France | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

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.

Categories: 2022, France

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!

Categories: 2022, France

I cannot believe my semester in France is already coming to an end! The last 4 months have been packed with so many amazing adventures and I have absolutely loved it! My schedule this semester gave me a lot of free time for traveling and enjoying the cultural things within Strasbourg like visiting museums, going to French movies and seeing concerts! One of the many things I loved about living in France is their encouragement of young people to develop themselves by learning more about the country’s culture. They do this by giving lots of student discounts and allowing students to get in free museums all over France. This is one of the many ways that France works to protect their culture from other influences and it is something that I really respect about the country. I also took a French Culture class at EM and it was so helpful in understanding some cultural things that I was not aware of which helped me navigate some culture shock that I experienced throughout the semester. Also, I even became friends with the receptionist at my residence who helped me practice my French! Overall, I really enjoyed the lifestyle in Strasbourg. Some things I liked doing were walking around the canals that surrounded the city, reading in cafes or at the Parc de l’Orangerie, and going to a language cafe and meeting other international students. There was always a nice atmosphere and plenty to do and enjoy around the city. 

My classes at EM were also really interesting and I enjoyed having the opportunity to work on projects with people from all over the world. EM Strasbourg is big on group projects so I had one in every one of my classes. I also really liked how all my professors placed a lot of emphasis on applying the information we learned by doing workshops. There really was not much actual school work besides a midterm assignment and the final exam, so I had to really make sure I kept up with the material. But, it allowed me to have a little more relaxed schedule and not feel stressed about deadlines all the time. 

Looking back at the beginning of my exchange, it was really hard in the beginning with culture shock and being far away from my family and friends back home. But, I am so glad I decided to come to France for a semester because it challenged me in so many ways and it gave me an opportunity to meet so many new people and visit so many new places! I learned so much about myself throughout the semester and I plan to incorporate these things into my everyday life back at home. For instance, I learned how to be more spontaneous and open to new experiences because that is where you have the best moments and make the best memories! I also learned to enjoy the little moments of everyday life, like strolling through a park or just sitting on a bench reading and enjoying beautiful weather. Daily life was definitely not as hectic as it is back home since I was not in class as often and didn’t have as much school work. So, it was a nice change in pace and allowed me to really take in and enjoy the culture. Overall, my semester in France was absolutely amazing and it has definitely helped me develop a more global mindset which will be helpful wherever I go!

Categories: 2022, France

Almost everyone has heard the trope about finding yourself abroad. The truth is that the cliche comes from some truth. It is amazing to see how much your life can change at this age in a span of months. I’ve made lifelong friendships with people around the world who I still talk to on a regular basis, had a friend visit from Canada, landed my dream job, and my roommate became my best friend–all as a result of my semester abroad. All of which have been incredibly exciting. None, however, have been more revealing than two major lessons:

  1. Fulfillment comes from relationships.
  2. Seeing the world through the lens and experiences of others will be transformative in becoming a more well-rounded person.

For starters, I was nervous about studying abroad because I was afraid of being alone. Being surrounded by incredible friends was the single determinant to making the experience manageable and enjoyable. Having a network of support was so important that I urge anyone to make it a priority. It can be hard, but opening yourself up to opportunity means you may find that network in the most surprising places.

The bureaucratic experience of studying abroad is hard. I won’t lie. From course approval to opening a bank account in France, there seems like there are countless hoops to jump through. It may feel incredibly frustrating in the moment. The biggest advice I can give in these moments is to exercise empathy. The person on the other side of that French bank desk or school administrator does not know the long road you have taken to get here and we should not expect them to. After all, they have their own challenges to go through (like dealing with the back-end of exchange students or University bureaucracy). Taking this approach will allow you to focus on and internalize the good and lessons, rather than cutting the learning short because of something as futile as frustration.

Overall, the lessons of my study abroad extended beyond the beautiful scenery and language. They are ones that I will continue to exercise in every dimension of my life moving forward. They also made me prioritize travel … travel is really fun. 🙂

Good luck!

