France | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

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

I can’t believe I am finally here. I had been crossing out dates from my calendar for two months now, and today I finally arrived at my new residence Cergy, France. When I first arrived in Cergy I was a bit shocked because it was not what I expected. When they told me I would be moving thirty minutes away from Paris, I imagined Cergy would be a little glamourous and a picturesque town; however, it is an industrial small town. Nevertheless, once you get to know it, you will fall in love with it.

Even though there is not much to do in Cergy, when you have a group of friends you can make great plans. There is a lake beside the port, which has a couple of restaurants and bars, where you can go with your friends and have a picnic and watch beautiful sunsets. We normally go every afternoon to the lake to walk around, or walk towards the ax-majeur and eat at the stairs, and if you are lucky you might even see the Eiffel tower from here.

Nevertheless, once you get bored of the lake (which you won’t) you have Paris thirty minutes away. During my first week in Cergy, I went to Paris every day. If you go abroad check the transportation card your city offers you. Because when I arrived in France I didn’t know there was a pass (the Navigo pass) that would allow me to use all methods of transportations in Îlede- France. But after some friends told me about this pass, now I can travel to Paris and all small towns surrounding it for only $75 dollars a month, which is nothing compared to the daily ticket to Paris. Being close to a big city is the best part of being in Cergy, because you are experiencing the same university vibe that we have in TAMU with only students but at the same time you are also living the Paris life because trust me you will be going to Paris at least three times a week.

The one thing that really differentiates ESSEC from TAMU is the long class periods. Most of the courses in ESSEC are 3 hours long with a 15 minute break. However, because the classes are really small, about 25 students per class, the classes are really interactive and you get to meet all of your classmates. What I also really like about ESSEC curriculum is that instead of giving homework or midterms most of your grade is based on participation or group projects. However, my favorite part of ESSEC is that inside the school you have a bar where all students get together during the breaks or after school and you get to meet people from different cultures.

Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Howdy! My name is Curt Leland, and I am studying right now in Strasbourg, France! This is my first time in Europe, so moving here seemed pretty dramatic at first. Although it has been amazing to see and learn so much every day and so far, culture shock has only been sprinkled into moments and is not overwhelming.
Firstly, let’s talk about the country as a whole. France is a place that seems to have it all. Mountains, coastline, fields, huge cities, and random lakes all around as well. I am looking forward to exploring the vast differences simply of the landscape of this country. People here are also very proud of who they are and their language. This was something that intimated me at first because I hardly know any French, but I am pleasantly surprised by those who have been helping me along the way. One time I was confused at a grocery market, and the cashier did not speak English but searched around to find someone who did so they could help me. This was a wild experience because, being in Mays business school, I am used to wanting to step up and fill in communication gaps. I had become that gap which was humbling. At the moment, though, most of my experience is still just with the city of Strasbourg.
The city of Strasbourg is unique because of its location. It is so close to the border of Germany that our public transit goes over the border as well. Strasbourg has been in German and French territory multiple times over its history, so the building and culture are a mesh of both. The region this city is in even has its own dialect, a mix of French and German. I have loved this because the town is beautiful with not only different centuries influence, but also different country’s as well. The city is very busy all over, yet slow at the same time. People are always outside being active, yet somehow resting at the same time. This culture seems to define work-life balance vastly different than the United States, and I am thrilled to submerge myself and learn the same hopefully. Also, kids are everywhere. In college station, I seem to go weeks without seeing a single child, but not here. I love seeing kids being able to walk home from school by themselves or playing around in parks. The city seems to have the same feel as a safer small town which I love. Lastly, about this city, there are hardly any chains or big brands. The streets are filled with local shops and markets to the point where there is no way I could try everything even if I went somewhere different every day. This is nothing like I am used to seeing.
To continue zooming in a little closer, I want to share some of the University of Strasbourg. I am in the Ecole de Management school here, which is their business school. My program is for all foreign exchange students with the common language of English. Our classes are in English as well as socials and informationals. The first week of orientation was confusing and not organized well, but I also think I was viewing things through an American perspective of over communication and preparation. Being able to speak English here is such a blessing. It allows me also a group of students to practice French with who are in a similar language level. I have not started classes yet, but they will only be with foreign exchange students, which is a great opportunity to learn to work with those outside my culture. It does separate me somewhat from the French culture, but for one semester, I am so thankful to be able to be exposed to so many different perspectives.

