I have been home for 2 weeks now and I have to say, coming back to America hasn’t been the culture shock I was expecting. For about a day I was eating eveything in sight (hello Tex Mex) and little things felt so new to me after 5 months in Europe. These things include large stores where you can get everything like Walmart, the wealth of food choices and how cheap they all are, and especially coming back to my apartment in College Station, Texas and not Strasbourg, France. But after a couple days, things returned to normal – almost like I’d never left.
I do talk about Europe a lot. I find myself thinking about little things we did in Portugal, or random nights we had in Strasbourg. Of course I have to bug my friends and family about it and tell all my stories.
The weirdest thing is I didn’t really wish I was back in Europe until a couple of days ago. I felt like I spent a good 5 months there and I was ready to be home. What changed was when the summer study abroad students arrived in Strasbourg. I am friends with a few of them on Facebook and all I can think is “hey you’re visiting MY city in MY country!” It’s kind of hard when you see these people go everywhere you went for half a year.
Started my internship on June 1, so that’s been keeping me busy.
Loved you France/Germany/England/Austria/Portugal/Spain/Italy/Monaco/Netherlands/Ireland/Czech Republic/Hungary/Slovakia! See you when I see you.
It’s taken me a long time to sit down and write this. It’s so hard to believe that this semester flew by. I’ve been home for two weeks and I’m still waiting to go back, to pack my backpack and head back to the little dorm I called home for the last 5 months. I suppose the best thing I could do for the readers at this point could be to give you my opinions of the pros and the cons of Oslo. Let’s begin on a good note and start with pros.
Pros: -There are cafes everywhere and the coffee shops and baristas are awesome and the coffee is the best in the world (Really!). -The scenery is amazing and if you are a nature lover it will put you in a hypnotic trance, a state of adoration and comfort here-to-for never experienced. -Everyone is extremely friendly and most people speak English so getting around is quite easy. -Brunost is awesome brown cheese that tastes like cheddar cheese and maple syrup. I prefer the one in the blue package made from goat’s cheese. It is just so awesome so if you are going there please, for me, try some. (It’s great on Vaffels.) -You will meet amazing people from everywhere and learn to drink cheap Danish beer together. -The people in Norway, not so much in Oslo but other places, have the same sense of trust in each other that us Aggies have.
Cons: -SIO housing is AWFUL! If I were to go back I would stay in BSN. They charge you for ridiculous things and its really expensive. I would have fought the charges they put against me if I wasn’t already in TX when I got them. -The prices are outrageous, but that is a given. -There is not a lot of selection for food unless you go to mega stores, and even those don’t have anything on H-E-B. You get used to eating the same 6-7 things over and over again. -Nothing is open on Sundays except a few cafes and those are extremely busy then. -It is really easy to get a little depressed during the winter months when you’re getting maybe hours of sun a day. Make sure you are out in the sun a lot. -The University is completely different from TAMU… it was a little crazy for me to work my way around.
I honestly had a really great experience and can not wait to take my SO and maybe even my children someday. I hope this blog has helped in some way.
p.s. sorry for no picture, I could not find one to do my last days justice….
Well, the time has come to say goodbye. The last months in Strasbourg have been amazing. We went to Nice, France, to Monaco, spent Spring Break partly at the Almafi Coast in Italy, and partly in Ireland. Later, after my finals were finished, I met a friend of mine in Prague and Budapest then ventured to Bratislava, Slovakia for a 2 days alone before I met my parents in Paris and spent family vacation in Paris, Villefranche (a BEAUTIFUL part of southern France), and Lyon. I could go on and on about the beauty of Prague, the excitement and atmosphere that surrounds Budapest, as well as the luxurious vacation we enjoyed in Villefranche, but I’d rather talk about my European experience and why everyone needs to study abroad.
