Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Category: Cergy Pontoise (page 1 of 2)

All posts from Emily Royer who studied in Cergy Pontoise during the Spring 2011, Semester

Unsolicited Advice

Author: Natalie Wilhelm

Location:  Cergy-Pontoise, France

Hi all! Here we are, already at the end of the semester! Since I’ve made it to seventeen days before my flight home, I feel myself qualified to offer some free advice to anyone who is going abroad or just considering doing a semester à l’étrangère. So here are the four things I wish somebody had told me before I came abroad.

1. You are going to change (a lot)

I have changed so much since coming abroad. I’ve become more determined, more capable, and, strangely, more relaxed. I’ve learned to love life even more than ever before. I savor every minute with my friends, and adore making new ones. My plans for the future have also changed; the picture I have of my future now is different than it was five months ago. And that is okay. Allow yourself to grow while you’re abroad. Take the good with the bad and roll with the punches. You’ll come out the other side stronger and wiser than ever before.

2. It’s okay to miss home

You are going to miss your home, and Valpo, and everything that those places mean to you. Your chest is going to ache with the missing it sometimes. That doesn’t mean that you’re not making the best of your experience abroad. All that means is that you left something behind worth missing. You left people and places that you love, and that is a beautiful thing. Never, ever feel badly or embarrassed for being homesick.

3. It’s okay if you don’t want to move

You do not have to want to drop everything and move to your study country. It’s a common thing for people to say, “OMG, I can’t wait to move back to France/England/Spain and live there FOREVER.” It’s okay if you don’t feel that way. Before this semester, I thought I wanted to work abroad and never go back to the states. But since coming to France, my determination in that has shaken. I miss the U.S. I miss the miles of flat road through Indiana; the rolling hills and mountainside monuments of South Dakota; the ruggedly beautiful, self-assured streets of New Orleans. It’s natural to feel that way. So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t picture yourself living abroad forever.

4. You are not a failure

Dear reader, please take this one to heart. There will be days when you will feel utterly exhausted. You will be homesick, tired, and lonely. You’ll miss speaking your native language all the time. Everybody else will seem more well-adjusted than you are. You’ll feel like you’re falling out of love with your study country. And you’ll think, “I’m failing at this. I can’t do this. What was I thinking?” But you are doing it, every single day, even if a day involves nothing more than walking to the bakery or to the post office to mail a post card home. You are learning about yourself and the world. Your beliefs, experiences and faith are being challenged every day. The goal of studying abroad is not to become French/English/Spanish. The goal is to learn, and learning you are. Trust me, it’s going to add up. It’s going to work out. And when you get back home, you’ll have all these amazing stories rattling around in your brain (and people will want to hear them!). So hang in there. Don’t give up!

So there’s my advice that nobody asked for. Keep chugging along, Crusaders. I’ll see you soon.


That’s All, Folks!

Author: Natalie Wilhelm

Location: Cergy-Pontoise, France

 Well, Valpo, in just a few short days I’ll be on a plane that’ll take me back across the ocean. My time in France has almost come to an end, and honestly, I’m okay with it. Sometimes, things need to end. They run their course. You’ve learned just about all you can learn, and you’ve exhausted both your motivation and your patience. That, my friends, is how I feel now.

This semester has had a lot of ups and downs – and I’ll be honest, I haven’t enjoyed a lot of it. There have been way too many times when I’ve just wanted to go home. I almost did, in April. My carefully curated blog posts and photos on Instagram don’t reveal that this has been the hardest semester I’ve ever had, period.

This is not to say that I’ve been miserable this whole time. I’ve had amazing opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I had stayed in Valpo this semester. I have friends in France, Belgium, and Spain. I’ve toured half a dozen museums, mastered the metro system, and tried new coffee shops in Paris. I’ve improved my French. I rounded out the semester by visiting some friends in Aix-en-Provence, which is gorgeous, and in Saumur, where I did my first study abroad.

However, it’s still too early for me to look at this semester with emotional distance. I cannot yet see objectively because I’m still in the thick of it all. There are still things I have to do before I leave: train rides back to Cergy and people to say goodbye to and suitcases to pack. So I don’t want to say too much at this point. It’s way too easy to spill your guts when you’re angry or tired, and then look back a few days later when you’ve had some rest and wish you hadn’t said what you did.

