Archives for June 2013

Personal Experience in Paris–by Bob Alexander

My personal experience on my Missouri S&T study abroad trip to Paris, France was one I will never forget.  It was my first time in Europe and I enjoyed myself very much.  French culture is definitely different.

The French seem to enjoy a more relaxed and slow-going lifestyle as opposed to ours in the U.S.  One thing I like is how the restaurants treat their customers.  They are very slow to bring the tab, which was a little annoying, and they seem to expect you to stay a while after you’ve finished your meal.  The servers and bar tenders at a few of the bars and restaurants I went to would even sit and visit with us if they had enough free time.  At home the servers want you to finish your meal quickly and expect you to leave immediately afterwards.

All I have ever heard about the French’s attitude towards Americans is not good.  The fact of the matter is that most people are nice anywhere and France is no exception.  Only in a few instances was anyone rude to me; as ironic as it might seem, it was a group of 3 policemen that ignored me and really irritated me.  I met many guys and gals at parties and various events with whom I hope to keep in contact.  I did have a few political discussions during which we discussed the U.S. government and American citizens.

Paris seemed to be a nice and clean town.  I found myself in a few sketchy parts of town and talked to a lot of people late at night but I never felt like there was any real threat wherever I was.  I think Paris is relatively safe considering how big it really is.

The biggest problem I faced while I stayed in France and Normandy was the language barrier.  Not being able to understand or read French was hard and I ate some strange foods that I did not really like due to my ignorance of the language.  Most French people were very accommodating and tried hard to help me understand what I didn’t know.

My professors Dr. Fogg and Dr. Langston explained to my travelmates and me that in addition to class work, this trip would allow us to enjoy and experience French culture.  Class was usually done by early afternoon or sometimes even before lunch and the weekends were completely free. My new friends and I were able to do whatever we pleased during this free time.  I chose to explore the public parks, such as the one where I got attacked by a squirrel,


and seeing some of Paris’s amazing monuments such as this one that marked the location of the Bastille.



The time between and after class was what made the Paris trip so fun and interesting.

All in all, I was very pleased with Missouri S&T’s travel abroad program.  The classes and program in general, were not time-demanding.  My professors were very fun and easygoing and only a few times did I feel like I was in a traditional class setting.  My trip to Paris really opened my eyes and gave me the opportunity to learn and see history first hand.  It was a good time.




28 Days Abroad

I left Missouri May 21st. My first stop was Rome, Italy, where I spent 4 days visiting as much as was possible in such a short period.  My next destination was Paris, France, where I was lucky enough to have 14 days’ worth of adventures. The next stop was Caen, where I would stay for 5 days. My final European destination was London and I was there for 3 days.  I returned to Kansas City, where I came from, June 17th. These 26 days plus the 2 days I spent on airplanes and in airports are my 28 days abroad.

Claire and I visited  St. Peter's Square

Claire and I visited St. Peter’s Square

Rome was an experience, to say the least! When Claire and I arrived in the airport we were immediately stricken by the feeling that Rome would be a challenge for us. Even though Claire can speak some German and I can speak some French the only four words we really knew in Italian were ciao, arrivederci, grazie, and scusi. While hello, goodbye, thank you, and excuse me are very important phrases to use, there are certainly many more words and phrases necessary for successful communication. Although we spent 4 days isolated and challenged we learned a lot and we saw some amazing sites. The Trevi Fountain, the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, and countess other wonders.100_5952

Once we arrived in Paris things seemed easy!! Maybe this was because I speak some French, or because most of the people we encountered speak English really well. The simplicity of navigating the city, thanks to its well-developed public transportation, surely enhanced our experience. Regardless of the reasons, Paris was a lot of fun since day 1.

