Mays Business School, August 20th, 2023
Salut from Strasbourg!
Strasbourg, for those unaware just like I was, is a city in the Bas-Rhin sector of France located right along France’s eastern border with Germany. Looking at the pictures from previous students with CIBS, it is evident how gee-yorgeous Strasbourg’s city streets are. The Germanic, wooden houses lining cobbled streets is just as breathtaking in person as it is in pictures. The towering cathedral is simply stunning, and so, so much bigger in person. For four euros, you can climb winding, centuries-old stairs up to the top and look over the whole city!
I flew out December 31st for a January 9th semester start date; for my first week, I got familiar with the city. I got lunch from the local kebab shop and dangled my feet over the river as I let the sun warm my cheeks. I made unwise purchases from the trendy secondhand store (90 euros for a faux leather jacket…do not do this, friends). It was a perfect way to start my time in Strasbourg.
I admire France’s approach to groceries and food. I loveeee that baguettes are 65 cents, and everywhere, and delicious. Fluffy on the inside and crunchy and crackly on the outside…they are just like that scene in Ratatouille: “How do you tell how good bread is without tasting it? Not the smell, not the looks, but the sound of the crust.” Indeed!
Furthermore, life passes at a slower pace in France. The days stretch out, long and savored. I take my time choosing apples for breakfast. I am very silent; having little to no French language training, I master bonjour, s’il vous plait, and merci beaucoup quickly. I am very intentional at either using French or saying nothing at all—I do not want to be an entitled American asking locals to bend to my will and language when I’m the one visiting their home. However, this would be better if I had any French training. So I spend a lot of time silent, haha. This silence, so far, has been received without issue. It appears strangers are more reserved with one another than in the States, where I more readily spark conversation with passersby. Aside from other students or youths in my age group, with whom it is okay to be more casual, I wouldn’t say I feel comfortable complimenting the shopkeeper’s shoes, for example. Additionally, politeness and respect are heavily emphasized in French culture. I thought my manners were polished enough being from the South, but it is imperative, I am discovering, to use madam, monsieur, s’il vous plait, merci beaucoup, and bonjour with every interaction.
EM Strasbourg—short for Ecole de Management—is but one building! The nearby Universite de Strasbourg has a small campus with perhaps a dozen buildings, but this is not the case for the business school. It is an airy, breezy building with four stories, I believe—one ground floor, then three higher floors. (Oh, that’s another thing I’m getting used to—the ground floor is usually referred to as 0 instead of 1, with 1 being the first floor up instead of being the first floor of the building.) My professors are amicable and accented, but I’m just grateful for the English instruction. They are all very good at what they do. Sections are small; it feels much like high school, or how things are at my brother’s liberal arts college. I am taking the equivalents of FINC 341 and SCMT 364, here, as well as the very beginners’ French course and a class on the economy of the European Union—a field I am wholly unfamiliar with, so I am very excited to learn more. I can’t tell, but I think my professor for that class works or worked as a lawyer for the European Union? That is amazing! Makes one wonder what he’s doing teaching a bunch of undergrads.
Strasbourg is much bigger and livelier than I expected. I was expecting a very quiet, maybe provincial place, and was almost concerned about not having enough to do. But within my first two weeks, I’ve already visited a lively independent comics store, multiple secondhand shops, and attended a Pub Crawl hosted by my university’s International Students organization. I’ve hung out with the four other Aggies here with me—I sense that the five of us will become close :). Furthermore, I’ve come to realize that Strasbourg is the perfect size, actually! Small enough that getting anywhere is easy as pie and the streets are so peaceful at night, but big enough to have its own transport system and active nightlife. I love it here already. I feel so blessed to spend the next five months here!
Some considerations are still being made, however. Strasbourg is certainly different from College Station. First, I’m unsure about the cold. Living in Texas all my life has not prepared me well for suns that set at 4 pm—er, 16:00, most places use 24-hour time, here—and temperatures in the thirties—gah, sorry, 0-4 degrees. I really emphasized cold-weather clothes when I packed, so have wool sweaters, thermal undershirts and leggings, and cozy, durable socks for every day, plus a scarf, gloves, and huge Costco puffer jacket that my Canadian auntie also uses, but what if it’s not enough! Will keep everyone updated.
I’m also a little concerned about making friends. I’ve discovered that it takes me, like, three actual months before I feel comfortable with a group. I’m comfortable traveling solo, but it would be nice to have people to share destinations and memories with.
Finally, I’m not looking forward to the three-hour lectures! Whew! Sometimes I’m struggling in the seventy-five-minute sections here at Aggieland! Three hours? Three hours! Three! Three of them! Boy! I only have one class a day here, which is thrilling—on Wednesdays I don’t have class at all! Incredible!—but those classes are three hours long! Whew. Whew. Will keep you updated on this as well.
Till we see each other again,