Journey and Arrival
The entire process of preparing myself for my Spring semester in France had seemed so long and arduous that actually setting out to drive to the airport on New Year’s day was incredibly surreal. I had been viewing this day with equal parts excitement and worry for so long that when I finally got to the airport in Atlanta and said goodbye to my family, boyfriend, and dogs, I felt as though I was in some hyper-realistic dream or alternate reality. My flight was relatively uneventful, I was nervous in the beginning and then slept soundly for about six hours. I arrived in Frankfurt and went through customs, where I could finally show off that student visa I had fought so hard for.
My bus to Strasbourg didn’t leave for a couple of hours, so I lugged my bags around for a bit and explored the airport. The nice thing about international travel is that it constantly reminds me that I know absolutely nothing. Sure, I could know everything about my school, my town, my state. But even after numerous trips abroad, any alteration in language and culture makes me feel like an alien on my own planet.
After a short-ish bus ride (that I also slept through) I finally arrived in Strasbourg. The city center was beautiful and picturesque, although rainy. I took a taxi from the bus drop off to the Château de Pourtalès, where I would be staying. Unfortunately, despite taking two semesters of French classes and using various language apps (shout out to Duolingo) I immediately lost all knowledge of the French language as soon as I entered France. I spoke to my taxi driver in very apologetic English, which he probably didn’t understand.
Upon my arrival at the Château, I was greeted by my program’s coordinator Lisa, who gave me a brief tour of the building and showed me to my room. My room is lovely and overlooks the park that essentially surrounds the building. I am in one of the only single rooms which is nice, but potentially lonely I suppose. Luckily, there is plenty of common space and a big kitchen for all of us students so I doubt that I will be spending much time alone in my room anyway.
Once in my room, I unpacked my backpack and slept for four hours. When I got up, I made some soup and unpacked the rest of my things, and then promptly fell back asleep. Time is weird.
When I woke up the next morning, I was pretty excited about breakfast. The Château offers a continental breakfast every morning, and students are always allowed to partake. A table was laid out with various breads, fruits, cheeses, spreads, and juices. I had the best croissant of my life and then took a short stroll through the surrounding park. Luckily, I met many friends (dogs) along the way. This made me feel better because they probably understand just as much French as I do.
Now everyone else is arriving (I flew out a day early), things are starting to feel a little more normal. We have an orientation dinner tonight, and then various tours of our city in the following days. I am excited to see what’s in store for me in the next few months, and can’t wait to explore a little!
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.