’d say the food here is quite bland compared to the United States… and there is nothing spicy! Even the French grocery stores don’t have crushed red pepper and I have searched many, many locations. Additionally, ethnic food is not very flavorful unfortunately so if you love spice, I highly recommend you cook it. I have found that French grocery stores in town are typically small and have limited selections. I take a short tram ride to the neighboring town of Kehl, Germany for groceries at EDEKA and they have a super wide selection of products (including spices and international products), typically at cheaper prices than in France. Make sure to bring your own reusable tote bag to carry your groceries because disposable bags cost money! What can’t be beat in French grocery stores though is their Wine and Cheese selection. The Alsace region Strasbourg is in is known for their white wine and stinky cheeses; I’ve loved trying so many of the different types.
School: At EM Strasbourg, the classes are structured in time blocks of three hours, and the schedule is completely up to the professor. Some classes start your first week of being in France, some start at the end of February! This ambiguity in scheduling means that every week is different… but also, it means that you might not have classes on Mondays or Fridays, giving you long weekends for travel. The first two weeks of being in Strasbourg, I only had one class period. One. So it felt like I was still on Winter Break. Don’t let the three hour time blocks intimidate you… the professors like to give a 15 minute coffee break halfway through! The building of EM Strasbourg is quite modern; each classroom has wonderful large windows and it’s relatively easy to navigate. Also – I cracked up when I found out that there are TWO student bars inside the Business School! You can go and order yourself a drink in between classes and can always find a group of students hanging out there. I was also surprised to see that most of the University Apartments are at least a 15 minute tram ride from the business school; the tram ride is not bad at all and when the weather warms up, I plan to walk to school! The international program at EM scheduled a couple of events in the beginning of the year to introduce us to French culture, which I appreciated. However, there are two international programs at EM (RUN BY STUDENTS) that do an AMAZING job at creating special, organized events for international students. Please go to these events (most of them are free!), as this is the one place, outside of class, where I have met other international students. The names of the student organizations are Bureau de l’International (BDI) and ESN Strasbourg. I have not really met any student yet who full-time goes to EM Strasbourg, I hope that in the future months, I will be able to mingle with the French students. I have noticed I tend to hang out with my fellow Aggies because it’s a touch of home and familiarity, but I’ve been reminding myself to reach out to other international students to hang out as well, since getting to know new people and cultures is a really special part of studying abroad.
Travel: The three hour class periods have allowed for me to schedule in a lot of travel! So far, I’ve traveled pretty equally by train and bus, and more rarely by plane. I know that there are a lot of strikes in France so I’m interested to see how that affects the public transportation. It’s important to check strike schedules to make sure you don’t travel on these days and get stuck somewhere! I spend most of my free time planning trips, typically up to three weeks ahread. Everywhere in Europe is still really cold, it being January, so a lot of locations have few tourists (and little greenery lol). One month into the study exchange and I’ve already gotten sick three times – mostly because of not bundling up correctly and not prioritizing my health while traveling. I’ve learned my lesson! It’s interesting to see other people make travel plans because you quickly learn that everyone likes to travel a little bit differently, whether it be budgets, time spent in one location, or the activities done in the location. Learning how YOU like to travel is part of the experience; try to travel with people who have the same preferences as you! I love how accessible reaching other countries is; I hope I won’t forget to explore the Alsace region around Strasbourg during my time here too (because again, Strasbourg and the cities around it are SO BEAUTIFUL)!
I cannot wait to continue my journey on this semester exchange. I miss my family, friends, and being back home, but admittedly right now, my excitement of being here in Europe and in new environments dilutes that feeling of missing home. I need to remember to call my family more often. I wonder when Strasbourg will start feeling like “home base.” Watch out for my blog later this semester 😉