Categories: 2021, France

Howdy Aggies!!! I am back!!! After coming last semester to Cergy I decided to stay for one more!!! With that being said can you believe that school in France starts until March 7!! I had almost three whole months of winter vacation! Now that I am back I can say that Cergy is different in March than what it was a couple of months! Cherry blossoms are blooming and it looks like spring but still feels like winter! 

One thing about going a whole year abroad is that now you don’t have the anticipation of meeting new people because now you have the advantage of knowing a couple of people and you definitely know the place. It’s amazing what you can do when you feel already comfortable in a strange place. I mean now I can tell the new coming exchange students what to do and give them advice. Also what I really love about ESSEC is that they have a lot of events that allow exchange students to get to know each other, and also just a reminder that before you come, if you don’t have WhatsApp, download it. This app is the main source of communication with the students from here.

Even though Cergy grew on me and is a great way to start your abroad experience, I have decided that this semester I will be living in Paris. The commute from Paris to Cergy is not that bad, it’s only 30 minutes to take the RER. The only reason why you will really have to think about moving to Paris is that in Paris strikes happen almost regularly which can disrupt the metro lines, so this is why many people decide to stay in Cergy. However, I decided to move to Paris because I had the opportunity to put all of my classes Monday to Wednesdays, so now that I have Thursdays and Fridays off I could spend more time getting to know Paris.

Anyways, let me know if you guys have more questions about ESSEC and Cergy!!!

I’ll let you know how this semester turns out in a couple of months.

Categories: 2022, France

I arrived in Strasbourg a few weeks ago and I have to say it truly felt like a culture shock. The first day of travel was as I anticipated with multiple delays and long rides, but what I didn’t expect was for one of my checked bags to go missing for over a week. Luckily my second luggage with my bedding, toiletries, and a few sweaters arrived. I was also thankful that a French student picked me up from the train station and showed me how to use the tram and bus stations since I live pretty far from the school and inner city. Even though traveling was a hassle, the next day after orientation, I got to explore the city on my own and the entire time I was in awe. Strasbourg’s Grande Ile, which is the main city and includes le Petite France, is small so it was easy to explore. The Germanic architecture mixed with French life was a truly unique experience, and it was then I knew I would love my study abroad.

I will admit it took me a while to get used to the French classes, with all of them being at least three hours long. Sitting through those can be boring, even with the short breaks, but I usually only have each class once or every other week. Although, every week my schedule changes, with different rooms or some classes end even in early March or April. Typically I have classes only 2 days a week which is a really nice change, and it gives me a lot of time to travel, participate in sports, and just wander around the city with friends.

One of the things I had to get used to is not being able to understand what most people are saying since I know very little French. I’m able to read it for the most part, but at shops and talking with students I only speak very broken French. But the wonderful thing about Strasbourg is that everyone I’ve talked to has been understanding and kind, they try to help me in any way they can.

But one of my favorite parts has been the food here! Surprisingly the meals at the university are cheap and of good quality. I was even able to try duck for the first time on campus. Then there’s the sweets they bake, where it doesn’t taste sugary, only natural sweetness like fruits. And of course, being in France I have to get baguettes from the bakery every week, it’s probably the French way thing I can do, but it feels really normal to do so.

Overall, Strasbourg was difficult to adjust to, but I’m so excited that I did it. It isn’t like I expected at all, especially with the new wave of Covid mandates, but every day feels like an adventure, even if I’m just going to class or shopping. I can’t wait for what the next three months have in store for me!

Categories: 2022, France, Reciprocal Exchange

I cannot believe how much I have already learned in just my first two weeks in Strasbourg! I knew it would take time to adjust to the differences between French culture and the culture back home, but it has been an incredible learning experience so far. One thing that surprised me the most when I first arrived was how safe I felt. I arrived in Strasbourg much later in the evening than I anticipated because of a delayed flight. However, being picked up by a member of the international student group at the university made me feel very welcome and made it much easier to get to my residence. I also live right next to the university and fairly close to the city center which has been great for going into the city often and navigating my way around campus. The city of Strasbourg is fairly small, and I live right next to the university and near the city center, which is very convenient. So far I have loved having the opportunity to walk anywhere I want or take a quick ride on the tram to get across town.