I know that there will be troubles when I am home, as well. It’ll be weird to be living at home again, after spending the last five months living alone, doing whatever I want when I wanted to do it. It’ll be hard to go back to work when I’ve had very little coursework this semester. People will want and require my attention and time. I’ll have to get back into the rhythm of my life, changed though it may be.

Even though these will be the hard things about going home, they’re also the things to which I am looking forward. I can’t wait to see my parents (and my niece who was born on May 19th!). I can’t wait to get back to work and have a fixed schedule. I’m impatient to see my friends and celebrate missed birthdays. People will want to talk to me, and thank God for that. I’ve been alone too long, and I’m pretty tired of it.

So I’ll leave you with this, dear readers: I learned. I changed. I cried. I rejoiced. I thanked God and the universe and my parents every day for the wondrous opportunities I have been given. I’m sure that with a month or two of distance between me and this semester, I’ll be able to reflect more productively on my time here. Until then, I’m counting the days ‘til home.

Vigilant Pirates

Blogger: Natalie Wilhelm

Location: Cergy-Pontoise, France

Dear readers, let me tell you about my friends, the vigilant pirates. They’re swashbuckling, treasure-plundering guys with peg legs who sail ships and say, “Arrghh!” a lot.

Just kidding. They’re actually men who wear camouflage and red berets and bulletproof vests and carry big assault rifles and walk around Paris and the surrounding cities making sure that nobody’s planting a bomb on the metro. They’re called VigiPirate.

The first time I saw them, I did a double take. I was shocked to see weapons so prominently displayed in a heavily populated tourist area. I forget where I was the first time I saw them, but it threw me off because I had been telling myself that France was peaceful again. That there was no danger in coming here.

Seeing the VigiPirate guys reminded me that the threat of violence is still very real. The France that I fell in love with during my first study abroad program four years ago is a different place now. It’s still healing from the November 13, 2015 attacks on the Bataclan and the Stade de France.

I remember exactly where I was when I heard about that attack. I’d been at work all day, so I hadn’t seen the news. I went to a friend’s house right after, where somebody mentioned it. I was crushed, devastated by the vast and unfathomable violence that had befallen the place I so loved. Why would anybody want to hurt France? Why would anybody want to hurt anybody, period?

And where else have similar attacks taken place since 2015? Belgium, Sweden, London, and France. To name a few. And what do we do when we hear about this violence? We change our profile pictures to show the affected country’s flag over our carefully positioned selfies, and we say, “How terrible!” And then we move on.

But what else are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to rally in anger and send bombs into heavily populated areas in war-torn countries like Syria and just kind of hope that we hit the right people? Do we drown in grief, and thus cease to function? Or do we stop living our lives because of the sheer terror of the threat of violence?

I wish I knew the answer to this question. I wish I knew the way to stop all of this violence from happening, period, but I don’t. I am a twenty-one-year-old woman studying abroad, and I know no more about maintaining world peace than does the seventy-year-old man sitting in the capital of my own country.

Of course, it’s not like the United States has never been the victim of terrorist attacks. The World Trade Center was a thing. There are some people my age who will tell you that they remember 9/11 happening, but I don’t. I wasn’t yet six-years-old. My time was occupied with playing with my brothers and trying to convince my parents to let me adopt a dog.

I may not have specific memories of 9/11, but I’ll remember November 13th, 2015, for the rest of my life. I’ll remember Thursday, April 2017, too. It was just a few days ago that a young police officer (a member of France’s gendarmerie) was killed by a terrorist on the Champs-Elysée. His partner gave a speech at the memorial. And France mourned yet again.

I said before that I don’t know what to do in the face of this kind of violence, but that’s not completely true. I know that we must not succumb to hatred. We must not fear each other, because we are all we have. If we live in a world where hatred and violence are the norm, we will lose the only thing that keeps us human: each other. In the words of someone who knows much more than I do, “You will not have my hate.” Vous n’aurez pas ma haine.

