After studying abroad, I learned that conducting business in France is quite similar to how it is conducted in the US. It is important to be professional and friendly and address with monsieur or madame. As for setting meetings and communicating, I noticed that the French are usually slower at responding to emails due to their work-life balance. The French prioritize living their lives overworking.
Engaging with other French people can be intimidating but trying to speak their language first is key. I learned that asking in French if people speak English is a good way to start a conversation. In my day to day, I noticed that learning to speak French conversationally will get you further along than only speaking English. The French respect those who take the time to learn the basics.
Engaging in Host Countries
My initial impressions were that the French were standoffish, but I realized you have to approach them first. If you try to speak French first rather than English, the French will be more helpful. Something I noticed is the people in the south of France are much warmer than those in the north. The French in Nice work very hard but also like to relax and prioritize going outside halfway through class for a break. This was something that I really enjoyed and that we don’t do here at A&M. They are also always outside going for walks along the promenade or at the beach, even in December.
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 😉
This is my second time abroad and going into this experience I did not know what to expect. I arrived in Strasbourg, France on New Year’s Eve, so it was crazy to experience the last day of 2022 and the first day of 2023 in a new country.
I believe that Strasbourg is the perfect study-abroad city. There is a unique history because of its French and German roots, it has all of the amenities of a big city but still feels calm, and it is centralized in Europe so it is easy to travel.
One of the first places I saw was the cathedral in the city center and it was so beautiful. The architecture is stunning and you can even climb all the way to the top for a gorgeous view of the city. Arriving in January most of the decorations from the Christmas markets was still up and it is so fun to walk through the streets, feeling the Christmas spirit.
The structure of EM Strasbourg is quite different than what I am used to at Texas A&M. Classes vary in start time, and how long the course goes, and are typically three hours long once a week. Grading is also quite different. Grades are decided on two-three factors (exams and a group project), and there is a lot of group work.
So far, I am loving living in Strasbourg and going to EM. There are a few things that I hope to get out of the next four months. I hope to increase my fluency in French and take advantage of living in a country where it is the main language. I hope to travel to as many countries as possible in order to increase my understanding of different foods, cultures, and history. I plan on making friends with the people in my classes who come from all over the world. I look forward to the group projects and a better understanding the French higher education system through my coursework in different classes. I am also hoping to gain a better understanding of myself through living alone for the first time, interacting with people from different backgrounds, and experiencing new things. Overall, I am very excited to see the lessons I will learn and the growth I will experience through being a student at EM Strasbourg.
I have just arrived in Strasbourg, France and will be living here for the next 4 months. Upon arrival, things were different here than they are at home right away. In order to travel around the country, you must take trains, which was a new concept for me. After arriving in Strasbourg, I know I will love my time here as it is a beautiful and lively city. The people of Strasbourg have been kind to me, even when I can’t communicate with them perfectly in French. They are also very eager to help me when I need it.
My international program at the EM Business School has had orientation events for the group this week, for us to meet others from around the world doing a semester exchange. It has been a very unique experience so far getting to meet other students from different countries, who I am more similar to than I would have imagined.
Although the French get stereotyped as being rude to foreigners, I have not felt that in the time I have been here. The culture in the country has been remarkable and I have loved trying local foods, my favorite being the “pain au chocolat.”
One of the biggest differences I have noticed this week is the means of transport in Strasbourg. Biking, walking, and public transport is the most common form of travel for locals and tourists here, which is different from the US as cars are heavily used there. Another difference I have noticed is the laid back culture of the French, the mornings start slow for the people here and evenings are social. This has been different to see compared to the hustle culture I am used to in the US.
This semester, I hope to gain a new sense of independence while I am here as I will be navigating every aspect of living in a foreign country. I would also like to become more open minded to different ways of living in the culture I see here, knowing it is completely different from what I am used to back home. I hope that throughout this semester, I am able to develop new skills and make lasting friendships with those I meet here.
It’s almost been three weeks since I arrived in Strasbourg and my experience has been great so far. With this being my first trip overseas and my first solo trip, my anxiety was through the roof when I arrived in Paris. Initially, I was worried about missing my train, getting pickpocketed, and not being able to understand anyone and I can confirm that none of these things happened! If you just ask for a little bit of help, then someone will point you in the right direction. Once I arrived in Strasbourg, the biggest difference I noticed, compared to the US, was their public transportation. You can get anywhere in Strasbourg by tram, bus, or walking. It’s really easy and cheap. Speaking of cheap, the cost of living in Strasbourg is very affordable and there are so many cool restaurants and bakeries. There is a bakery on every corner with so many fresh pastries to try. I have been living off of croissants and pain au chocolat since coming here.