I arrived a few days before classes started so I had a little bit of time to familiarize myself with the business school and the rest of campus. My first few classes at EM Strasbourg Business School were very similar in style to classes at A&M, except the fact that they are 3-4 hours long just once a week. In addition, my schedule changes each week, meaning some weeks I have classes and other weeks I do not. This is an interesting change from having a consistent schedule each week at A&M, but I am excited to see for the classes I am enrolled in!

Aside from the academic differences, there were some things I had to learn pretty quickly when I arrived, such as when and where to get food. Many stores and restaurants are closed during some parts of the day and nearly all shops are closed on Sundays. This was a challenge because for the first few days after I arrived, I had no idea where I was supposed to get food because it seemed that everywhere I went was closed. Although this is quite different from home, where I can go to HEB or any store to get whatever I need at any time of day, I do admire how the French value time off and rest. For example, I went to a park the first Sunday I was here, after many failed attempts at finding food, and I found so many people taking a walk and having a picnic. This change in pace, although frustrating at first, has helped me settle in and enjoy the beauty of the city.

Another challenge that I faced when I arrived was the language barrier. It has been a very humbling experience trying to communicate with people who do not speak any English and instead try to communicate with the little French that I know. But I have seen these interactions as opportunities to grow and challenge myself to really learn about the French language and customs. I am excited to continue pushing myself to really integrate into the French culture.

Overall, my first two weeks in Strasbourg have been amazing. Although I am still adjusting to this foreign environment, the challenges I have faced so far have been valuable in helping me step out of my comfort zone and have some really great experiences. I am looking forward to challenging myself as an individual and I am excited for the rest of the semester here in France!

Categories: 2022, France

I have been in Nice, France for two weeks now and am loving it! EDHEC Business School Nice is quite different from Texas A&M and Mays. EDHEC is housed entirely in one building right on the Promenade des Anglais, and I have a view of the Mediterranean from many of my classes. The building itself is very modern and has a lot of amenities for students such as a restaurant. There are also many terraces around the building to eat lunch at and watch the planes take off from the nearby airport. The classes here are once a week for three hours, and a few of the courses begin at different points in the semester. I have some electives that do not begin until March. The schedule can also change from week to week, which I am not used to. One aspect of the courses that I feel will have the biggest impact is that most of the courses are based solely off one final exam. I will have to adjust my studying and learning style, as I am used to frequent midterms, quizzes, and homework.

I have noticed many differences between the lifestyle here and back at home in Texas. I have become used to walking everywhere or using the tram/bus system to get around. Many of the restaurants and businesses here will close in the middle of the day and on Sundays, which I was not used to. The food here is also different, and there are bakeries everywhere to get a baguette, pastry, or sandwich. Nice is also known for having excellent seafood, especially mussels. The language barrier has been difficult, as many people here do not speak English. Navigating things like the grocery self-checkout in French and some other tasks have been a little difficult but I am starting to recognize more. Luckily, my French course here begins this week.

I was able to meet a lot of my fellow exchange students at our orientation before school started. I found out that I am the only American exchange student in my program, and it has been fascinating to meet people from all over the world. They speak so many different languages and bring parts of all their cultures. We have been trying to make the most of our time here and have begun already exploring the Cote D’azur with trips to Cannes and Monaco already! While in Cannes we took a ferry to the nearby island of Sainte-Marguerite, where there was a royal fort and a small prison that housed the infamous “Man in the Iron Mask.” I have also been spending a lot of time on the beaches near me, especially during sunset as it is always spectacular. I am looking forward to the rest of my time here and hope to make the most of it!