Paris! The city of lights, love, and romance. There are certainly a lot of lights here, and surely plenty of public affection. However, above all, Paris is a city like most any other. The population of this great city is over 2.2 million people.  Just like Chicago, New York, or even Rome, Paris can be quite dirty despite its idealistic and beautiful reputation. Also, Paris smells. That being said, I found Paris to be wonderful!100_6319

There are so many distinct parts to Paris. Each neighborhood offers something new and usually exciting to explore. There were seemingly endless opportunities there whether it was a day exploring different museums or a night roaming to different clubs and bars. Courtney and I discovered that the first Sunday of the month all the museums in Paris are free to enter so we tried our best to take advantage of this. We were going to museum hop. Sadly, we only made it to one museum that day because we got caught up in enjoying the exhibits for VanGogh, Monet ,Renoir, Duras, and Georges Seurat that we never made it to another museum. It was awesome!

Caen, which is in northwestern France, was a very different experience from Paris. Although it is a very large city it had a more of a rural feel to it. The hotel where we stayed only had wireless internet in the lobby. We arrived in Caen on a Sunday when nothing in France seems to be open. Plus the public transportation stopped running much earlier than it did in Paris. I did not like Caen at first, but seeing the D-Day beaches and learning more about the battles that occurred there absolutely made the trip. Being in such beautiful places while imagining all the terrible things that happened there was just eerie.IMG_0774

London was the final destination in my adventure. Everyone is this city is super polite and talkative. Everywhere you go people want to talk, and they are immediately eager to help you have as much fun as possible. My favorite part of my visit was playing football in the park and hanging out there for hours.IMG_0686

Overall this trip has been a really great experience. I feel like I have had the opportunity to experience many new things and meet new people. Airports and buses seem to be a wonderful place to talk to people and learn about where they are from. Even just hanging out with the different people from my own campus was awesome! I got to interact with people I may have never crossed paths with had it not been for this trip. I also feel like a pro at traveling now. Most things that could go wrong on this trip have for me at some point. I experienced lost luggage, a flight delay, a weather delay, a terminal closed due to suspicious unattended baggage, a missed flight, and I have slept in an airport twice now.


Looking Back at Our Trip…

After visiting Paris I miss the city intensely, but I am also extremely glad I am back home. Paris has its highs and lows, as does every city, but the City of Light was a truly unique experience itself.

I was able to see the tourist attractions that children point out in books, like the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa, and I was able to experience rare monuments dedicated to the tragedies and sacrifices of WWI and WWII.

It is hard to believe that I stood on the same beaches that thousands of soldiers marched on to liberate France while we enjoyed a tour of the area and ate at a local restaurant as if nothing happened. The eerie peacefulness of the area and the horrific photographs that you know were taken at the same spot where young children now swim and build sand castles is eye-opening.

At the same time, you realize how small you are during such an experience. It is amazing that in an 8-hour plane ride you can travel half a globe and experience a completely different culture.

My favorite place that I visited was the Louvre, and the second was the Pantheon, where I saw the final resting place of Rousseau and Voltaire. They wrote some of my favorite books, and I didn’t even realize I would see them! As for the Louvre, the amount of tourists was overwhelming. At the Mona Lisa, there was at least 100 people crowded in front of the work trying to get as close as possible. I was able to fight through the crowd, and I saw the masterpiece for the second time of my life. It was worth the crowd.

Mona Lisa You would never believe how much I had to fight to get this picture!!

Overall, the experience was amazing. I am extremely glad that I had the opportunity to learn about WWI, WWII, and French culture at the very heart of Paris and Caen! The most important thing I learned, besides that my knowledge on WWI and WWII was very rusty, would be that the City of Light is nothing like you read in the picture books. The city is even more beautiful than any picture you can buy, the people are not as arrogant as we think they are (but they are a little bit at times) and the monuments they create are timeless, peaceful, beautiful, and breathtaking.

My opinions of French culture never really changed, but I learned that they are very nice. I only had two people be rude to me, and I was lectured once on how could I visit Paris without learning French! I did get the occasional “sniff” when I asked if they spoke English, but after seeing how many tourists they get, I can understand their frustrations.

I miss Paris, but by the time I left I was sick of French food (shhhh, don’t let them know). I hope our blog gave you an idea of what it was like, and hopefully it will encourage others to visit!