Regarding school, I have had to get used to the three-hour lectures, but they are quite manageable. Professors usually give a 15 min break halfway through and it helps with breaking up class time. It is nice only having to attend class once a week. Another big difference compared to A&M is that your class schedule is unpredictable. Not every class starts at the beginning of the semester, some start and end halfway through! Also, the meeting location for each class changes every week and you don’t have certain classes every week. Though every week is different and my schedule is random, it is nice to not have the same classes every week. Currently, I am taking 18 hours abroad and only have two weeks of the semester where all my classes intersect. So far school has been very manageable.
Some culture shocks I have experienced while being in Strasbourg:
A lot of people here don’t speak English (shocker) (note to self: practice French before coming!)
You have to pay to use the bathrooms & water isn’t free
Strikes happen almost every week
Shops close at 8 pm
Everything is closed on Sundays
2-hour lunch breaks
Regarding travel, I have been to Paris, Frankfurt, and Baden-Baden in the past two weekends! I have learned a lot about the history of these regions and it is rewarding to learn about cultures so different from the one I am used to. Below I have included some photos from my travels.
Flying into Nice, France, and seeing the beautiful blue waters and grand mountains of the French Riviera was incredible, to say the least. I was welcomed to the city with friendly faces and warm weather. My first time at my new business school was for the orientation day, where I met tons of new people from all around the world and listened to all the opportunities the school has to offer. To describe the global business program: it is one that is filled with great professors and an expansive network of alumni from across the world. The course descriptions are similar to those at Mays Business School, but the structure differs with some courses not beginning until mid-October. As for the cultural differences, people here take their time to enjoy the little things, such as taking a leisurely stroll on the Promenade des Anglaise or continuing to chat long after they finish a meal at a restaurant. People here really respect the quality of time with others, unlike in America where we are constantly on the go. The change of pace here has some getting used to but I know it will be worthwhile. I hope to learn French, international business dynamics, and make long-lasting global friendships while here. I can’t wait to report back at the end of my trip to see how much I have grown from this experience.
As I reach the end of my time in Nice, it is time to reflect on what I have learned and how I have grown. When I first arrived in Nice, I was completely alone and wondering if I had made the right choice. Now, five months later, I have had the experience of a lifetime and learned so much.
EDHEC Business School was quite different than Mays. The three-hour-long classes were rough but allowed many long weekends to travel. The grades were based only on a midterm and final exam, mostly a 30/70 split. I was lucky enough to have at least one fellow exchange student in every course, as the French students are indeed difficult to get to know. The classes there were high-level, and I really enjoyed the electives, which were taught by professors with incredible real-world experience and unique teaching styles. I will miss the campus itself. Many of the classrooms and the various decks had views of the ocean and the private planes at the airport. It was easy to start planning my walk to the beach when I was two hours into a derivatives class.
My favorite part of the exchange was all the people I got to meet. I was the only American in the M1 program, so I was truly out of my comfort zone. I met people from places I never thought I would and loved learning about how their cultures and all their languages. I also got to live with people from England and The Netherlands and see the differences in how they live. I especially enjoyed the authentic Stroopwafels my roommate’s family brought.
I was able to travel to five countries during my time in Monaco. My favorite was Portugal, and I spent the most time in Switzerland with four trips. I was also incredibly lucky to attend some of the world’s most iconic events. I went to the Cannes Film Festival and saw celebrities walk the red carpet. I also extended my trip to go to the Monaco Grand Prix, something I never thought I would do.
Although there is much to see in all of Europe, I feel that Nice is one of the best cities for a long stay. The weather there is great, with a milder winter I especially appreciated and much cooler summers than Texas. The Côte d’Azur is truly beautiful, and I grew to love Nice’s rock beaches. There are sand ones nearby though if you can’t get used to it. There is so much to see in a close radius as well. I took trains to Cannes, Antibes, Marseilles, Monaco, and many more places. You can even take an hour-long train to Ventimiglia, Italy. Nice also offers a direct bus to three different ski resorts for a mere six euros each way. I made four different day trips out to Isola 2000 in my time there.
My time in Nice taught me a lot. I had to deal with many challenges there such as the language barrier, opening a bank account, and luggage lost for five days that was only saved by a French-speaking friend. It is a time I wouldn’t change for anything, and I hope to return soon.
As I am writing this, I can not believe this experience is over. If people had asked me if I would do it all over again, I would simply say yes. Last semester I had the opportunity to come to Cergy, and I loved it so much that I decided to do it again for the second time. Fair enough, Cergy isn’t the prettiest city but it is very cozy, and you do have Paris 35 minutes away. Having the chance to relive the experience in the same place allowed me to learn more things about the city. If you have the opportunity to live in Paris do it. The commute isn’t too bad, and there isn’t much to do in Cergy, so if you can find an apartment in Paris do it. If not, you will love Cergy, there will always be something going on within the residences. Living at a residence allowed me to build a great group of friends. Friends that have become like family, friends who you get to travel with.
