Study Abroad

The Break

I had the most amazing Christmas Break ever. Damian flew in to Paris and arrived by train to Strasbourg as I anxiously waited. He surprised me by getting an earlier ticket and I was even a few minutes late to the station picking him up!  After almost 4 months apart it was such a sweet moment being with each other again. The whole bus ride to my apartment I couldn’t stop smiling! We stayed here in Strasbourg a few days during which I got to show him my city and he got to see the Christmas Market on the last day before it closed. We then took a 9hr (turned 10hr) bus ride with FlixBus to Amsterdam, Netherlands where we began our travels.

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Maybe I’m stating the obvious but Netherlands and Holland are the same thing. Europe is so confusing having so many names for the same places!

Anyway, we spent our New Year’s in Amsterdam. We stayed in Harleem which is a little far away from Amsterdam Central but it was honestly better that way. The city is so hectic and although it was a great visit, I feel under different conditions we would have enjoyed it more. There were tons of people. However, we got this Amsterdam CityPass that allowed us to use public transportation and free entrance in several museums. We visited the Van Gogh Museum, the Holocaust Museum, the Dutch Resistance Museum, Tulip Museum, and Botanical Garden. My favorite parts were seeing the canals at night and definitely the Jewish Quarter near the botanical garden. We also had an amazing dinner at this Indonesian Restaurant called IndraPura. It was an awesome treat. To save money we went to the grocery store and cooked a lot of our other meals. For New Year’s from our AirBnB we had the most amazing few of the fireworks and we were pretty far outside of the city, we stayed in and cooked dinner since we had a very early flight the next morning (I’m not sure who’s idea that was). However, something to note is that I had read that if you wanted to know what a war zone was like you should visit Amsterdam for New Year’s, I’ve never experienced a war zone, but there were explosions and fireworks going off since the day we arrived all day long! Not as much as at midnight but I was amazed at how many fireworks were being set-off. People were throwing them out of there 2nd story window into the street and it was honestly a little scary. Walking home after a trip to the grocery store you couldn’t even see there was so much smoke. Aside from the things we saw, Amsterdam was miserably cold, windy, and wet. I’m glad we went but I’m sure in Spring and Summer it would be so much better!

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The next place we visited was Rovaniemi, Finand. If you weren’t aware, this is near Lapland, the Arctic Circle, and SANTA CLAUS’ official hometown. We got to meet him, see his reindeer, visit the North Pole and it was the coolest thing ever! If I had to pick a favorite destination out of the places we visited, Finland was definitely my favorite. I would assume it’s because it’s so out of the ordinary for me to see that kind of scenery. This was Winter Wonderland straight from your wildest dreams. Not to mention, I think the best part of our stay was that our AirBnB host was the best ever! We stayed in this little cabin connected to his house that had a sauna, the Finnish love saunas, pronounced “SO – nah”, not “Saw nah”.  He also had a snow mound in his front yard for sledding, cross-country ski tracks in his neighborhood, along with an area to go ice-skating! It was amazing. Although we didn’t see the Northern Lights we did see an igloo, went ice-climbing, snow-mobiling, and on a sleigh-ride with huskies. We also drank lots of Hot Berry Juice, our 1st time trying it was by mistake where we bought a concentrated version from the supermarket thinking it was normal juice that you were actually supposed to dilute with water and heat up. This idea is genius and so simple. Just heat up juice next time and it’s sooo good!

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Finland, is definitely a place I’d love to go back to. My only regret is that I didn’t go prepared enough. Had I purchased a base layer like Damian had brought and boots I think I would have been able to enjoy exploring much more because we could have hiked and ventured around. We were a little limited by our clothing, well maybe it was just me. I even had a near catastrophe when my coat sleeve randomly had an 8in rip. Of course it happened on a day when it seemed like everything was going on, so there was a minor freakout that afternoon but I managed to mend it and all was right with the world again after that.  Ultimately, I loved seeing the snow, and experiencing life in the Arctic! Plus, it wasn’t as cold as you think. It wasn’t unbearable to go outside, the only thing that was strange was that there were VERY FEW hours of daylight. Starting at around 3pm it began to get dark.  I could go on about Finland and how amazing all of the things we did were but I hope the pictures speak for themselves. It was such a blast!

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After Finland we had a little mishap trying to get to Paris and had to stay a night in Copenhagen,Denmark due to a missed flight so we can cross that of our list.

As pretty as the Scandinavian countries are the only downfall is how expensive it is to travel there. We managed but we ate MAMA noodles and oatmeal a majority of the time we were there.

…can you believe in the middle of no where in the Arctic they have MAMA noodles??!!!

