Excerpt from a reflection post written by undergraduate student Alexandra Rodriguez from the 2011 study abroad semester in Strasbourg.
I participated in the Strasbourg study abroad program in the fall of 2011. I was a senior when I went abroad and my only regret was that I did not go abroad earlier…
Our School, L’École de Management, did not offer many classes in September, thus all the students decided to take every weekend as a long weekend to visit Switzerland, Prague, Paris, Nice and Cannes. Everyone had a different city they were dying to see and we were able to incorporate everyone’s must-see city in the schedule we made for the entire group. By constructing a schedule this way, we were able to visit at least one city every person wanted to see and we were able to travel in groups. Traveling in groups not only made the trip that much better but also kept us safer. My favorite memory is traveling to the French Riviera. We all bought our train tickets, booked our hostel and headed for the coast. After we passed the trials and tribulations of catching the right train at the right time for the right place, we finally made it to the beautiful city of Nice…
School at L’Ecole de Management was in full swing by late September. Signing up for classes was difficult at first. As a group, we had a difficult time finding out how to sign up online, which classes were geared toward international students, and which classes were taught in English and in French. In hindsight, I can see that I was simply nervous and made things more difficult than it needed to be. After I signed up for a few classes, I was an expert. I was able to sign up for many classes because L’Ecole de Management has classes that can last anywhere from two weeks to six weeks. This means that that in a month and a half I could have taken and completed three classes. This is very different from what I was used to at Georgia State. It took some time to get used to the five hour class time that was split up during the day but eventually, I used it to my advantage. But there was some overlap with all the classes I wanted and needed to take and there was one week in particular I had been dreading.
After weeks of relaxing and taking a “laisse faire” approach to school, it has finally caught up with me. Most of my classes have decided to bombard the next two weeks with assignments, projects, and tests that cease to exist during the first part of the semester. As the assignments begin to pile, I begin to realize that this one assignment, project or test will practically determine my grade in the class. I have never had a class before where a single task counts as much as ninety percent of the grade in the course. Naturally, I’m terrified. This system is very different from the American grading system that I have come to know. I’m used to having attendance not only count as part of my grade but also as extra credit in some classes. Daily assignments and quizzes cushion the majority of the test grades and tests are given every eight weeks or six weeks or so. L’ Ecole de Management only has one task that determines your final grade. Just remember to have a good balance between school and traveling time so that this system of grading does not catch you off guard.
While classes could be hectic, Chateau de Pourtales was a wonderful constant in our lives at that time. Everyone in the program made the Chateau feel like home by planning movie night, and having our ‘parents’ which were two American adults that would not only speak English but also help us adjust since we were so far from home. We were able to have a party for Halloween and a full Thanksgiving feast that was coordinated by CEPA and all the staff members at the Chateau. It was these wonderful little American traditions that made us feel more at home and more at ease in a foreign country.
As the semester went on, I found that I was able to visit all the great cities I had once dreamed about and had made great memories at the same time. Also by the end of the semester, I had felt as though I finally got into the groove of things in Strasbourg. I no longer felt as though I was a tourist in this town or even lost in this city. I suppose I finally felt as though I was simply living my life as if I was an actual French person in Strasbourg rather than being the girl that is trying to find the right tram stop to get to the mall. Being there for as long as I was, I saw myself living away from home and setting up in Europe. I had really loved my time in France and especially my time spent traveling and discovering new places. I will remember fondly Paris and London exclusively; I fell in love with both cities and turned my childhood images of each city into cities with job opportunities that awaited me after I graduated from Georgia State. My life after graduation was another question entirely at that time, but I am glad to say that this trip had as least directed me and reaffirmed me in my belief of pursuing political science. I loved my time in Europe and making new friends! By the time the end of the semester came around, I was not ready to go home.