A little over a year ago, I (randomly) thought – hey I should seize the opportunity and study abroad before I graduate. How many other times will I be able to move to the country of my choice and travel to different places on the weekends? Probably never. It’s not exactly feasible to just up and move while you have a full time job or take lengthy vacations. I picked a semester REEP because I thought that I’d enjoy more of an immersion experience as opposed to other Mays study abroad programs which consist of a month traveling from city to city in what seems like a glorified vacation. Well, if this sounds like your type of thinking, a semester is for you. I’ve been to 13 countries, probably around 30 total cities, and done so much in all that time. It’s so funny to me that I decided to study abroad, I did it for 5 months, and now I’m home. It really does go by in the blink of an eye.
So, for my last blog post, I though I’d create a list. So here it is…
8 reasons to study abroad:
1. OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO! (thank you Dr. Seuss) Think about this really quick. I mean really think about it. Travel in Europe is easy, cheap, and quick. You will be able to travel all over – an opportunity and blessing very few people receive. Take me for example: I never thought I’d travel almost every weekend in the 5 months I was in Europe and see so much. It really is amazing when I look back on it! The sky’s the limit… so dream big and set out to see the world!
2. It’s affordable. Really, I’m serious. Mays CIBS gives you a great deal of financial backing for the semester REEP, and I encourage anyone who is interested to at least go speak to a counselor. Save up a little bit of your own money from a summer of working, and make that money stretch. If you want to make it happen – you can.
3. You’ll learn a LOT. And I mean A LOT. Whether or not you’re the type of person who loves to discuss current events, politics, and world affairs (like I am), I still encourage you to bring up these things to people from different countries. No one in the world thinks like Americans do, especially Americans from the south, and you’ll likely find different peoples’ views and thoughts fascinating. Some of the best conversation I’ve ever had was at a famous brewery in Vienna, Austria with a group of Viennese students. I learned a lot about Europe as a whole from them. Hungarian people also are fascinating to talk to, as they have been through a lot and have a lot to say. I don’t care if people discourage you from bringing up certain topics, do it carefully and with an open mind, and you’ll find your best conversation will come from people who have strong opinions.
4. You pick up some of the language.* While you may not know have any prior experience with the language (ahem, almost all the girls I went to Strasbourg with along with me), you have a fun time attempting to navigate through the country and, trust me, English will get you by. Also, I’ve picked up on a good amount of French! I can now add ‘knows a little bit of French’ to my resume. (Let’s just hope the interviewer doesn’t know any.)
* And for those of yall that have some familiarity with a foreign language already, you will leave your country speaking better than you ever thought possible.
5. Your sense of appreciation reaches a record-high. This is a big one. Being able to study abroad already puts you in the top .00000000001% of people on this planet who are able to do so. Also, some countries more than others have a higher percentage of poverty and if it takes bussing through the outskirts of Naples, Italy to see it, then so be it. I can safely say I feel SO STINKING BLESSED to be able to see and do all that I’ve done. And on a lighter note, you will miss American food and feel more appreciative about the wealth of choices we can select from in the states. Appreciation for everything, even the smallest things, goes up when you spend so much time in Europe.
6. You become independent – ACTUALLY independent. Not ‘I moved out of my parents place and I can pay my cellphone bill’-independent. More like ‘I can show up in a new country, know nothing, and emerge with 43 new friends I met last night and now know the city like the back of my hand’-independent. I remember at the beginning of the year I met people who were traveling around Europe alone and I though, “WOW I so cannot do that, ever. Think of how dangerous that would be and how lonely I’d be!” Well, I took on Budapest alone for 5 days after my travel-buddy returned home, and I navigated through Bratislava alone as well. If I can conquer eastern Europe unscathed, I can do anything. But really, traveling alone allows you to meet so many more people and be open to little things such as grabbing dinner with someone you met 5 minutes ago. Just be aware and careful and trust your gut and you’ll be fine.
7. Your career options are enhanced and recruiters/interviewers will be fascinated by your choice to study abroad for such a lengthy time. Seriously, I’ve had 4 phone interviews while in Europe and the first fifteen minutes consisted of me describing my experiences and why I’m calling from Prague… yadda yadda yadda. Think about your future interviews and all the examples and experiences you’ll be able to draw from. “Oh, this one time I worked with a really opinionated guy from Bulgaria who taught me how to work with people from REALLY different backgrounds”… just think of how fascinating you now are and how much you’ll stand out from all the other applicants.