 

Best,

Curt Leland

Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange

My name is Kylie Hofmeister and I am doing a semester exchange in Strasbourg, France! I have always loved traveling and learning about cultures different than mine, and have been dreaming about studying abroad since high school. I can’t believe I am finally here, it feels surreal! I’ve been here for about two full weeks now and had orientation last week. It’s been a whirlwind! Today is actually my first day of class at EM Strasbourg Business School, so I am feeling quite excited and interested in seeing how my courses here compare and contrast with those I have taken at Mays.

Arriving in Strasbourg went smoothly, even with the pandemic and restrictions associated with it. Here in France, we are required to wear masks at all times while indoors and on public transportation and must receive a “health pass” from the French government in order to patronize most businesses and restaurants, which shows either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test. Otherwise, Strasbourg has felt quite open and welcoming, and I’m glad that I didn’t allow the conditions of the pandemic to inhibit me from taking this opportunity to study abroad! It has been great so far, although I definitely experienced some culture shock during my first few days. I don’t speak French, and while many in Strasbourg know some English, the French are very proud of their language and aren’t quick to use English. It was difficult to do small things at first, such as ordering a coffee or checking out at the grocery store, but already in the past two weeks, I’ve been able to pick up simple phrases that have helped me get around! The language barrier was overwhelming and stressful at first, but I have now grown to embrace it and am excited to see myself learn and improve in my French over the semester! I have already enjoyed immersing myself in French culture through trying different foods, practicing the language, and familiarizing myself with the history of Strasbourg. The school also offers many different sports that we can sign up for weekly, and I have already taken two that have been taught entirely in French! I was able to follow along visually, and actually found the challenge to be quite fun!

The international advisors and Dean of EM were very excited to welcome us at our first orientation meeting, and it helped everyone to feel more comfortable and better prepared to begin the semester. Each course here occurs just once a week but lasts three hours, which may take some getting used to. Something that feels different about France and Europe in general is the degree of emphasis on exchange programs and immersing yourself in other cultures. Many international students whom I’ve met can speak 3+ languages almost fluently and are highly encouraged, if not required, to do Erasmus, which is an exchange within the EU. While I was required to take 2 years of a foreign language in high school, I wish schools in the U.S. would require much more. It also just isn’t very common among my friends back home to participate in a semester-long exchange, and I wish that it would be more normalized and pushed back home. Regardless, I am so thankful that I have been given this opportunity through TAMU, and I think that the courses will be great! I am very excited to learn and grow an international perspective and in conducting business throughout the semester. Not only will I learn about my host culture, but also so many others through the other international students that I meet! I can’t wait to share more about my adventures, experiences, and courses in France. Until then, Au Revoir!

(enjoy these photos of beautiful Strasbourg!)

Petite France Views of Cathedral River views!

me

Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange

It is officially the first week of classes for the exchange students at EM Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France. Although it may be a few weeks later than Texas A&M, it certainly feels like I have already learned a semester’s worth of cultural and historical knowledge.

 

This semester, I am studying abroad in France in an effort to become closer to fluent in French, travel, and learn more about European history. Three other Aggies are doing the same program with me so we decided to room together. Though we did not know each other before, it has been a grounding and helpful way to have a familiar community amidst a lot of chaos. One of my roommates and I decided to arrive two weeks early in order to travel. We timed our flights to arrive in Paris at similar times in order to take the train to Strasbourg together. Let’s just say that was a good idea because lifting a semester’s worth of luggage onto a train is something I never want to do alone. It was blatantly clear from those moments running through the airport and arriving at the train station that everything was different here. 

 

We settled into our apartment and left the next day for Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. In those first two days, I felt a bit of culture shock and homesickness. Though I expected most changes, it was little things like not knowing what to buy at the grocery store, cleaning a leftover mess in our apartment, and trying to navigate around the city that left me feeling overwhelmed. We had still not been introduced to the students or anyone else in Strasbourg. It really felt like all I had was my roommate! Luckily, our trip was a lovely experience that really got me accustomed to European norms through immersion. This is why travel is something I highly recommend — in addition to bringing my roommate and me closer!

 

Upon return to Strasbourg, international student programs and school information started to pick. We started to meet friends and quickly find our way around the city. It was like everyone was back to freshman year trying to make friends — this time with better food! The people in Strasbourg have been very welcoming, as is typical of Alsacean people. 