Picnic Chicks

Blogger: Natalie Wilhelm

Location: Cergy-Pontoise, France

Studying abroad is simultaneously exciting and scary in many ways. Personally, I worried about leaving my community behind for almost six months. Coming to France meant leaving my VU friends and sorority sisters, as well as my work friends and family behind. What if I didn’t meet anyone in France? What if I spent the next six months without anyone to talk to or explore Paris with?

It’s taken a little while, but I’ve met many new people at Cergy, Paris, and even Cambridge when I went to visit the study center there. Everyone I’ve met is so nice and welcoming. It’s really nice to have people to talk to and connect with when I’m so far from home.

One cool example of connecting with a new community is this past Saturday. There are lots of pages on Facebook where people can reach out for advice, insider tips, or just to meet up and have a cup of coffee. Lauren, my fellow VU student here, decided to host a picnic on Saturday, under the Eiffel Tower. She posted on Facebook, and a ton of women commented saying that they wanted to come.

Saturday dawned bright and cheerful, so we packed a lunch and headed into Paris. We planted ourselves in a sunny spot and waited. It took a little while, but twelve women eventually showed up! They all brought food and we introduced ourselves (several times, as people arrived at different times). We talked and ate for hours. In fact, I ate way too much and slightly regretted it later. French food is so good, though. How could I resist?

The amazing thing was how easily we all fell into conversation. We were one of the most diverse groups I’ve ever been a part of; there were women from Sweden, India, England, Germany, Denmark, and Egypt. We shared cultural differences and laughed at the difficulties of living in Paris as foreigners. We truly connected over shared experiences. One of the women named our group the Pique-nique Chics, which rhymes when you say it with a French accent. This picnic was truly a remarkable experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Afterward, Lauren and I had drinks with a few friends she met in Paris. I met Theo, who is half English and half French. It was fun listening to him switch back and forth between speaking French and English. I also met Scarlet and Richard, who are two best friends who moved to Paris in 2002 and have bounced between here and Fort Lauderdale, Florida ever since.

Again, we fell easily into conversation and shared life experiences and stories. There we were in what I felt was a typical Parisian scene: sitting outside a café somewhere in the heart of the Marais, discussing life and politics and culture. Honestly, we probably annoyed the Parisians with our loud American laughs and continual switching between French and English as the night grew older and we grew more tired. (The thing about speaking a foreign language is that it gets a lot easier when you’re really tired and don’t really care what you sound like anymore).

I left the café that night exhausted but thrilled to have met so many new people. Sometimes, you make a fleeting connection with someone. You talk to them a few times and never see them again. While I may never see anyone from Saturday again, what really counts is the impact those connections made on my life. In just a short amount of time, I saw Paris differently. It turned from a cold, aloof city into a place where people actually live. It’s not only about the place where you are; it’s also about who you’re with. Community is out there, even in the most unlikely of places. It may just require you to leave your corner of the forest and go find it.

A bientôt,


Guided Visit

Blogger: Natalie Wilhelm

Location: Cergy-Pontoise, France

One of the coolest things about studying abroad this semester is that my best friend Quinn is studying at the VU Study Center in Cambridge. We planned our trips specifically so that we could visit each other while abroad. And let me tell ya, it’s worked out perfectly.

I had a week-long vacation in February, so I hopped on the Eurostar and headed over to London. The Eurostar is a high-speed train that goes underneath the English Channel. While the idea of being on a train in a narrow tunnel underneath all that water terrified me at first, it was actually a super cool experience. The ride was about two hours and twenty minutes long. I highly recommend the Eurostar to anybody who doesn’t like the hassle of flying.

Cambridge is a wonderful, quintessentially English, old town. This was my first time visiting England, and I was pleased to see that the country really does look like the movies. I’m talking old, brick buildings covered in ivy. Cobblestone streets. People driving on the wrong side of the road. It’s like a Harry Potter movie.

London was amazing, as well. Quinn, another VU student (Kate), and I woke up before dawn and took the six AM train into London that Saturday. We walked around Trafalgar Square before it was overtaken by tourists. It was incredible to stroll through the streets before people flooded them. Quinn and Kate showed me Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the London Eye.