8. And my favorite reason: you meet all walks of life, people from all over the globe, all with different agendas, and you learn something from EACH ONE. I really can’t fully explain the impact on me from every person I’ve met – good and bad. I’m not here to tell you that everyone you meet in Europe is going to be a fantastic human being, or a lifelong friend… but throughout your experiences and the experiences they share with you, you’ll part with a new understanding. Another pro-tip: friend the people you meet on Facebook. It’s a cool way to keep in touch and see where their travels/life take them and if you ever find yourself in their little corner of the world – hey there’s someone you can hang out with.
So there ya have it. Study abroad. It’s truly amazing.
I can’t believe it’s already May! This semester has flown by and I have enjoyed every moment. In the first week I was definitely homesick and a bit apprehensive about spending nearly five months in Germany, but just one month into this journey and I was already thinking that one semester may not be enough! I really like the semester exchange opportunity because it is long enough for me to become fully immersed in the culture of this country and people. It is long enough for me to have formed friendships that I am confident will last beyond my stay here. And it is long enough to make me appreciate my home in America, and family and friends.
I have realized that this is the perfect time in my life to have traveled and explored and learned as I have been doing for the past four months. As a student, I don’t have much money but I do have time, whereas as a working professional, I may have money but less a flexible schedule.
Don’t let lack of money scare you away from studying abroad! There are numerous scholarship opportunities available to students wanting international experience. I was fortunate enough to receive scholarships and I saved up additional funds while working a summer job. Also, while you are abroad, there are tons of ways to travel economically, and this is the perfect time to take advantage of cheap options (while we’re young and versatile!)
This has also proved to be a crucial time in my own growth. Four and half months in another country has given me true independence. There were absolutely no loved ones to rely on in moments of indecision or uncertainty. Sure, I could phone a friend (my mother, most times) but that didn’t change the fact that I was dealing with very unique circumstances that had to be handled by myself. I think I truly realized this independence when I was showing my parents around in Germany. I brought them to Vallendar and they saw where I have been living and shopping and studying. Also, I noticed that I have developed my confidence and ease in new situations. For example, I really took the reins when we went to Ireland. Despite never having been there before, I was very confident in navigating a new country with different rules and customs and acting as a tour guide for my parents!
With Mom at the Rock of Cashel, Ireland.
One last thing: before I came to Europe I was also nervous about missing opportunities for a summer internship. I was afraid that it would be really difficult to get hired when I was out of the country! This is completely untrue. Don’t think that because you’re abroad you sacrifice the opportunity to find a job/internship. Many employers are utilizing skype to conduct interviews so it doesn’t matter where you are! Plus, it’s really cool to begin the conversation with “Oh, well I’m in Frankfurt right now, so it’s actually 11pm.” That always sparks an interesting conversation. The benefits from this experience will more than make up for any temporary inconveniences you may go through.
Brandenburger Tor, Berlin!
Already, I’ve met people and I am introduced as having studied abroad and get to describe my adventures and experiences. I am able to understand more international topics and demonstrate that awareness to potential employers, and when networking.
So come on over! You won’t regret it.
Frankfurt! (business area) 🙂
Hiking in Paklenica National Park, Croatia
“The Most Beautiful Sunset in the World,” in Zadar, Croatia
After my travels during spring break it was time for more courses; Marketing, Supply Chain, and Project Leadership. The professors continue to impress us with their careful attention to detail and positive attitude in the classroom. I’ve made sure to scope out some excellent study spots for typing papers while sipping traditional coffee in a spaceship like building (Learning Center, LC). Something that has been at the back of my mind for awhile now is who students from around the world study and how often they do so. Typically North American students take the “cram it all during the last week before the exam” approach, while many European students treat studying as a 9-5 job and use their time more evenly. I decided to alter my study habits to match my Austrian group members for the global marketing course and had a lot of positive experiences. It felt nice to not be in a library past sunset for once!
