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

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

It is definitely a breathtaking sight, Fall in Europe. It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of when thinking about what the season is supposed to be like – leaves changing into the most beautiful reds, oranges, and golds, then eventually falling to the ground and giving your daily walks an extra crunch to your step, the days are cool and crisp, the streets are festive with holiday decorations, and the people are all out enjoying every part of what the season has to offer. We don’t get this in Texas. At most we get a few fallen leaves, but summer just seems to blur into winter one day after some kind of cold front in mid-November.

Enjoying a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower!

Enjoying a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower!

Visit to Vienna to see my fellow Aggie Morgan Hampton!

Visit to Vienna to see my fellow Aggie Morgan Hampton!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, there are a lot of things that I’ve observed this past month that make Strasbourg and College Station/Houston seem like they are worlds apart. Here are some examples to illustrate:

  • Having cash on hand is a MUST because a lot of restaurants or food stands only accept cash. Back in Texas, I would rarely ever have cash on me and just pay for everything with my debit card. Here, the only places you can really count on to have a card machine are American food chains, nicer, “sit-down” restaurants, most bars, and grocery stores.
  • Everyone smokes cigarettes. And when I mean everyone, I genuinely mean that most, if not all, of the people I’ve met smoke daily or on occasion, depending on the social setting.
  • The language barrier isn’t as much of an obstacle as I thought it would be. Strasbourg is actually a very “English-friendly” city. And if I come across someone who doesn’t speak any English, I have some wonderful friends who are always there to help me out or there is always someone within distance who speaks even a little bit of English who can help translate. For the most part, the French here are open to practicing their English with you. They may be a bit shy or self conscious about it, like how I feel when I try to speak in French, but with a welcoming attitude and some reassurance, we’ve always found a way to communicate and have interesting conversations!
  • In the U.S., it’s pretty much mandatory to keep dogs on their leashes at all times when they’re in public. So many of the dogs here are so trusted by their owners, that they are constantly off their leashes! Being an extreme dog-lover, it always warms my heart to see them walk so freely and loyally next to their owners. 🙂
  • Bicyclists and bicycle lanes are immensely respected. So much of every sidewalk is dedicated to bicyclists, sometimes leaving small, narrow walkways for other pedestrians. Also, both pedestrians and bicyclists are given priority when crossing the street, 99% of the time. Being from a country where everyone just wants to get to where they’re going as fast as possible at whatever the cost, it’s so unusual to see practically every driver give the right of way to a pedestrian, even if the pedestrian is in the wrong and it’s the driver’s turn to go.
  • The cars here, judging by what I’m used to seeing in Houston and College Station, seem to be stuck in the 90s/early 2000s, with the majority of them still being manual and using stick shift.
  • Air conditioning is basically non-existent throughout Europe, but radiators are everywhere. When I arrived in London and then in Strasbourg a week later at the end of August, this was my biggest issue to deal with because temperatures had reached record highs at that point, meaning that it was as hot here as it was in Texas. In August. With no A/C. When I was so used to having it every single day to cool off from the scorching summer heat back in TX. This was a huge adjustment, but luckily I bought my own fan and it got cooler soon after arriving, so I didn’t have to suffer for too long!
  • Baguettes are definitely everywhere. The French love their baguettes!!
  • Meals are seen as a social event, meaning that the French like to sit down, take their time, and really enjoy their food with the people around them. Meals can sometimes take hours, especially depending how much wine there is to drink!! So all of this basically implies that eating on-the-go is typically frowned upon and people can give you some judgmental looks. Trust me, I’ve learned from experience. But at the same time, if I am really in a hurry, really hungry, or really don’t care (which is most of the time), I will still occasionally eat my food while I’m walking around Strasbourg! Maybe it’s the American in me, maybe it’s because I love food too much. Either way, I’ve definitely learned to embrace this concept of meals being social events and I appreciate now the importance of taking your time to sincerely enjoy a meal and the company you’re with.
  • Obesity is rare. The French are considerably more active and eat healthier in comparison to the United States. Despite having a lot of bread and pastries incorporated into their diets, the opportunities for the French to gain a lot of weight is also extremely low here. With all of the bicycle lanes, lack of drive-thrus, limited options for fast food, and short distances between businesses, homes, etc., the French eat healthier foods, have healthier meal options, and walk/bike on a daily basis.
  • When travelling on French highways, traffic is nonexistent and the views are beautiful because of all the French countryside between major cities. The highways are also not bombarded by businesses, billboards, and lights right next to them, so at night, all you see is darkness around you, with the only lights coming from the few passing cars, distant light poles, and the stars above.
  • Besides being a paying customer at a restaurant or gas station, sometimes you have to pay to use public toilets… very annoying and inconvenient at times when you don’t have 50 or 70 cents and really have to go to the bathroom.
  • Class attendance is mandatory for all of my classes, all of which have a sign in sheet for the 20-30 students enrolled in the class – very different from the classes with 100+ students that I’ve taken at A&M, which are obviously very easy to skip if you’re not feeling up to going to class that day.
  • EVERYONE WANTS TO KNOW MY OPINION ON THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND WHO I VOTED FOR. They all are so in-the-know of everything that’s going on in the States, and a lot of them held watch parties for the presidential debates!! Also, very important note, every European I’ve come across hates Trump and breathes a sigh of relief when they find out that I did not vote for him… Interesting.
  • And last but not least, my very favorite: DOUBLE CHEEK KISSES. Being a Hispanic American, I’m used to a kiss on the cheek to greet other Spanish speakers. But for some reason, the double cheek kiss is so much more fun! 🙂 Any time I meet someone new, greet, or say goodbye to my friends (guys and girls), I always do the double cheek kiss and I secretly hope to bring this back with me to the U.S. after I’m done here. A girl can dream!!
Amsterdam!! :)

