Student Blogs/Stephannie in France

The End of Semester One

Time has been flying, but I can’t complain. I have seen a lot of new things, explored many countries, met people from so many different cultures and travelled in many different ways. It has been the best four months of my life.

This semester was a mixture of studying hard, travelling around Europe, getting to know other cultures and creating friendships that will last a lifetime. Many weekends, students from all over the world get together to explore the city of Paris. Each time someone will have a new idea of what to do, where to go, and what to eat. It is nice to see the different reactions of people from different parts of the world. It is also interesting to see how people from Europe react to your excitement of being able to travel to multiple countries in just a few hours.

In Paris there are MANY museums, not only the touristy ones, like the Louvre or D’Orsay. There are small museums where you can learn a lot about the history behind the artist, and why some of his paintings/sculptures are so famous today. A few of the museums you must visit in Paris include Musée Rodin, Palais du Tokyo, Musée Carnavalet, Musée Picasso, Musée de Monmartre, Musée de Cluny and Musée de l’Orangerie. These museums are small and can be seen in just a couple of hours. They are not full of tourists and you can experience the art in depth compared to visiting the Mona Lisa in the crowded Louvre.

a large lineup of tourists taking photos of the mona lisa

Tourists taking photos of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre

When you arrive in Paris, you’ll think you have come to a different country to study and maybe travel to a few places, but you will never think of the friendships you will make. This will surprise you, and it will be a wonderful surprise. Everyone is on the same boat! You are all in a different country that speaks a different language, in a completely different university, so you become a multicultural “family” of sorts.

Here’s a Tip: Embrace all the friendships you make, because they will make your year abroad the greatest memory you will ever have. Paris is a beautiful city, but when you have someone to explore it with, it becomes even more magical.

As I said before, there is no time where you have nothing to do. Maybe your Australian friends are in Rome today, but your Spanish friends are ready to go out and discover different spots in the city you didn’t think about going to before. Everyone sees this city in different perspectives and it is amazing to see while exploring it with others.

When you think you’ve seen it all in Paris, someone asks you to join them in some amazing new building with an incredible view of the city. Or, while you are biking you find the cutest small street, or while you are being a tourist with someone who is visiting you find a street artist in that specific spot who wasn’t there before. Even if you are in Paris for one year, you will never experience everything. I am trying to experience most of it and get as much as I can out of everyday.

The First Break

a group of students on sitting on the lawn at the Eiffel Tower

exchange students hanging out at the Eiffel Tower

After a busy first semester, it is time for our first break of the year. During first semester at Dauphine University there are no breaks and no holidays, however, you are in Paris so it’s almost like being on vacation every day.

After studying hard, it is time to travel. Many of your friends will go back home to spend Christmas with their families and see their friends; others will take this break (you have one whole month, which means you can see a lot) to explore this gorgeous continent that we all call Europe.

I chose the second option, and travelled to six countries during this break. My brother arrived during my final exams, and as soon as I was done, we were off to London. We sent four days exploring the English speaking world of the United Kingdom. We watched two musicals and learned a lot about the history at the Tower of London. From there, we took a 10- hour bus ride to Cologne, a small city in the north of Germany. We experienced the famous German Christmas market, ate raclettes, wurst (sausage), and listened to live Christmas songs. From Cologne, we began our train journey and we purchased the EuRail pass.

The pass is worth it and if you are travelling on your breaks to different cities it will save you a lot of money. There are different deals depending what you are looking for. Before going on a big trip, research which of the EuRail pass will be best for you.

We arrived late in Frankfurt where we spent Christmas with my aunt and cousins. It was amazing experiencing Christmas in a German environment. After an incredible Christmas with family, we went to Berlin. It was December 26 and in Germany this is still a holiday. Most things were closed, so we just saw the outside of the buildings and the Berlin Wall. It was a beautiful city and the history behind everything is amazing! I wish I could have experienced the history a little more, but one day I will be back. If you are planning on being a tourist in Germany, don’t go during Christmas (December 24-26) because everything will be closed for the holidays. Go before, because the Christmas markets are very big and the food is amazing.

8 family members sitting at the table for Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner with my German side of the family

From Berlin, we took an overnight train to Vienna in Austria. Vienna is a beautiful city, with beautiful palaces, and because it was right after Christmas the city was empty and we got to experience different parts of town.