Coming back from my journey across the continent I also learned to appreciate Viennese culture more. It’s difficult to adequately describe this appreciation but I can say that how the Austrians treat each other, their business tasks, and how they go about their day make a lot more sense. For example, months ago my thought process throughout the day was “Whats the latest I can sleep in? Whats the quickest way to get from A to B? Why can’t I take this sandwich to-go??.” Now, its more like “I really feel like relaxing with some coffee for a few hours before class. I have 30 minutes before class starts lets walk through this park. Wow I can pronounce everything on this menu!” I was pleasantly surprised at this change of attitude to say the least. It only took a couple of American tourists mistaking me for a local for me to realize this.
After a week or so of classes after the break I got the opportunity to show my parents around this great city. I really began to appreciate this study abroad trip once I began taking them to all of my favorite spots and describing to them how much I had learned. They could clearly see that this trip has had a great impact on how I view everyday life. Seeing their faces light up once they stepped into the LC Library or sitting with them for their first Viennese Opera was very special. My father really admires these opportunities given to Mays students and we spent a lot of time discussing how A&M and especially Mays have expanded their international reach since his graduation from A&M in 1983.
Next month I’ll be wrapping up classes and finishing my Vienna bucket list!
Where do I even start! This month has been filled with its ups and downs. Having to cope with the fact that there is less than a month left in my study abroad experience is just crazy! It is really hard to explain how I feel about leaving. It really is bitter sweet!
Skyping with the Best
I am looking forward to having a cell phone again!! Only being able to contact people while on Wi-Fi has been pure torture. Most of all, I am looking forward to being able to talk with friends and family whenever I want and not just when Skype has decent Internet connection. Another thing that I miss most about being in the States is driving, specifically in Texas! Nothing compares to driving through Texas with nothing but the Big Open Sky from Keller down to College Station.
Along with all of the things I miss from Texas while in Spain, there are a lot of things that I will miss about Spain while back in Texas. Surely what I will miss most about Spain will be all of the friendships. Over the past semester I have grown closer to a great group of friends and I cannot wait until the day we are all able to reunite in Retiro Park.
Enjoying cafe con leche in my favorite museum!
I will miss life living in a big city! Living in Madrid has been great because there is always something to do. Whether it’s going to free museums on the weekends, fireworks (or pillow fights) in Retiro Park, hanging out at rooftops with friends, or shopping on Fuencarral. There is always something to do!
Rooftops of Madrid
Lastly, I will miss being able to take spontaneous trips traveling through Europe! I will never forget the day I walked into our bedroom and Jenny asked, “Do you want to go to Portugal?”
Only four finals, four papers, and three more presentations separate me from being done with school!
My spring break was amazing. I flew to Rotterdam in The Netherlands, took a train to Amsterdam, flew to Hamburg, took a bus to Berlin and then flew back home to Nice. I could write for hours describing each and every detail of my trip but then this blog would be way too long. Rotterdam had this giant arched building called the Markthal that looked like the shape of the train stations in Milan but all of the walls were covered in a bright colorful mural, and the inside of the building was all food stalls. It was heaven.
We rented bikes in Amsterdam and were there for Kings day which was crazy fun. The buildings are beautiful and the city was amazing.
Then there was Germany. I wish I had more time there. First we went to Hamburg and I tried this horrific traditional meal that sailors would eat that was basically corn beef hash, an egg, a pickle spear, a fish, and purely disgusting all around.
Berlin was so full of history. Almost all of the buildings had been destroyed or damaged and had a story behind them. The walking tour is a must.
When I finally returned I realized that finals were upon us. I had one week with 2 classes. Then Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of the next week I had my last elective (Audit) three days in a row 9:30am-12:30pm and 2 to 5pm. One thing you should know, if I haven’t already mentioned it, is that the french REALLY like to smoke. Whenever we had our breaks I always assumed they were coffee breaks…sometimes I even walk around the corner and grabbed some quiche, well I quickly realized that the rest of the class (minus a few Scandinavians) would step outside to smoke like 3 cigs and then return to class. After my elective, I had about 5 days to really kick it into gear on the studying front. I spent just about all 5 of them studying for my fixed income final. You see, many of my classes had 100% of the class grade depending on your final grade. So I was a bit stressed.