Amsterdam!! 🙂

Despite all of these differences, Strasbourg has finally started feeling like home. I don’t feel like a visitor anymore. I’ve claimed Strasbourg for my own and genuinely feel as though it is my city. Crosswalks and public transportation have become so familiar to me, getting around Strasbourg has become second nature. The people I see every day are so ingrained into my daily routine and life, I feel as though I’ve known them for years and that I will seem them every day for years to come. But, of course, this isn’t true – I have about a month and a half left in Europe and every day that goes by, this reality starts to hit me harder and harder. As much as I don’t want to leave and am trying to make the absolute most out of rest of my exchange, I can’t help but think about how excited I am to go home and see my family again. October has definitely been my homesick month. For some people, they are homesick for a couple of days, for a week, or maybe even less or more. But for me, it’s been this whole month. It was more prominent at the beginning of October, but each day that goes by, I keep thinking, “I’m one day closer to seeing my family and friends back home.” I feel pretty guilty about this on some days, just because I know that once I’m back to my “normal” routine in Texas, I’m just going to want to be here and I’ll miss France constantly. That’s why although I’m excited to see all of my loved ones back in Texas, I’ve been trying extra hard to enjoy the rest of my days here and continue to enrich my time/life in France with all of what Strasbourg has to offer. So, I’ve decided that November will be my “Strasbourg” month. I’m not travelling anywhere outside of France until after exams are over, so I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can about my city in the time I have left.

October has been a roller coaster month for me. It’s been unbelievable how much I’ve learned about myself in the face of adversity, frustration, and longing, especially in such a short period of time adjusting to a new home. It may seem as though I’m not enjoying myself, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I am truly happy. I’m happy with who I am, who I’m becoming, who I’ve surrounded myself with, what I’m learning, and how I’ve been spending my days here. Life just happens, you know? Adjusting to a new home takes a lot of time, effort, stress, worry, and improvisation. This “frustration stage” is typical of a lot of people who study abroad (we were warned about it in one of our pre-departure meetings before leaving). But I’m glad to say that this stage of my exchange (not the exchange itself!!) is coming to an end.

The phrase “The grass is always greener on the other side” keeps popping into my head these days. But so does the phrase “It’s greener where you water it.” I know right now I might want to be back in Texas, but I know once I’m there I’ll just want to be in France. So I’ve come to the decision that I’m going to make the most of my days here, however I decide to do that, and take in every moment I have with my friends so that I can leave with no regrets, only the fond memories of everything I’ve had the opportunity to do and the lasting relationships with the people I’ve had the honor of meeting here in France.

 

So, here’s to the last 2 months in Strasbourg, they’ve challenged me more than I can put into words,  but I wouldn’t trade them for anything! And here’s to the next month and half, let’s see what happens next! 🙂

Halloween in Strasbourg with Nicole!

Halloween in Strasbourg with Nicole!

Notre Dame Cathedral of Strasbourg!

Notre Dame Cathedral of Strasbourg!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Au revoir!

– Carmen Pilarte

For any questions about my time abroad, Strasbourg, or studying abroad in general:

Facebook: Carmen Carolina Pilarte

Email: carmenpilarte@tamu.edu

Categories: 2016, France, Reciprocal Exchange