Reflections on France

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter returning home from our study abroad trip I almost feel like a different person. This trip has changed my life and the way I view the world. I have seen how differently people live. In France the way they go through everyday life is different from the ways many Americans do. I learned so much from this trip and became so aware of the world around me. It feel completely different being in a new country where no one spoke English and where nothing was familiar, and I was amazed that there was so much history around me.

In France there was so much history to discover and even see. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe buildings there were all original and old, but of course, beautiful. I saw structures that have been around for thousands of years. Here in America most of our buildings are new and modern but in Europe they are old and full of amazing history. Being in France for three weeks taught me so much about France that I never knew before. Growing up and going to school I was never taught that much about the world around me and I was not aware about many countries unless they affected us in some way. Actually seeing the sites where history was made was unbelievable. After learning the French perspective I realized that they went through so much and lost so much in various wars, and every day it seems that they are reminded of what happened via all of their monuments and memorials.

Being in Europe for a month might seem like a long time but it went by way too fast. There is still so much I want to see and discover. This trip was the best thing I have ever done in my life, and I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of it.

Fun Times in France

American and French flags fly together

American and French flags fly together

My outlook on the world has changed in such a short period of time.  Leaving the US has brought more culture into my life, which I would not have experienced had I not gone on this trip.  The start of the trip was a little of a culture shock, but once I got used to how things happened in France everything became natural to me.  Before I went to France I had some bad opinions of French people.  The reason I had these opinions is because of the accounts about the French that I have heard from others, which turned out not to be true.  The French are very nice, especially if you ask for help with directions.  I met some very nice French people while in country and my opinions changed as soon as I met them.  I even found out that their opinions changed about Americans as soon as they met me, too.  In Caen, I met some college students who had some opinions about Americans that changed as soon as they met me.  I had some opinions that changed as well.

I think the most important thing that I learned about this trip is to not judge a people if you have not met anyone from that country before.  As soon as I got back I heard people talking badly about the French and I had to correct them because they have not been over there and experienced the things I have.  So I guess I am trying to say you should not judge someone until you know them because that judgement may be wrong.

Life-Changing Experience

IMG_2123This study abroad program has changed my life forever. I have traveled before but never to this extent and not with this much learning. I come from a German background so I have always had the perspective in my head that travel changes you. It wasn’t until this trip, however, that I learned about all of the different perspectives that are possible in the world.

Like most students from the American school system, I was not aware of other cultures’ histories unless they affected us. As a country we are only a little over 200 years old but during my travels I saw structures that have literally been here for thousands of years. Before this trip my sight was very narrow but now I can see so much more. There is a huge world out there and I can see that now. IMG_2442I have learned more about France in three weeks then I have in my entire life. I know that World War II was far more complicated than what our schools teach. There are many sides to that war and many different people involved in it. It was not a black and white war or a good versus evil war, like many believe. It was far more complicated than that as I have learned from the French’s perspective. There were those who did terrible things but there were far more people just trying to survive.

I traveled to over six countries in 30 days and have learned a vast amount about the world. The 30 days went by so fast and as soon as I got back it felt like a dream. I wish that dream had never ended.

Reflection on France: Study Abroad Experience

After arriving back in the U.S. this past Saturday, I’ve come to realize a huge gap in both social and historical culture between America and France. The experience has really impacted my views in a nearly indescribable way. It was almost an experience of going to another planet instead of just another country – a revelation of how diverse the world is in operation though everyone is effectively living similar lives. Not just now, but in contexts of the past – such as during the world wars – we share the same values of freedom and preservation of human life, paying the ultimate price to gain these basic rights. Every day spent in France, the overwhelming feelings of camaraderie in the face of adversity surfaced. Every location the students of Missouri S&T visited only served to peel the lid back on emotional barriers for us, with several students breaking out into tears – myself included – when taking in the gravity of standing on Omaha Beach in Normandy where thousands died on D-Day.