My roommate left for Peru and my friends’ roommate moved out so after falling asleep studying at their apartment a number of nights in a row, I finally just decided to move into their empty room(they offered first of course). We had our own little study group and I was now only 10 minutes away from school instead of 30 which helped me immensely. It was especially helpful due to the fact that my bus pass expired. Oh yes and because I thought it was unnecessary to pay for another month when I had less than two weeks left in France, I got a 50 euro ticket for riding the tram ONE STOP to the bike rack, I was going to bike to school and I was running late. The best part, I left my wallet at home so they wanted to take me to the police station because they want you to pay immediately. So I missed a quiz and had to call a friend to borrow 50 euros. It was a great morning. I packed my suite cases and moved to my friends’ apartment that weekend.
The finals were in rooms and we were spaced out a lot more than they do for finals back home, they actually had quite a lot of students they just split them up into separate classrooms. I had to use a french calculator so that was fun. I thought for sure my finals were going to be the death of me. I survived though and now I just wait for my grades.
After finals I scrambled to get my last few gifts for family back home. I went to Grasse the beautiful village in the hills in the French Riviera that they call the Perfume Capital and I got to go to Cannes during the film festival on my last night there. It was bittersweet to leave. I immediately missed Europe when I returned home. I think I was in France during just the right time, I got out right before peak tourist time, the Promenade des Anglais along the beach is literally covered with people. They look like ants from above and the bike lane barely exists anymore. All I can think about now is how to get back. internships, backpacking, post-grad trip, I’m addicted now.
I was unable to write a blog post for April because I was not in France for more than maybe a week. The first week of April I only had three days of class, so some friends and I went to Corsica- an island just south of France for the rest of the week. After that, I was lucky enough to not have any class for the other three weeks in April. My sister came to visit me from Houston and we traveled all around Europe. We had the opportunity to go to 4 different countries and 8 different cities. It was by far some of the craziest, most unpredictable, exciting time of the exchange. It was also amazing to get to see my sister right before finals.
The month of May was not quite as exciting. When I got back from all the traveling May 1st, I was exhausted! It was really hard to go to class and get back on track. As soon as my sister left, I had to start studying for finals. So as mentioned before, there were no midterms, homework assignments, or any grades throughout the semester in majority of my classes (a few minor exceptions). This meant that all of my grades depended on my finals. Some of the classes had ended back in January or March, and now I had to go back to that material and re-learn it for finals. I had 5 finals in three days, which was a very light schedule compared to some other students who had 9-10. The finals were extremely difficult. They were all cumulative and free response/work-out problems. There were no multiple choice questions. Thankfully I recently found out that I passed all exams and classes. I am very excited about that!!!
Studying for finals took about three weeks out of May. That was not very fun. However, some of the other students and I would sometimes go down and study at the beach. My last week in May was a great week, but sad because I had to say so many goodbye’s. All of the exchange students had gotten very close throughout the last five months we spent together. We probably all went out together every night leading up to everyone’s departures. Different people were leaving at different times, so it was a lot easier having to say goodbye gradually rather than all at once. I made so many great friendships with people all over Europe, and I can’t wait to visit them again!!
Well as I said on my last blog post I would talk about the closing out of a semester abroad in Strasbourg France and also touch on the return to the United States.
April was a weird month because for the first two weeks I only had class once a week. Most of my classes ended the last week of March actually. So for Easter weekend a group of us traveled to the south of France to Nice and Monaco. It was absolutely beautiful and I highly suggest visiting here when it is warm! After finishing my last real classes we had one week off for spring break before our “Finals Week” began. For Spring Break I took a solo trip to Cork and Dublin Ireland. As scary and intimidating as that may sound, Cork was probably one of my most favorite visited places all semester. It was absolutely beautiful and I really enjoyed my time alone to explore and reflect on the semester I have had.