Anyway, Paris was lovely as always. This was more of a destination to unwind from our adventures. We stayed pretty close to our AirBnB and went to see the Eiffel Tower light up at midnight one evening, we also got to see the Palace of Versailles, it was on my list after having visited a few times and never making my way there. The palace itself was cool but what I really loved was seeing the estate and the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon which is where Marie-Antoinette had a “private home”. I can only imagine what it looked like in the summer. Visiting these places, and Europe in general makes me want to have a garden sooooo bad!

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Traveling with Damian was amazing, and it was one of the most fun trips of my life. Everything we saw it was for the first time together, getting to fly together and navigate public transportation was pretty cool too. I will say I do stress when things don’t go according to plan and Damian lives by the words, “I’m just gonna wing it”. So with that being said, I did snap a few times, but all of our mishaps ending up being great memories we’ll laugh about for a long time.

Leaving Damian in the airport was so hard and very emotional but, this time around we won’t be apart for so long! He comes back in a month to start his adventure for the semester studying in Italy! I’m so excited for him and the fact I’ll have an excuse to escape to Italy for the weekend!

After Damian left it wasn’t the end of my trip. Damian and I went to the airport at the same time and shortly after his flight left I got on a flight to Budapest, Hungary to meet my Swedish friend Mimie.

**Quick fact, Buda and Pest are separated by the Danube River and they mashed these two areas together to create the city Budapest! I didn’t know that.

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In Budapest we saw Buda Castle, the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, the Parliament Building, the famous shoes on the Danube and so many other beautiful buildings and attractions. One of the best was that by chance walking up to Buda Castle we got to see the changing of the guard!

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Budapest is known for not being expensive so we feasted the entire time we were there. It was a foodie’s dream. We ate at the best restaurants and it was amazing! Budapest was such an awesome city, and it wasn’t too crowded. There was so much to see and so many places to go. We stayed in the Jewish Quarter and our location was prime! We were right by two of the most popular ruin bars which are just bars that they’ve opened in abandoned buildings. The interior are decorated in a fun way and they have a lot of character. Mimie and I had a blast, played Havana by Camilla Cabello one to many times, got fish pedicures, and ate til our bellies were full everyday. It was the perfect last getaway before coming home to Strasbourg for the start of the semester!

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Each place I visited was so much fun and again, I can’t stress enough how much more I could say but I’d rather just show you because the pictures capture how amazing the trip was.

Aside from this being an amazing trip, what made it so much more special was that I could to experience it with my best friend and we started 2018 off in the most magical way. I love New Year’s, and I think this was a great beginning to an even better year. I have one semester left here in Europe and I couldn’t be more grateful for all of the things I’ve gotten to see and experience. The world is a very big place y’all.

Some things I’ve learned on this trip:

  1. You can wear the same outfit multiple times. IT IS TOTALLY POSSIBLE TO TRAVEL IN A CARRY-ON and only need 1 PAIR OF SHOES.
  • If you travel in the Winter you’ll wear a coat to cover the outfit anyway

2. You can cook bacon in the microwave

3. Gloves where you can use your phone are essential

4. A scarf makes a difference

5. Always carry an umbrella with you

6. Always carry a portable charger with you

I have a soccer game tomorrow and I start school on Monday! Good luck to everyone this semester back home!

P.S. I was notified that crawfish season has begun, and I’m so upset I can’t partake in feasting on the best thing Louisiana has to offer. Please eat so much of them for me guys!

Long posts like this make it hard to sound eloquent because my thoughts are so jumbled, especially considering I’m still trying to process the things I got to see and experience myself. I hope the pictures give you some eye-candy to enjoy of our adventure this break!  Cheers and missing you all so much back home! Be prepared for me to bug you to come to Europe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Study Abroad

A Great Big World

So this past week, I officially started my semester. I’ve been in France almost 3 weeks and as some of you have read it hasn’t been all smooth sailing.

Just another experience to add to my mishaps, I have a cold. I remember when leaving for LSU, I had the fear of getting sick. I thought of how I would manage without my mom to take care of me. However, “adulting” makes you realize how dramatic you are. I can’t lay in bed all day, and if I need to get medicine I need to get it myself and cook my own soup. I know this seems laughable to most adults because this is normal, but for someone still young, starting out in the world on their own, this is new for me.

**PSA: The pharmacies close at night, you have to search the designated 24 hour pharmacy of your city. Also, to get medicine you have to explain your symptoms to the pharmacist and they give you what you need. You can’t buy medicine at the supermarket.

