Well, well, well. Look what we have here: the last day of my year abroad. Weird, huh? Especially for those of you who have been following my journey since before I left home for Costa Rica last July. I’m feeling a little sad to be leaving the semester (and the year) behind – but also eager to get started on the next stage of my life: my final year of university and a great job! (At least, I’m confident that it’ll be great, though I haven’t started yet).
I’ll come to the things I’m looking forward to next week if I have internet access, but for today I’m setting the spotlight on the things I’ll miss about being abroad.
1. The Euroculture on my doorstep
I’ve done a good amount of complaining about the location of my student digs à Strasbourg: of course, it’s only now I’m leaving that I realise it’s actually pretty cool here. Alright, staying out late can cause headaches, and you definitely can’t do without the travel pass; but the bus takes 10 minutes to get into town and the route offers an incredible view of the European Parliament. Who gets to see that every day on their way to class, even those who do live in Strasbourg? I truly love the design of the parliament building, and along with all the other amazing institutions with their lounging gardens, it feels pretty good to be in the thick of it, every day.
Aside from this, Strasbourg itself is in such a central location within Europe – with Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg just a short train ride away, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to travel. And I have! I’ve paid first visits to every one of these countries in the time I’ve been here, and since I’m actually writing this on Friday evening and scheduling it to be posted on Saturday, I’m probably in Basel as you read this, wandering around the Papiermuhle museum or buying beautiful things from the gift shop. Again.
2. Public Transport
Oh, boy. I used to think public transport in Edinburgh was good – even once the tramworks began, I was very accommodating of the bus network. But now that I’ve had a taste of the sleek, clean, efficient ensemble of transit here, Lothian buses will never be the same… and don’t even get me started on the trams. Here, they’re perfect. Fast, frequent and covering an impressive portion of not only Strasbourg but the greater area, this network is a complement to the bus network, with which it works in harmony. Dear Edinburgh: one set of rails which run on top of an existing road already served by frequent buses does not a tram network make. Do it right, or don’t do it at all. K?
3. Being a visitor
Studying abroad gives you a unique point of view of whichever place you choose to go. I’m not exactly a tourist – I did hit most of the must-see spots, but as a student at the university I enjoy discounts to most of these, and I also had more time to get to know the layout and character of the place than most tourists would. But I’m not a local either, and as such I could see the town with the fresh, enthusiastic eyes of a newcomer, and I’ve been drinking the town in with a thirst that people don’t tend to have chez eux.
4. The language
I’m sure you’ve noticed, but sometimes I like to use French in the middle of English sentences. Sometimes this is simply because the first word that comes to mind for a particular object just so happens to be the French one; sometimes it’s because I like to be pretentious and show-offy; and sometimes it’s because the French just fits better – it has different connotations, it embodies the particular phrase I’m looking for, or there simply is no English word that can describe exactly what I mean. I’ll miss being able to franglais with my friends without looking like a douchebag… and I’ll miss having to speak French to everyone I meet. When you live in a foreign tongue, every interaction becomes a challenge, which means every person you meet becomes an opportunity to pat yourself on the back. Sure, sometimes I walk away from a conversation thinking ‘that was a complete trainwreck’; but more often I’ll feel a little satisfaction in having been able to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English, and every so often I walk away thinking to myself ‘I nailed that’, and feeling on top of the world :)
Obviously this is a list of things I’ll miss, not people – you know who you are! There are more things I’ll miss, of course, but these sprang most readily to mind and I expect the rest will surface naturally over the course of my blogging. For now, I have more packing to do! Tomorrow, Switzerland awaits.
Love and huggles,