Returning from Spring Break I began to study for the two finals I had left later that week. In total I had 5 finals I believe. But my 3 business finals were honestly quite easy, two of them being 10 multiple choice questions and a short answer. My 2 french language finals were the hardest, but even then definitely manageable. Once finals were completed I had about a week left before leaving to return to Texas so a lot of exploring was done. It is crazy how I lived in Strasbourg for four months yet there were still so many places I had not visited or seen. I strongly suggest taking the time to become an expert in your own hometown and focus a little less on all the extravagant adventures. I was able to do all my gift shopping for friends and family, climb to the top of the cathedral and enjoy one last gelato cone at our favorite spot. Saying good bye to friends and Strasbourg was definitely hard, but I try to see it as a “Till next time” instead.
Returning to the states was actually A LOT easier than what I was lead on to believe. My biggest fear was driving my car again but it really is like riding a bike. Walmart seems SO SO big in comparison to Simply in France, but it is nice to have everything you need all in one place. I also managed to remember to tip my server the first restaurant I went to; which is mainly what my past week at home has consisted of: visiting friends and eating well missed food.
This experience is one I am beyond grateful for and so glad that I did. I was able to learn so much more than I ever imagined in and outside of the classroom, as well as learn a lot about myself and where I want to go with my life. I hope everyone seizes the opportunity to study abroad!
Thanks for following along this semester and best of luck in your future adventures, whatever they may be!
Well, I just finished my last month in Strasbourg and it was definitely the most difficult by far but for the best reasons possible! I came to realize that I really love the friends that I made while in Europe and that I did NOT want to leave them but that I was also oh so ready to see my friends and family from back home.
All in all, it was a wonderful month. I got to go to Rome for Easter and visit one of my best friends from high school, which was sort of a surreal experience. We also went to Naples and Pompeii, which are both must sees. Italy is so rich in history and culture, full of life and incredible pizza and pasta. A couple weeks later my parents came to visit for a week and we went to Nuremberg, Munich, Salzburg, Hallstatt, Zurich, and then made our way back to Strasbourg. My favorite place that I visited with them was, by far, Austria! It was breathtaking and I was able to share it with two people that I love very much!
Then of course, I had to finish up school. Finals in Strasbourg are so different from A&M and much more spread out, which was nice. It was so odd realizing at each one that it might be the last time that I would see many of the friends I had made for a very long time, but I suppose we all have to say goodbye sometime, and I will be forever grateful for the time and memories shared with those friends even if we only had four months together! Man oh man will I miss Strasbourg. It was by far the most beautiful place that I have ever lived, and the last couple of weeks there were full of taking in lots of little things about the city like the beautiful cathedral(especially at night), walks alongside the lovely waterways, enjoying the warmer weather and the things that come with that, and countless other characteristics unique to the place I had the blessing of calling home for 4 months.
As I was leaving, I also couldn’t help but realize how much more comfortable Strasbourg and Europe felt from when I first I arrived sixteen weeks earlier. It just felt right and things that seemed so foreign before felt like the norm. Hearing French day in and day out became less intimidating and much more familiar. Public transportation now has a special place in my heart. Traveling alone no longer strikes fear within me. Approaching strangers and getting to know them was just part of life and actually became sort of fun. I think that I slowly learned how to be myself in each and every situation and along with that came actually learning who I am. I was challenged. I grew. And I can promise anyone else that decides to step out of their comfort zone and study abroad that you will grow too. It’s inevitable. And it can be a really good thing. Sort of scary at times and you may not recognize yourself at certain points, but that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes you may surprise yourself! You also have the chance to watch other people grow! I think this was actually my favorite part about the whole experience. It is a special thing to be able to enter into this craziness with people you’ve never met and see how they will change throughout this time as well. You get to watch them gain confidence, stretch themselves, open their minds up to new ideas and ways of thinking, make hard decisions, and find out more about who they are and that’s good, good stuff. It was a sweet time and this trip and those people will always remain near to my heart.
Ok, that’s all for now, but I will be sure to post one more time in a couple of weeks and let you know how acclimating back into Texas life is going!