The next stop is Salzburg, which is also in Austria. This city is where the Von Trapp family from The Sound of Music is from. The Sound of Music is my all time favourite movie and of course, this city was one of my favourites. I also have want to go back in the summer because a few places close during winter. It was snowing a lot for three days of our trip, but this does not mean that Salzburg was not fun, it was actually amazing to see the city from the top of the fortress all full of snow! It was beautiful with the Austrian mountains around it.

In Salzburg, we met Streisanne (another BIBer ) and her sister, who were also using this winter break to explore Europe. My brother and I started our adventure from the north going south and they started from the south going north! The next snowy day was Innsbruck, also located in Austria. Unfortunately, we did not get to go up the mountains there because the snow was very thick and everything was very cloudy, however Streisanne told me that Innsbruck was one of the coolest places she has ever been and they were there on a beautiful sunny day.

Next, we said goodbye to Austria and hello to Switzerland! We arrived in Lucerne on another thick snowy day. The city is very small and you can walk everywhere. We went to the most famous tourist spots and at night we had Rosti Potatoes (a very Swiss dish) and Swiss chocolate for dessert. The next day it was time to go back to Paris.

Stephannie at the top of the Salzburg fortress, with a wide view of Salzburg with the snow

Snow capped view of the city from the top of the Salzburg fortress

We returned to Paris to celebrate New Year’s Eve at Champs-Elysées, which is one of the most famous places to celebrate New Year’s Eve. For the next few days it was wonderful being a tourist with my little brother before he had to leave. We did all the tourist things people to in Paris and many more. We went to Disneyland Paris a couple of times too.

The day my brother left was the day of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris. I was on my way back from the airport and the RER (train) was delayed. I did not understand why, but I figured it was just normal for public transportation. I arrived home safely and my roommate came in telling me she was terrified because of what had just happened. She told me about the shooting. We did not know exactly happened or why. Everyone around the world was hearing the news and it was nice to have so many people message me to see if I was okay. I want thank everyone for being so supportive during this time.

The next few days we did not get much news. It seemed that those living outside Paris had a lot more information than we did. It was my friend’s last day and we had to go out before she went back to Australia, so we decided to go out. When we heard about the second shooting, which we decided to go back home because we would be safer there. It was terrifying and sad to know what happened, and it was so sad to know that innocent people had died because of all this. On the last day, we decided to go to Disneyland, because we thought nothing else was going to happened.

That week was also the week students were arriving in Paris for the second semester. I met the new students a couple of weeks after and they said it was terrifying arriving in the middle of these horrible events. Some had their parents with them, others said their parents wanted them to go back home. A few of the first semester students going home moved up their flights because they did not want to be in Paris anymore. It was a very sad moment, but it was interesting to see how much the world outside Paris knew more than those living in Paris.

After my brother left, I stayed in Paris for a few days and then Streisanne and I were off to Prague in the Czech Republic . Prague is a beautiful historical city with a beautiful castle. The history behind each building is extraordinary. Our money is worth a lot there, which means you can eat like a king very inexpensively. Their cuisine is different, but it is amazing. I tried a few Czech meals and they did not disappoint!

After Prague, we took an overnight train to Budapest in Hungary. The overnight train was amazing and we got to shower inside a moving train, which sounds strange, but now I can say I have done it. Budapest was a very similar city to Prague but very different as well. Our currency was worth even more there! The cuisine was delicious and I ate a lot there. The food was incredible! While searching for what to do in this gorgeous city, we found a cave exploring tour. We spent a few hours inside a cave an it was one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life, but if you are claustrophobic I do not recommend.

Stephannie on the Charles Bridge with Prague Castle in the background

Prague Castle form the Charles Bridge

Tip: Always look for the free walking tours in all the cities you go to. These “free” tours are all tip-based and the guides are very passionate about the city and very enthusiastic to share their knowledge with tourists.  You will learn all about the history, walk around streets you would not find by yourself, and can ask questions about anything. They usually know each other, even if in different cities and they will recommend their tour guide friends if you tell them you are going to another city.

Having to say goodbye

The first semester is over and it was an amazing experience and a great time to meet people and create friendships of a lifetime! The last few days before Christmas break have been bitter-sweet. Many of my friends are leaving right before Christmas to go back to their lives back in the many countries they come from. Many will stay and finish the year there and a couple will be back for second semester.

After I came back from my travels many of my friends were already gone and then it was time to say goodbye to those who were still leaving. We went out for many goodbye dinners  and I am sure we will stay in touch for a long time.

Exchange is a great place to make friends from all over the world and friends you will have forever. Many only stay for one semester, but I am so glad to have met them and I cannot wait to be able to visit them in their country one day or have them visit me in Canada.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 in , ,
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