Luckily, it’s not terrible and I have housemates who are super concerned for me. Francesca heard me coughing and her “Italian” came out and she quickly prepared a tea for me and instructed me on everything I should be doing to get better. Abi has also been making me use this vapor rub stuff, and EVERYONE is insisting I wear a scarf to cover my throat. All of the things your grandma told you to do when you got sick, apparently Italian grandma’s do the same; the home remedy medical field is universal!

I know I’ll be okay, I have several moms away from home! And yes, if it’s get worse, mom I’ll go to the doctor (and I’m sure I’ll write about that experience when the time comes as well). In addition, Abi and I both have different schedules but she barges in my room every morning when she knows I have class to make sure I’m awake; she’s a true friend.

As for class, I’m studying European Management at École de Management Strasbourg (EM Strasbourg). I will be taking a total of 12 classes through the year, 6 per semester; this equates to an 18 hour course load per semester. My program is a Bachelor Program so I’ll be receiving a degree at the end of the year! The reason being is that I’ve been enrolled here as a 3rd year student and met all their requirements with my past curriculum at my host university (LSU). In France, a Bachelor’s is only 3 years (années) of college, so I’m in my senior year here! The outline below gives an outline of the higher education system here. ECTS is comparable to hours here, and 1 class = 5 ECTS.

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My classes this semester are the following:

  • Cases in International Marketing
  • Introduction to European Economic Policy
  • Business Negotiation
  • Culture & Civilisation Françaises
  • Basics in Supply Chain Management
  • Experiential Marketing

Despite this awesome advantage of receiving a degree when I finish my year here, I will still be finishing school at LSU and receiving my bachelor’s there as well.

Though I have had few classes so far (the rest of my classes begin next week), I can say my favorite thing is that since my curriculum is International Focus, it allows for some really need discussion in class since so many nationalities are represented. The majority are Mexican, German, and Chinese. However, there are also people from Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines, Ireland, and Greece just to name a few.

Class is 3 hours long and we meet once a week, it’s up to the teacher’s discretion what day works best so it changes every week too. We get a 10 minute break halfway between class. There is no homework however, in several of my classes there are lots of group projects, and a final. Only a few have quizzes throughout the semester.

As for the classroom itself, there are chalkboards as opposed to a white board, but there are also projectors to present their slideshows.

Another difference is that English is not the native language of our professors (all of my classes are in English except for my French class). I know this will take some getting used to but it’s part of the experience!

Concerning culture shock, there is a lot of focus in Europe on politics and I’ll be the first to say I’m politically ignorant. I don’t watch the news, and frankly I don’t know much of what’s going on in the world. Considering what my major is, this needs to change.

In my Intro to European Economic Policy class we started off by learning what the EU was exactly, and what it means, and what the reason was for it being created and it’s values.

This was a VERY HARD 1st class for me. I kept trying to compare how this worked with the way America does and it really can’t be compared at all. Furthermore, there are huge differences in values between Europe and America and I had never realized how big of a deal this was.

**For those of you that are educated about world politics don’t be to harsh on me for just having this realization now in my 3rd year of college!

Ultimately, I was pretty shocked at how big of a difference this is and the fact that, despite this, we can have a world economy and things can flow from a producer to a consumer all around the world! It makes me appreciate the convenience of the internet so much more! I can order something from anywhere in the world on Amazon, and there are so many regulations, agreements, and processes that happen for that product to first be manufactured and eventually get to me. It’s really incredible!

So aside from class, and how awesome the world I’ll disclose a little about my social experiences this past week.

First, I want to applaud my mother. Why? Well…if you know Nancy, you know how vacations go with her. My mother is a planner…. any vacation, trip, or soccer tournament has been planned down to the smallest detail. There is a schedule we follow, a meal plan, and anytime we were on a trip we made the most of our whole day. This meant waking up early and going to sleep really late. I can remember one time we were in San Antonio and had been walking all day touring different museums and attractions in the area and I sat on a rock and told her to leave me there because I wasn’t walking another step. She’s a tough one when it comes to traveling.

Then I think about backpackers, they deserve applause too. How is it that I can read about all these people who go to Europe for a month and have been to 20 different countries and were able to do so much in so little time?!

Well, for starters I don’t think they slept until noon everyday….

I’ve really had to adjust to where I live and the minor differences that really make a huge impact on daily life. I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say it again, but walking and having to take public transportation…y’all.

Heck, I want to also applaud the people who live in big cities…. I don’t know how you guys do this everyday and aren’t exhausted and then wake up in the morning to work out, eat breakfast, AND get to work on time! If you have a kid on top of that, well, you’re a freaking super human.

So this leads me to my point… I have no excuses.

I’m studying abroad in Europe, an opportunity that many people would do anything for! Yes, there are some adjustments but I know my time here will go by faster than I want and I don’t want to realize that I have a week left and didn’t take advantage of the fact that I was here to do all the things I wanted to do. I can take a train and in 2 hours be in Germany, or Switzerland, or Paris, and so on!

