The end is not near, it’s here.
If anyone has lived in the past century, you will understand the significance of the fact that the Hogwarts express is heading towards King’s Cross and I have a ticket on board. The year has finished, even though it feels like I just arrived on the platform in Tours 10 months ago. It’s on that platform where I met the people with whom I would be sharing my year abroad, and who would help get me through the good and the difficult times this year. If I haven’t said it enough in my blogging, I will ask one more time: where did the time go?
I am referencing Harry potter not only because I journeyed to London two weeks ago and felt like I was Hermione Granger herself, but also because I finally had the chance to ride in one of those private train compartments on the way home from Prague yesterday, and I really felt like I was ending what seemed to be a J.K. Rowling worth fantasy year. On this train, I feel like I did a lot of reflecting. While my year abroad may have seemed like a typical student’s experience, (living in a different country, a wonderful excuse for vacations, etc.) I have come to realize and can proclaim first hand that no student’s experience is the same. In terms of my own experience, there are several challenges and obstacles that I have had to adapt to this year, none of which would have been possible without wonderful friends and family at my side.
1. Living with a host family
While this idea may have seemed easy at the beginning, you don’t realize until you get there that you are not at home, nor at College. A host family is not like trying on a glove and hoping that it fits; it’s about making changes and sacrifices in order for you as well as the family to feel comfortable together. Once this happens, you can easily communicate with each other and realize that while it may not be home, it’s a place where you feel close to a new culture, family, and way of living. I am so thankful I was placed into the Rothhut family, and I know that the relationship built with them is one I plan maintaining, even though I will no longer be under their roof. Plus, did I mention my host brother is staying with me in August?? He is definitely in for an American culture shock!
2. Eating MEAT
Yes, for the twentieth time I have to confess: this happened. Will I eat meat when I go home? Probably not! But hey, I tried many new things this year, and I am proud to say that I didn’t hold back from anything (plus, the Greek girl in me real likes her lamb).
3. Traveling Alone
Take London for example: I flew there all by my belf (no, that’s not a typo), found the hostel that I booked online, and managed to meet up with a fellow crusader and friend from home! I have to admit, I was very proud of ourselves for managing to conquer the city, which included a visit to three museums, Big Ben, the London eye, the millennium bridge, the London production of Wicked, Mass at Saint Paul, and a discovery of some of the best local hangouts (best view in London: sushi bar 40 stories up). Did I mention we did this in all under 48 hours? Needless to say, I am no longer afraid to take the train to New York for the day.
4. Different language
New culture means new language and new way of thinking. Did I ever mention it can get mentally exhausting thinking and speaking in a different language all day…and I’m not just talking about French? For future Strasbourg study abroad goers: take German, you won’t regret it!
5. New Friend Circle
5 girls, nothing really in common except for our love of Holy Cross and France: this turned out to be the best combination possible. Not only did we all have different friend groups and experiences back in the States, but none of us knew anything about each other before arriving in France. Well, I am so blessed to say that I could not have imagined my experience in France with anyone else and I am so thankful for everything we have gone through together this year. Shout out to my girls: liebe!
So while this year was a definitely a journey within itself, I must also share how I ended up spending my very last few weeks abroad, which may include some physical journeys along the way.
A trip to London: Yes, I am truly obsessed with the UK and will be returning one day.
Cooking Greek food with the girls in celebration of Orthodox Easter chez Malou (Christos Anesti!)
Dressing up in Alsatian clothes with my host sister Aelys (yes, it was just as fun to do as ridiculous it looks).
Traveling to the Czech Republic with Kelia, Barbara and Jess: This was our last trip in Europe and we decided to go all out! 3 trains and a 4 hour bus later, we survived out voyage to the city of Prague. During our time, we ended up eating the typical cuisine three times in our trip which included goulash, spinach, and lots and lots of cabbage (plus beer is astronomically cheaper than water there). Besides seeing all the main sites like the astrological clock tower, the medieval castle and cathedral, and several historical museums noting the fascinating history of the Hapsburg Empire, we also stumbled upon a tea room AND the largest music club complex in central Europe… it was definitely a voyage for the books, and I’m proud to say we went out with a bang!
Now, I am currently packing up my things, saying good bye to all the wonderful people I have met in Strasbourg this year, and am still trying to figure out how I condensed all of my belongings in 2 suitcases that would last me for a whole year…To all my wonderful friends, family, and dedicated blog readers, I am signing out to profiter from the last few days in this beautiful country. See you back in the US of A!