In my first study abroad essay, I wrote:
“One of my personal goals is to learn more about the world around me. With the exception of China, I have never stepped foot outside of North America. However, language and culture have always fascinated me.. I believe that the best way to understand another culture is to be fully immersed in it. Through this opportunity at INSA Lyon, I hope not only to explore Europe, but also to garner a deeper perspective on the lives of students, professors, and citizens abroad.”
It turns out that my wish would be granted rather quickly. On my fifth day in Lyon, I left for Frankfort.
Those who know me personally know that I make decisions impulsively. This trip was certainly one of those last-minute plans; I bought my plane ticket the night before and packed my bags three hours prior. With that said, Frankfort became one of the best decisions I’ve made thus far.
When I arrived at the Frankfort Airport on September 13th, my friend Annette was there to greet me. I met Annette my freshman year at Drexel, and I was so excited to see her—she had been completing her co-op abroad since April. I stayed at her dorm in Darmstadt, a town merely twenty minutes away from downtown Frankfort. Over the course of that Friday, Annette and I visited a cathedral, tasted authentic German food, and thrift shopped. It was an incredibly fun experience.
Since this was only the second European city I’ve visited, I found myself making comparisons between Frankfort and Lyon. As a whole, downtown Frankfort is more modernized than Lyon. That’s not to say that it lacks history, but Frankfort does feature more skyscrapers and modernized apartment complexes. Additionally, Frankfort serves regional cuisine that would be quite difficult to find in Lyon. For instance, I tried Spätzle (a kind of egg pasta), which was thick and covered in mounds of cheese and spicy red sauce. Compared to other pasta dishes, spätzle is much more doughy. I also tried schnitzel and bratwurst while I was in Frankfort.
The biggest cultural difference was definitely the language. Although I do not speak German, my experience was nonetheless very positive. At one point, I got a cold and needed to visit the pharmacy. The pharmacist was kind enough to accommodate my English; she not only provided me with the necessary medicine, but also gifted me some free tissues and cough drops. CVS seriously needs to step it up.
Next, in the continued spirit of traveling, I spent this past weekend in Geneva with my friends Tony and Emily, both of whom also attend INSA Lyon. We took the train, which was very convenient (it only cost 29 euros and took two hours)!
Now, a lesson in Travel 101: always make sure you are adequately prepared if you are in a foreign country. Check that your visa is valid, your accommodations are set, your language barrier is accounted for, and your monetary funds are accessible. Unfortunately, I neglected the last point, and did not realize that Switzerland uses Swiss francs, not euros! Furthermore, I only had a credit card, so I could not easily withdrawal money at the local bank. This setback made my first few hours in Geneva mildly frustrating.
The next day, we checked out a flea market and the waterside park, where the famous Jet D’Eau is located. This fountain is a popular tourist attraction, and it’s huge—the water reaches about 140 meters into the air! Over the course of the weekend, we also visited the Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques and ate fondue (which I have absolutely no regrets over). But the highlight of the trip was probably the Salève, a mountain also known as the “Balcony of Geneva”. This peak is actually located in France, but it oversees the entirety of Geneva. Despite the rain and cold temperatures, it was a gorgeous and humbling sight.
That’s all for my adventures to date. Next weekend, I’ll be venturing back to Germany, and who knows where after that? Stay tuned!