The American Cemetery

The American Cemetery

Taking a class at the university could never prepare someone for the things they might experience and feel when standing at the historical monuments in person. Yes, America has quite a few historical monuments that bring about similar feelings, but for France, World Wars I and II took place on their soil while we were an ocean away. Today’s American citizens could never compare such experiences of having their home country invaded and occupied, but for France the past still remains in the everyday of the citizens’ lives. Social order was heavily changed once France was occupied during World War II, with the weight of events still dictating how people act in social situations today by trying to have the utmost respect for another person despite differences so as not to repeat the mistakes made by others in the past.

Sky View from the top of the Eiffel Tower

Sky view from the top of the Eiffel Tower

In total, the experience of studying abroad has really changed my thoughts on several issues here in the U.S., and though it is a bit hard to explain the feelings one might gain through studying abroad, I insist everyone take the leap of experiencing another culture at least once in their lives. The world, as it turns out, is much bigger and brighter than one could ever imagine, and the past memories that mold our world can turn every thought around the minute you learn how oddly similar yet different we are.

Making globes during World War 2 - Caen Memorial Museum

Making globes during World War II – Caen Memorial Museum

Au revoir, Paris!

Upon my return to the States I felt happy to be back, but also a part of me missed Paris. Looking back on the trip I remembered many things that were different that I had to readjust to. The hustle and bustle that comes with being in a city took a little bit to get used to compared to being in a small town for most of the year. Many of my opinions of Paris changed during the study abroad trip. The first thing that surprised me about the city was the size of it. When people think of Paris many people think of the monuments there such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame. What I came to realize is that most of the famous monuments are very close to each other. You can even see monuments when you’re at other monuments. Besides the monuments, there are a lot more things in Paris than people realize, like the Luxembourg Gardens and river boat tours.
The most important thing that I learned from my trip from Paris is the amount of history still embedded in the city its self. It was amazing to see all of the buildings from World War I and II still in commercial use today. The buildings were used for everything from furniture factories to holding places for Jews. This trip has personally affected me in a positive way. I love traveling abroad and learning about new cultures and this trip has made me more curious than ever. I loved my adventures in Paris and it was an experience I won’t soon forget.

Reflection on My Trip to France

Quick, a French fast food restaurant

Quick, a French fast food restaurant

I have been back in the United States for three days now and the thing I miss most about France is the food. I feel like here too often we do not stop and enjoy the food we are eating, but I feel like French food is meant to be enjoyed. While in Normandy I ate dinner at Quick, a French fast food restaurant similar to McDonalds’s, and I noticed that their food was much better than similar food I have gotten from various fast food restaurants in the United States.  Even the inexpensive bread I often bought from the grocery store was better than the bread of similar price that I buy back home.  Overall I enjoyed eating higher quality food and taking time to enjoy the food I was eating.

The two weeks we spent in Paris led me to fall in love with the city. I was impressed by the public transportation system, specifically the Metro. Only on a few occasions did I have to wait more than five minutes for a train and the routes were easy to plan by simply looking at the map. The other main train lines that run through Paris are also on the Metro maps and purchasing tickets for these trains can easily be done from the Metro stations. There were also a good number of Metro stops, so within fifteen minutes walking distance of any place there is at least one Metro station. Being in France also gave me a chance to use some of my limited French and being surrounded by French speakers has made me want to work on my spoken French. I want to better understand French speakers and be better understood by them. The biggest changes for me after this trip were a greater desire to become fluent in French and a greater enjoyment of food.

My Month in Europe

IMG_0181After being in Europe for a month I have seen more and done more here than I have in my entire life. Every day was something new and different. Not only did I have an amazing time but I was also able to share this with my fiancé. Our first stop of the trip was to Frankfurt, Germany, where my fiancé has family. Then we went on to Munich by ourselves just to explore and see the sights. We stayed in Germany for a week and I absolutely loved it. The people there were so nice and his family made me feel so welcome. Although only two members of his family knew English well and the language barrier was a little difficult, I still tried my best to communicate as best as possible. [Read more…]