It was interesting to take in London’s own unique vibe. Even in its most touristic areas, I felt like London had its own agenda. We were only temporarily there, and the city would continue with or without us. I couldn’t help but compare London’s vibe with that of Paris. London is stable, regal. It’s the big brother who knows exactly who he is. Paris, on the other hand, is the flighty sister. She’s a people-pleaser. She’s gorgeous, but she’s also quick to change.

Paris is, of course, beautiful in its own way. The buildings are old, and the architecture is gorgeous. When I’m there, I get caught up in the splendor. But sometimes, Paris feels fake. There are people around every single monument trying to sell you cheap Eiffel Tower statues that will be broken by the time you get them home in your carry-on. It’s hard to tell which cafés are tourist traps and which aren’t. To me, it’s hard to get anywhere in Paris that doesn’t feel touristy and overrun with people who are just visiting.

There are parts of Paris that I really love, though. I love going to the top of Sacré-Coeur and looking out over the city, then walking around the back of Montmartre. I love eating crepes at the foot of Notre Dame. I love the Buttes-Chaumont Park, where I can pretend I’m not in the city for a few hours. I even love the metro system, where I once sat next to a hassled-looking guy editing a script in French. But there’s something missing in Paris, and I’m not quite sure what it is.

Either way, I enjoyed showing Quinn and our friend Matthew around the city when they came to visit last week. We went to see all of the typical Paris tourist attractions: the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Co., a tiny crepe stand, and all that. Seeing them see the city was really fun. I’ve been to Paris probably a dozen times since I came to France, so the thrill of seeing all this has worn off a little. It was fun to see the city through fresh eyes again, even if it was only for a little while. It was also cool to have them in a place that previously had been separate from my friends from home.

Despite my complicated relationship with Paris, I’m thankful for the opportunity to live so close by. Maybe I was meant to end up here, where my comfort zone basically exploded into smithereens, and I was forced to land on my feet. Maybe Paris, which was not built for me, was meant to teach me not only how to stay myself in somewhere completely different from home, but how to love and accept myself even more. Paris, like London, will continue to stand with or without me. What’s important is the lessons I take away when my time in her cobbled streets is over.

A bientôt,


Started from the Bottom…

Blogger: Natalie Wilhelm

Location: Cergy-Pontoise, France

I chose to do my semester abroad in France this year because I wanted to improve my French language skills. In high school, I was given the opportunity to do the Indiana University Honors Program in Foreign Languages for High School students, which greatly accelerated my French learning. But since then, I haven’t had many opportunities to use my French, besides in French classes. So, it seemed the natural choice to come back to France and ameliorate my French speaking and reading skills.

My French has definitely improved since I arrived in Cergy. I speak French with most of my friends here. I listen to French music and read books in French occasionally. My classes are conducted exclusively in French. In the first class I had back in January, I was completely lost. I basically understood none of what my professor said and spent most of the time reading off of her PowerPoint. I can follow her much more easily now, thankfully.

There have been a few embarrassing moments, though. For example, I was at the train station the other day, and somebody asked me if the train went to Paris. I told him yes, it does. Just as I was congratulating myself on looking confident enough to be asked questions, he asked me something else. That time, I had to ask for clarification. Once I got from the train station to my destination, I went into a Parfois store to buy a bag, and had to ask the clerk to repeat herself THREE TIMES! That was definitely a little embarrassing.

Every time that something like that happens, though, I remind myself of three things: 1. I’m here to learn, and asking questions is the best way to do that; 2. If the person I’m asking for clarification were in my shoes, he or she would not want me to get annoyed by being asked and 3. Just nodding and saying yes or no when you don’t know what the person is saying often gets you into more problems than you would have if you just asked for clarification. So, I ask. And people get annoyed with me. And then we move on, hopefully the better for it.

Sometimes, people do hear my accent and immediately switch to English, which can be frustrating. I feel like French people often assume automatically that Americans don’t want to practice French. While that may be true for some people, I enjoy speaking French. At this point in my trip, it’s actually difficult to speak English when I hear French being spoken around me, or when my friends are speaking French with each other. My brain is so hardwired to expect French in certain situations, it’s hard to switch back to English.

