A Semester In Europe-Narrated by Daria
It was cold
*Rolls eyes at every memory of waiting at the Observetoire bus stop in 15 degree weather* When we first arrived, Strasbourg was freezing. The fresh snow was beautiful but the temperatures were no fun when we found ourselves stranded, tired, and cold on the way home because the buses stopped running after midnight, even though French people stay out all night. (Uber to the rescue)
Mom, I'm Alive
Being so far from friends and family was daunting at first: An hour into my study abroad experience, I found myself in the Frankfurt, Germany airport with a broken book bag, finding out that my luggage had taken a flight somewhere else without me. But after a few weeks, the whole situation was forgotten and I had to set reminders on my phone to call home.
Tarte flambée, anyone?
The first question everyone would ask was, "So what do you eat there?" Ironically, all of my favorite places to eat in Strasbourg were actually "international," and I ate way more pizza and burgers than I do when I'm at home. I know, I know: "But you were in France!" Welp.
The traditional dish of the region is Tarte Flambée (or Flammkuchen if you're German), basically a flat bread with extra cream, and it was served at literally every restaurant and happy hour.
No, I don't speak French. No, I didn't learn French while I was there. But, I can order a kebab *avec frites*, ask où est les toilettes?, and text s.v.p. like a true French person (ha). I got so used to not understanding the people around me that coming home and being surrounded by English was actually a major adjustment.
Well, duh. But for some reason, it felt like time shouldn't have been passing in the US while I was away. Unfortunately, it was: Every introduction was met with a Trump joke and there was no shortage of political rants about the utter nonsense going on back home. Here is some actual footage of me watching human rights, equality, and any last remnant of international respect for America go up in flames on Inauguration Day, (and really every day since then):
Traveling (The Best Part)
I found out that I could (barely) survive 12+ hours on a bus, that I have a mortal enemy in Paris (Pick-pocketers are the worst kind of humans), and that no matter how much I try to lay low, the universe will always find a way to broadcast that we are American tourists *Flashback to a metro machine in Budapest literally yelling at me to take my bills because the exchange rate is something insane like 1 USD to 300 HUF*
History is Cool! (Until it isn't)
The one thing I love the most about Europe is the history. Living in a nearly 300 year old Château was an interesting experience-and a huge contrast to the places back home (where the equivalence is the history of Indigenous people, but we don't learn about it because we still think our history began in 1492...but anyway). With that awe came the realization that Hitler has walked in front of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg that I love, the US secretly tucked away a major mishap involving chemical weapons in a coastal town in Italy, and while the Colosseum is amazing-I'm sure the people who were forced to fight to the death for entertainment wouldn't double tap the touristy pictures of you in front of it on Instagram.
Hostels R Us
For the broke and semi-adventurous: People told me crazy stories about their things being stolen or having annoying people in their room, but luckily I didn't have any hostel experiences that were bad, just strange. *Flashback to being woken up by a guy who we thought was dying, trying to pry open his mouth because we thought he was going to throw up in his sleep, only to find out he was actually choking on raisins*
Politics, Politics, and more Politics
My love/hate relationship with my major will always taunt me. Who has time to look up the "Top 10 Things To Do in Brussels" when you know this guy at home is trying to ban people from entering the country based on religion and innocent people will die as a result? (Cough, cough, I'm sorry, "ban travel from primarily Muslim countries"). Behold, my only regret from this semester: not going to the Women's March in Paris. Here's me at breakfast after promising not to check the news for a week:
Travel light, they said
Traveling light is great until you actually don't pack enough and have to wear that same black shirt for the 962349273rd time that week, because you convinced yourself that as long as you're wearing black, you'll blend in. By the end of the semester I looked at my closet and wanted to burn it all.
Plan for your plans to not be planned...you know?
The best days were the ones where we happened upon the most amazing sunset or when a failed beach day became one of my favorite days of the trip.
Going Out - sorta
If I had a euro for every time we bought wine and beer and made plans to go out...but didn't...
So while most of my classes were a waste of time (aka a woman standing in front of the room talking at me for 2 hours) , the few classes I enjoyed were discussion based. Long story short: no matter where you are, there's that guy in class who thinks more highly of his own opinion than anyone else in the room.
All Good things come to an end
After four and a half months of waiting for the 15 bus, impossible searches for a place to eat on Sunday, and a million chocolate croissants, it was time to leave Strasbourg and all the people who ate tarte flambée and made sub-par pasta with me.
Reverse culture shock is real-I need a support group
So after I got over the jet lag and answered 3 million questions with the same answers, I had the post semester blues (or mid-college-life-crisis?): It's summer! I'm a senior! I'm broke! What the hell am I doing with my life? So boohoo, I'm back in the US of A, but hopefully not for long!