After getting a pep talk from Damian (thanks babe), I have been reminded of the reasons I wanted this experience so bad in the first place!

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Although it’s so much easier to just stay home all day, I need to go out, I need to socialize and meet people, and I need to adventure in my city. There are so many things to see, and after almost 3 weeks of being here you’d think I’d have seen more than I have. Maybe it’s because I know I’ll be living here for the year there isn’t any pressure to go out and about. I also feel this way back home. For example, you can pass a statue or a museum a million times in your city and maybe have no idea what it’s even for or ever visit. I love when I meet people who have visited Louisiana and tell me all the things they saw and visited. And I’m always amazed when I say “Wow, I’m a local and I haven’t even been there, but that’s soooo cool!”

I think this is a prime example of forgetting the beauties around you just because they seem so normal, you don’t appreciate them. Like Parisians, I’m sure they don’t even notice the Eiffel Tower anymore (well, maybe so, it’s kind of big)…but I can bet they don’t cry when they see it light up at night (I did).

In addition, as I’ve often said, city life is fast paced….would you believe that a Chinese student in class said it was slow here?!?!?! Apparently even the escalators are too slow (I’ve never even heard of that as a complaint). However, our teacher told a story of how when she visited, she got on the escalator and almost fell because she didn’t get on fast enough and it was going so quickly. I would love to see that! (not her falling, but a super speed escalator)

Aside from this, friends is another topic I’d like to say some things about. I consider myself a very friendly person! Now I realize it’s because I have so many friends, who I’ve known for a while and who I’m comfortable with. Let me just say though, it’s tough having to make NEW friends. It takes effort, more than I ever realized. I’ve never been in this situation, and I realize how much I take my friends for granted just because I know they’re always there. Here, I have to actively make plans with people, message them, etc. I’m learning lots of lessons as you can see. I’m very lucky that I came with people from back home and knew at least a few people before arriving! I can only imagine having come by myself! This means you have to be super outgoing and make an even bigger effort to have people want to include you and it takes even more energy getting to know someone and starting a friendship that I ever realized. I notice how much I don’t listen sometimes, thinks I do that could be taken the wrong way, etc. I’m awkward and need way better practice at holding a conversation.

I made a friend from Sweden, Mimie, and she always talks about how she isn’t a typical Swede. Apparently, the stereotype is they’re cold, and introverted. She’s super awesome and outgoing!

We decided to go and get our nails done, and heads up…..in Strasbourg (I’m not sure about the rest of France, so I won’t generalize) almost every salon is appointment only, a walk-in nail salon is extremely rare. Long story short, we found one and ended up having a not so great experience. The manicure process there was way different than back home…

 

It’s exciting and overwhelming of all the things I’m experiencing and learning, but I can see myself becoming more aware of my own tendencies and the way I perceive “norms”. It’s a little overwhelming to realize that a “norm” doesn’t actually exist, because there are so many different lifestyles due to where you are, the language you speak, the types of products available to you, and the weather where you live. It’s cold here, and I wear pants all the time and haven’t shaved my legs since I got here. Partially because of the pants, partially because of my capsule shower. I think the stereotype of the French not shaving may be pretty logical and not poor hygiene; I think I’ll need this extra layer for the winter!

I am so thankful for this experience despite the facts that it is a little cold, I have to make coffee “manually”, and I have to walk 30 minutes to get to the city center.

A few tips for future exchange students:

CTS is the public transportation company here. To ride any bus or tram you can get a Badgeo Card and not pay for a ticket each time. A ticket is 2 euros on the bus, but for 26 euros a month you can have unlimited rides on any means of transportation. When we first arrived I thought we had to go to the office to get ours but you don’t! You can make an account online and have yours mailed to you! It was so easy!

In addition, it is also required to get French Health Insurance here to be registered in school. I chose MGEL because it’s closer to campus and to finalize the process you have to visit the office and drop off a form (don’t worry they explain what you need to do at school). The other insurance company is LMDE, they both offer the same benefits.

In addition to health insurance you also need housing insurance for your apartment or dorm. You can get this at a bank or MGEL for a quick comparison, at my bank it’s 50 euros for the year and at MGEL it’s 35 euros.

Finally, a lot of people wondered why you would need a French Bank account because, despite being told you needed this to open a phone account, they never asked. However, in order to get health insurance you need a French phone number and a French bank account to be reimbursed. You also need one to receive the French Housing Aid “CAF”, they’ll deposit the amount you are awarded to your account or you can agree to have it sent to your landlord.