At first, I thought, this would be like a normal school year, go to school make new friends and maybe get to know Paris a little bit more. However, this year not only did Paris become my home, but my friends also became my family, and I adopted some of the French cultures into my daily life. This experience completely changes my outlook on friendships, because the bonds that you form during this time are completely different from the friends back home. These friends become your family, your support system for six months. I truly believe you find your best friends here. When I came here, I thought it was going to be very difficult to adapt to a new culture. But being able to be part of Paris and its culture has made this experience 100% better. Know every time I’m able to have a conversation in French with a Parisienne I stop feeling like a tourist and feel like I belong here.
Even though I am going to miss Paris a lot, it does not compare to how much I am going to miss ESSEC. I thought I would never say that I will miss a school, but ESSEC and its students have won me over. The way that classes are taught at ESSEC allows you to see how life would be outside of school, it has introduced me to the finance world in a different way and has pushed me to challenge myself and see what I want to do when I graduate. The professors are very direct and will tell you what you need to hear to better yourself. It might be hard at first, but trust me you will learn plenty from them.
I truly don’t want this experience to end. I have grown and learned so much from it that it will be very hard to say goodbye. But I know that I will come back, meeting all these people from all over the world has opened up so many opportunities. Know I have friends that I can go visit around the world, and now it will be their chance to show me more about their cultures.
No matter what, this year has been one of the most amazing years of my life. And I will truly recommend ESSEC to anyone who not only wants to learn more about the French culture but also who wants to immerse themselves in a very diverse and fun community.
When I left for France, I didn’t have much of an idea of what my study abroad would entail. I figured I would have fun, travel and meet new people, but I had no idea how much this experience would have changed me. The amount of confidence and independence I have gained was something I don’t think I would have gained if I didn’t take the chance and study abroad. I was able to meet new people who were vastly different from me and travel with them, or even traveling solo. All these things gave me confidence and experience in planning, putting myself out there, and just overall confidence in myself.
Furthermore, my understanding of France and its culture had altered as well. I thought many people would be the stereotypical French, standoffish and rude. While the standoffish part was correct, as many French students didn’t put themselves out there to introduce themselves in classrooms, the rudeness factor was completely wrong. Even in simple encounters in stores, most were always kind and willing to speak some English when I was having trouble speaking French. Although some Parisians did live up to my initial judgments.
One of the things I was most happy about was my location in France, Strasbourg. It was the perfect mix of history and culture, and still had a city scene. In addition, the architecture and it being considered one of the European capitals, I never got bored of exploring it and learning all that I could. With its large cathedral that can be seen from miles away, everytime I came back from traveling, I’d see it in the distance and knew I was home. I didn’t experience much of a culture shock when I arrived, and I think it was because Strasbourg didn’t overwhelm me. It was a sweet city that wasn’t dangerous or a really big city. The people were kind and it was easy to get into a routine and become comfortable with the area.
My study abroad might have started off on the wrong foot, but it quickly became my favorite college experience, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
I truly had the most amazing time living and studying in Strasbourg France. Now that my time is over there I have started to digest and reflect on my time abroad! The cultural lifestyle has definitely impacted me. I feel less stress in terms of rushing to complete my life goals and feel like I have had so many more opportunities for me to explore, especially abroad. I have even considered moving abroad for work, which is a thought I had before going but now I see as a real possibility. Through my French class and day-to-day living, I really have an understanding of how business is conducted here and how they work day to day. All of my professors were french and more often than not we would get to class at the same time, if not them after me. You are considered on time when the class time starts so no worry to get there way before the start time, (but also don’t show up more than 5 minutes late). In restaurants, there were many times when we stayed past closing and I had to wave down the waiter to pay and go home.
I feel like my biggest learning adjustment was all of the travel I did abroad. Traveling by train was totally new to me and felt foreign for the first few months. But thankfully the train always showed up and once aboard it was so peaceful. Everyone is always very respectful and tends to themselves during the ride. I really benefited from public transportation and miss it now that I am back in the states.
While abroad I was able to visit 13 countries and countless cities. My eyes are truly opened to the world around me and I have a new appreciation for cultures I did not know before. One of the largest impacts of my trip was the food. Trying new and traditional foods was so much fun and really made up a lot of my travels. I feel encouraged to try new things and look more into other cultures. Another thing I learned was how enforced the EU mindset is among EU countries. Students are highly encouraged to go abroad and learned that in most friend groups everyone studies abroad. I definitely have encouraged my friends back home to consider it if they have the chance to!
It is crazy to think that part of me already misses living abroad and being surrounded by a language I only somewhat speak. I feel that studying abroad was a healthy challenge that pushed me to be more independent, creative, and resilient. I was definitely tired a lot of the time but in the moments in between I was experiencing once-in-a-lifetime adventures. I am so thankful to have gone on this semester abroad and encourage others to do the same!