Study Abroad

Christmas Spirit

As this semester is coming to a close with my last final being tomorrow I can only be thankful for the experiences and people I’ve met these past few months.

Although things have been tough, difficult, and frustrating I’ve also experienced some pretty great things too.

We did a Secret Santa gift exchange with the flat and it was perfect. Despite not following directions for the rules of the gift exchange, despite being gifted a hunk of cheese, and despite Virgil dropping wine on our carpet for the umpteenth time; I love these people!

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We had this little exchange on Sunday before hosting a Christmas dinner for friends, several of which will be leaving this semester.

Alex peeking behind me in the picture below will be going home to California, Anel posing in denim will be heading back to Vienna, Mason is heading home to Louisiana to graduate in the Spring, and our sweet Francesca is going to be leaving us to go back to Genoa, Italy. These people (along with others who couldn’t make it) have contributed to some of my favorite memories of my experience that I’m going to cherish forever! Notably, all of the meals we’ve shared. I’ve tested out ALL of my recipes on them. My first Gumbo, my first time making rice and gravy for a crowd, my first red beans and rice on my own, my first thanksgiving dishes, not to mention trying to bake goodies for them with a toaster oven (cue the tears when my lemon bars didn’t work)!

We’ve cooked so many times together and it’s been great. As Tatiana put it, it was a true family Sunday. We had Christmas music blaring, yummy smells coming from all corners of our flat as we prepared dishes, and great company. I even got away with a few country songs. I never realized how much country music makes me think of home. The lyrics make me think of Louisiana: my nanny’s house, my best friends, singing in the car, LSU, the awesome food, my family. The best is when I play Chicken Fried by the Zac Brown Band most of them know the words and sing-along now!

 

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Things I’ve looked forward to the past semester include:

Damian coming which I can’t believe how fast time has passed, I get to see him in 7 days!

Also, shout out to my person for –

1). Coming all the way across the ocean to see me

2). Coming back after he leaves to study abroad in Italy for the Spring semester!

1:30 PM. Why? Because 1:30 PM is 6:30 AM Louisiana time. I’ve actually counted down the minutes til I can call my mom as soon as she wakes up! When ya girl is desperate for advice on how to wash something, cook something, or edit something it takes everything in me not to call hear any earlier. **Sometimes I can get away with an emergency text a little earlier than this.

Bus 2 heading to Elmerfrost and Jardin des Deux Rives.

Monday….only insane people say this. However, this is what Strasbourg has done to me, I starve on Sundays or have to ration toilet paper until Monday because no stores are open. 

The 3rd person… So many times I’ve spent waiting in the library for the 3rd person to show up part of the group in order to get the key to the team room to work on a project!

My clothes to dry….the further into Winter we get the quicker my clothes dry! I’m loving it!

Soccer Practice! Since joining the time I’ve become friends with the most wonderful group of girls. After finishing my club and high school soccer career never would I have imagined it would be continued during my year abroad in France. Calling for the ball and cheering on my teammates in French is still a work in progress but I get to vent to these girls about teachers, the struggles of adapting to France, and French grammar. We’ve played 2 games thus far and have one at the end of break in January! I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and the upcoming tournaments. Plus my flatmates and friends are so awesome they came to watch me play at my last game (against Paris it was 1-2, but still a great time)

P.S. We are the Storkettes not the Hurric’EMS

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Finally, this past weekend I finally made it to mass in the Cathedral! It’s a gorgeous church and I found it so comforting that I could follow mass and that mass occurrences are universal. There are still misbehaved kids who’s parents try to silently discipline them, still sweet old ladies who sing louder than the rest of us, the same Christmas songs, and the same joy when it’s time to give peace. The only difference was that this mass was a mixture of French, German, and Latin!

Although I’m not with my family this holiday season I feel like the people I’ve been surrounded with have truly embodied the spirit of Christmas and brought it to life for me. We all come from different backgrounds and cultures. Some of us are religious, some of us aren’t, some of us don’t even typically celebrate Christmas. Some of believe in Santa Claus. Some of us believe in Christkind. Some of us get presents on Dec. 6 and the 25th. We also eat different dishes around Christmas time. This has definitely made my Christmas season much more rich.

We may not be blood but we have become a family! I feel so lucky that the world has become such a smaller place thanks to all the people I’ve met. I’m looking forward to my future travels visiting my international friends! Before this trip Europe seemed like a once in a lifetime experience but I know I’ll definitely be coming back after I leave.

Cheers to another semester, the adventure continues!

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.