 

After a confusing week of orientation, classes began. There was a distinct feeling of lack of organization and communication about the exchange program from many of the international students we spoke to. However, when classes started, the professors were great and excited. An especially cool opportunity of the school is the sports programs that they offer. We can take classes from Acrobatic Yoga to Rock Climbing virtually for free. These classes have been a great opportunity to get outside of the international student bubble and immerse ourselves in more French. I look forward to continuing to do this as well as joining some student clubs. Otherwise, it can be very easy to remain in the English-speaking international student bubble.

 

I cannot wait to see what more Strasbourg has in store! From the medieval streets to the vintage stores and fresh bakeries, there is plenty to explore.

The River The Cathedral

Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange

My first weeks in Strasbourg have been exceptional. The city is the perfect size to walk everywhere, but also offers efficient forms of transportation such as the tram and the bus (something we are not used to using in College Station). So far, I have noticed that many of the locals do not speak English. The locals that do speak English, however, oftentimes prefer when you attempt to speak French because you are in their country. This makes Strasbourg a great place to learn the French language. Depending on which area of Strasbourg you are in, it can either feel like you are in France or in Germany due to the fact that Strasbourg has belonged to both countries several times. Kehl, Germany is only a 15 minute tram ride away, and the students at Strasbourg often go there to get cheaper groceries!

The business program has a very diverse group of people. I expected for there to be more students from the United States, but most of the students are from countries across Europe. This has allowed me to learn a lot about other countries in a short amount of time. The business program is really great in that all of the classes are no more than 30 people. The classes also only meet once per week for three hours, which is very different from that I’m used to at Texas A&M. Although our orientation was a bit unorganized, the professors so far have been very helpful and offer very diverse insights when they teach.

Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange

The best way to describe my experience at ESSEC Business School was a change of pace. Going on a semester exchange during a COVID-19 semester was something I was hesitant on but decided to go for it anyways. Classes were very interesting and I was still able to see my friends on campus throughout the week. For the majority of the semester, many places in Paris and Cergy were closed. Museums, restaurants, and historical areas were shut down until my last month here. Despite all the closings, I was forced to look for smaller things that made me happier that allowed me to get more out of this semester. I focused on the relationships between my friends and staying together. Everyone wanted to explore Paris and do as much as we could, but the lockdowns prevented a lot of that. Instead, we focused on simpler things such as eating and cooking together and playing basketball to have a great time. Once Paris opened up, everything became a lot more lovely and I have grown to appreciate the city even more. Paris is a beautiful city and I plan on returning in the future for leisure or a new job opportunity. ESSEC Business School is a lively environment when it’s completely open and I recommend anyone to take this opportunity to go. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend my spring semester.

Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange

February 15th was the day on the calendar in which I had planned to go to France for my spring semester exchange. I attend ESSEC School of Business during my stay and currently reside in a small town in Cergy. Cergy is northwest of Paris by at least 50 minutes and you can take the train to go to Paris very easily.

Upon arrival in France, there were lots of quirks and differences that I didn’t account for in my semester exchange. When landing in the CDG Paris airport, I was taken aback by the sheer size of the airport but also how confusing it was given that lots of shops and services were closed due to COVID. I felt lost and anxious because I had a checklist of things I needed to accomplish while I was at the airport. I needed a sim card for reliable internet service, euros to be exchanged from my American dollars, a transportation pass, and finally a taxi to go to my apartment. After wandering around in a large and busy airport, I finally found all my necessities in one place. I was able to leave the airport and find a taxi to get home smoothly.

I arrive in my residence to an empty apartment with no food and welcomed with a special move-in kit that I ordered from the university which had plates, pots, and cups to make my transition in the residence much easier. For the first time in a long time, I had a blank slate to start my semester and this time it was in a completely new environment.

The city of Cergy isn’t very glamourous, to be quite honest, it’s basically College Station but with very few restaurants to go to. In the city center are the universities, the mall, and the metro station to get to downtown Paris. It is the most lively part of Cergy and where most people get their groceries done. Cergy is mainly filled with working-class people who commute to Paris to work and come back in the evening. It’s not a special place, but it is a home for many families.

Currently, COVID-19 in France is somewhat strict but there is a lot to look forward to. Depending on the size of the shop or public space, many places are still open for the public. You might not be able to go to the Louvre, but there are many small art galleries and small art installations you can visit. While the strict rules of France may seem a damper to larger tourist sites, it allows for smaller businesses to shine and be a resource to the public who wish to get a sliver of normalcy in their lives.

My classes do not start until March 1st, but I am excited to see what is ahead of me. Whether it’s going to meet new people or visiting hole-in-the-wall places in Paris, the opportunity is wide open.

Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Doing my reciprocal exchange in Strasbourg, France was an experience that I will forever cherish. This was probably my only chance to really get to travel the world on my own while simultaneously getting college credit. I made friends with people from all over the world from countries like Hungary, Germany, Slovenia, Australia, Canada, and that’s not something everyone gets to take out of their college experience. I will always remember the memories that I have with these people traveling to amazing places all over France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Czech Republic, and Austria.

Reflecting on my entire experience, though unfortunately it was cut short, I can say I learned so much about French culture and Europe as a whole. Strasbourg was overall a great international program, bringing all of the international students together in certain events as well as ensuring that we received our classes and credits. The school system was a bit unorganized compared to TAMU, but that was a common theme that we discovered throughout Europe. The expectations for undergrad classes were much lower than TAMU, but that allowed us to be able to travel and experience life in France freely without a lot of stress for academics.

Since Strasbourg was so close to the German border, I got to learn about German and French culture. Even the sheer differences between these two countries was crazy, from restaurant etiquette to language barriers. Since most of my time was spent during the week exploring around Strasbourg, visiting the old town and admiring cathedrals, enjoying a baguette and a glass of wine, taking day trips to other German cities was easy and enjoyable to change it up on the weekends. The fashion industry was impressive in France, shopping the different brands was fun to do as well. I ended up buying a nice winter coat from Zara, a huge European brand. Walking through Petite France, one could always enjoy live music being performed by local street artists playing a violin or saxophone, as well as a 50 cent baguette and 2 euro bottle of wine.

I lived in a tiny apartment close to the city center, and other students lived in dorms in Strasbourg. Living standards were quite minimal, but it was manageable for the time I spent there. Since you end up traveling so often, you don’t quite mind living in a smaller space while you’re in town. Also, the amount of studying was minimal, so there were no worries about trying to study too much while at home.

Your reciprocal exchange is what you make of it; it requires a lot of effort but, even though my exchange was cut short, it was definitely worth it. I had to get out of my comfort zone to learn French, take public transportation, plan trips efficiently, and most importantly—to make new friends. It’s hard at first, but you can’t be shy, especially if you’re going into this exchange alone with no friends. Be yourself, be outgoing, go up to people and start talking to them. Eventually, you will find the right group of people who you enjoy traveling, partying, and learning with. France is definitely not the easiest place to do exchange—the culture is so different from the US and there are often negative views toward Americans. As long as you are ready for this, and ready to embrace the culture differences, you will love your time in France. Strasbourg was very central in Europe, and this allowed easy travel to other countries which satisfied with my desire to explore Europe.

Categories: 2020, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Howdy! My name is Christina Boyes, and I want to tell you about my initial impressions from studying in Strasbourg, France. As I arrived, the weather was much colder than in Texas, and there were beautiful Christmas decorations and lighting hung all throughout the town. It was perfect to enjoy local foods and drinks such as French quiche, pain de chocolat, Alsace wine, and exquisite pasta dishes. The town was quaint yet beautiful; easy and enjoyable to walk through with small shops and restaurants, rivers, and cathedrals. What surprised me was how consistently quiet and peaceful the town was, even on weekends. It wasn’t as much of a party city, but the culture was prominent, and many people walked through town even late at night, instilling a nice sense of safety and security.

The international student involvement was quite high in Strasbourg; certain events organized by the school in the beginning aided in making friends easily. I did not expect there to be so many students in this program, about 120 exchange students I believe (as Strasbourg is not a huge city). The international students held the tradition every semester of going to a local club every Wednesday night, which was crazy to me at first, but made sense realizing how many exchange students tended to make travel plans to other cities on weekends. After a couple weeks, most everyone managed to solidify new friends within the exchange program.

Pertaining to culture shock, France is quite different than the States in many ways. Most businesses are closed on Sundays, allowing time for family. The French language is much more common than I expected. Though most locals understand at least some English, there is an assumed expectation to first try to speak some French to them. They value their culture and take pride in being different than other countries. Public transportation and tram systems are more common to use than cars, and the systems are quite modern and efficient.

What I did not realize before coming to Strasbourg was how insanely close the city is to the German border. The closest city, Kehl, Germany, is only about a 30 minute tram ride or 1 hour walk away. This makes it easy to make day trips to other small German cities, such as Freiburg and Heidelburg as me and some friends had already made within the first few weeks of being here.

After only a few weeks, I fell in love with Strasbourg and the exchange experience. I made friends easily and learned how to travel efficiently using different resources such as Airbnb and Flixbus.

Categories: 2020, France, Reciprocal Exchange