Monday, October 14, 2013

Traveling Europe

 by: Carina Hahn, Exchange in Grenoble, France

Having the opportunity to study abroad this summer made me realize how many great opportunities we have at the U. We can go anywhere in this world. I chose to go to France to keep building on my French ability, and I definitely did. I spent one week in Paris, then 5 weeks in Grenoble. After my program in France, I traveled to 8 other countries in Europe. I went to Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, Austria, The Czech Republic, and Switzerland. With so much traveling and so many new experiences, I learned a lot from my time abroad.

Before Europe, I never had to navigate a metro system. As soon as I got to Paris I had to figure that out really fast. Then when I was switching cities every few days while traveling, I had to quickly learn new transportation systems. The hardest part was that as soon as I left France, I no longer always spoke the language. Even though it was a challenge, I was able to get around successfully. I now miss the convenience of European transportation. It was nice when trains came every 3-4 minutes.

Trying new things:
When you are in a different culture, there is sometimes no other option than diving right in and doing everything like a native. I had not had a lot of exposure to different cultural foods in the US. I made sure I tried everything I could while I was in Europe. I tried coffee, Indian food, Moroccan food, lots of different kinds of cheeses, and so much more. The strangest thing was probably eating rabbit. It tasted good but it was strange to be eating meat off of such small bones.

I never realized how different European culture was in all of the different countries until I was actually there experiencing it. I learned that the differences are not the wrong way to do things, they are just different. It was really hard for me to get used to some of the cultural differences with eating. The French do not snack, so it took my body several weeks to adjust to that, but eventually I was not hungry anymore between meals. I struggled learning how to use a fork in my left hand, but now I’m glad I have that skill. One of my favorites was that they ate yogurt for dessert. It was so refreshing, and I want to keep having yogurt for dessert.

Before I left, I knew it was going to be a learning experience and that is exactly what it was. Studying abroad gives you class credits, but that’s not what you remember from your experience. The things you learn outside of the classroom teach you the most. It is important to get out there and experience the world to get the most out of your education. And I would suggest doing it while you are in college to take advantage of all of the great student discounts in Europe!

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