Things are finally starting to feel normal again. It’s been a week since I arrived in France, and it’s just now hitting me that I’m not here on some sort of vacation, I’m here for quite a while. This is my new home, and I’m reminded of that fact each time I recognize a street, or know what stop to get off of the bus at, or actually remember where something is in the grocery store.
On Sunday most of the rest of my group finally arrived. We all went out to dinner that night at Le Jardin du Pourtalès, an Alsatian Winstub situated at the very beginning of the Château’s long gravel driveway. I believe that the building was formerly the Château’s guardhouse. It was only nine girls at this point in addition to our coordinator Lisa, and I enjoyed getting to know some of the people I would be spending the next four months with. We were served an incredible three-course meal, and we purchased ourselves a couple of bottles of nice wine. In hindsight, we all realize that we made a huge mistake in even considering buying those bottles of wine.
I’ll probably never settle for spending more than $5 on a bottle of wine from the store ever again. France has ruined me. The wine is cheaper than water (well at least the wine I buy is anyway). And it’s great! It’s just great, and I can legally purchase it, and it goes so well with my freshly baked baguette in the evenings even though, to be fair, everything goes well with freshly baked baguettes in the evening.
We eat so much bread here. It smells like heaven on the first day it’s baked, and we buy the longest baguettes we can find. Our enthusiasm was slightly diminished when we realized how quickly the bread goes stale. The use of preservatives in American food is so incredibly excessive that it quite honestly shocked us when our fresh bread was essentially inedible within two days. Although it would be more convenient if I only had to buy bread once a week or so, I’m positive that I’d rather take my daily trips to the bakery and fresh baguettes.
We aren’t the only group of students staying at the Château. There’s a group of culinary students from Canada, and they’re fantastic. After we proved ourselves to them by agreeing that Donald Trump is a lunatic, they accepted us as their own. They cook for us! They bake us bread and pastries and we get all of the leftovers from their cooking courses! In return, we amuse them with our stories about college life in America. Apparently it’s fascinating. There’s also a group of Brazilians who are only here for a week, but they teach us Portuguese and give us cooking lessons as well. We all use one kitchen, so it’s pretty chaotic during certain hours, but also pretty wonderful.
We’ve spent a lot of time in orientation at the university this week. It can be a bit overwhelming. So many things are done differently here, and I can already tell that I’ll need a lot of patience and time to adjust once classes start. Fortunately, the available to us seem much more interesting than most of those offered back home, and learning about economics and politics in a non-American setting will be an invaluable experience.
We’ve visited the city center quite a few times this week. Strasbourg is perfect. Everything is so idyllic, and each street looks as though it belongs on a postcard. The city seems to be especially unreal in the winter because everything is decorated with lights. Strasbourg is the Christmas capital of France, and the entire population takes that title very seriously.
I can’t wait to learn more about my new home and to adventure throughout Europe in the coming months. I’m so grateful already for the time I’ve spent here, and it’s hard to imagine that it’s only just begun.
Rachel is a Strasbourg alumna, dog mom, and bona fide politico. While on study abroad, she wrote for the University of Florida “Global Gators” blog and later served as an On-Campus Ambassador for the CEPA Foundation. She has since completed her Bachelor with a double major in Political Science and Economics at UF and now works in DC as a Staff Assistant in the US House of Representatives.