Categories: 2022, France

I truly cannot believe how much I have learned within the first few weeks of living in France. I knew it would be different and was ready to face the change, but it still felt different from what I expected. I am so glad that I did the bulk of the work before I left. In the months and weeks leading up to my flight abroad, I did so much research on my own that has helped me so much along the way. When the day of my flight came I was calm and ready. It definitely took a few days to adjust to the 7 hour time difference, and a few more to get a hang of the new culture but now I love it here.

My initial impressions of France, and more specifically Strasbourg, were very positive. I felt safe my first night and have loved walking and using public transportation to get around the city. I will say however that arriving on New Year’s Eve was a little rough. Here in France, holidays are for resting and most businesses were closed the Saturday of New Years Day. We also learned that all businesses are closed on Sunday. This was the hardest part of our journey. We had to wait two days before going to the grocery store and Ikea, which is very different from stopping at HEB at any hour of the day. But once I had the essentials I felt like I could start exploring the city.

Orientation for school was held in this amazing building that reminded me a lot of the museums and government buildings I had visited in Washington D.C. We were with the entire international cohort. Hearing the mix of languages and cultures was so impactful and continues to be every day here. Later that day we toured the school! I was so excited. I had looked up the school on Google Images nearly 100 times but now I was here! It was very unique and most of the classrooms had huge windows. The library was bright and there was even a cafeteria in the middle (I think Wehner would benefit from a few of these additions). And to add to the magic, it started snowing while we were outside the school. On the walls are maps and arrows guiding you to the right area and have found that is all I need to know to get around the school. The business school is part of a larger school that compares to the size of A&M (60,000+ students).

Overall, I have loved taking part in French life and culture. Here, rest is valued and things seem to move at a slower pace. At restaurants, you have to ask for the bill and you are never rushed out of places. Classes are 3 hours long, but only once a week and so far I have liked this approach! Not all classes start the same week and it feels way more approachable to start this new semester. I cannot wait to learn even more about France as I travel and work on learning the language here. My mindset has already expanded so much and cannot wait to absorb even more just by being here!

Categories: 2022, France, Reciprocal Exchange

My first class at EM Strasbourg Business School was very different from Mays in some ways but in other ways similar! The building itself is huge and has an open space feel to it, which feels quite different from the Wehner building. The business school is completely detached from the main campus of the University of Strasbourg, which is somewhat similar to Wehner being on west campus at TAMU, but in Strasbourg, the school buildings are built right into the city, so it’s not like you’re on campus the whole time when you’re going from one building to another. As far as the class goes, the lecture felt very familiar. Besides the class being three hours long and only once a week, the class structure and teaching style feels quite similar to home.

The city of Strasbourg is quite unique and the biggest difference I feel is how safe it is. I am staying in university housing which is off-campus and a bit out of the city center, so we are right in the middle of a quaint neighborhood a ways away from downtown, and I really like it. Everyone kind of minds their own business when they are out and about, which I have found comforting. One thing that we learned quickly after arriving is that they take their holidays VERY seriously. We arrived Friday, Dec 31st—New Year’s Eve—and everything was closed, and I mean everything. Everything stayed closed Saturday—New Years Day—and Sunday, in accordance with French law, so it was difficult the first few days not having access to any grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants, etc. This has probably been the biggest difference in day-to-day experiences here in Strasbourg compared to back home.

The people we have encountered so far have been generally pretty nice, though they keep conversation pretty short and to the point. In fact, one administrator told all of the exchange students to prepare to “get over the wall” when making friends with French students because they tend to be much more reserved. This is probably the biggest cultural difference compared to the US and even Texas. It’s common in Texas to be met with that southern hospitality that we are so proud of, but in France, it’s unlikely for someone to strike up a conversation with you unless you prompt something yourself.

The first two weeks have been overall good! It definitely felt overwhelming at times, and like a huge shock to your mental and physical state, but I feel as though I’m adjusting well, though it is taking longer to fix my sleep schedule than I would’ve expected. I’m looking forward to the semester getting started and learning more about France during my time here!

Categories: 2022, France, Reciprocal Exchange