But overall, I think using French all the time is an incredibly rewarding and interesting experience. Our language is so tied to who we are, how we define ourselves, and where we come from. I speak English because I was born and raised in America; I speak French because I was lucky enough to go to a school that offered classes, and I took the initiative to learn it. French has shaped and redefined my life in ways I never could have imagined when I sat down in my first French class in eighth grade.

Studying French has taught me – and continues to teach me – how incredibly vast the world really is. Yes, we say the world is small because of how quickly and easily we can travel, and the massive use of social media today. But in reality, the world is not small. There are billions of people on Earth, and each one of them has different experiences every single day. Whether that be through language, culture, or religion, every single day is unique for every single person. I am blessed enough to have widened my world by studying French.

This was a rather sappy post, but it’s true! I know I’m going to miss speaking French when I get back home to the U.S. I won’t have any reason to use my French on the daily over the summer. Now please enjoy this photo of some graffiti I liked. It says, “There is no luck, there are only meetings.” Roughly I think it means that there are no chance meetings. People (or things) come into your life when they’re supposed to.

A bientôt,












Happy Month-a-versary!

Blogger: Natalie Wilhelm

Location: Cergy-Pontoise, France

Hello Valpo friends! In this blog post, I’m going to talk about the fact that it has been exactly one month since my flight landed at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. One month since I moved into my then very lonely-feeling apartment with little more than two suitcases, a backpack, and forty-eight hours of sleeplessness to my name. This may have been the craziest, busiest, most up and down month of my life so far.

And already, there is so much I could tell you. What do you want to hear? Do you want to hear about my first trip to Paris, when I bought a Nutella crepe for three euros and walked around the cobblestone streets, taking in the beauty of the city? Or the first public presidential candidate meeting I went to for my independent study, where a young man came up to Lauren and me crying and asking for a place to stay? Or maybe I should tell you about how, for some unknown reason, French women have taken to Ugg boots like fish to water, making me feel like I have been plunged back into eighth grade again? (Seriously, they’re everywhere. Sparkly ones, high-heeled ones, silver ones, brown ones, black ones. Ugh, France. Just stop.)

The point is, there are so many stories I could write about, and it’s only been a month. I feel like I’ve lived in France for ages already. At home, going to classes at Valpo every day and seeing my friends and doing homework, a month seems like nothing. But here, I feel like it’s a significant milestone. I only have four months, two weeks and one day until my flight leaves for Chicago O’Hare, and I’m feeling an almost desperate need to make every single one of those days count.

I think I’ve gotten a pretty good start on making my days count, though. Sure, I’ve spent one or two afternoons binge-watching Teen Wolf in my apartment. But I’ve also gone to Paris. I’ve visited the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and all the good touristy stuff that the city has to offer. I’ve studied at the Centre Pompidou, which has the coolest library I have ever seen. I’ve eaten at cafés by myself. I’ve also cried, overwhelmed with homesickness. I’ve bounced back and forth between feeling incredibly motivated to work on schoolwork and never wanting to read another page about the French political systems ever. again. All of that is a normal part of moving overseas for six months. I’ve just been taking it in stride and seizing every opportunity for adventure that comes my way.

One such adventure was definitely participating in the Women’s March on Paris, an extension of the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. There, I met French women who were part of different feminist activism groups, Canadian men with female dogs (“She’s a girl, too, so she gets to march today.”), and of course, young French women, all who were there to march in solidarity and support of women’s rights everywhere. It was truly a landmark in my life.

This roller coaster of a month has taught me something very important: you have to look at the big picture. Even at the end of a hard day, when you’re tired and miss your family and friends, you’re still abroad. When I collapse into bed, mentally exhausted from a six-hour long French class, I’m still in France. I’m doing something that many people may never get the opportunity to do. I didn’t let myself be limited by fear. Fear, in all of its many forms, is a great dream killer. It can invade you, without you even realizing it, and convince you to stop doing things. To stop pursuing your dreams, from leaving your comfort zone, from taking an opportunity that may come around only once in a lifetime, and change you in ways you never could have predicted. All you have to do is say, “I see you, fear. I acknowledge you. And I’m going to do this thing anyway.”

Given all that has happened in this first month, I can only imagine the stories, worries, adventures, challenges, and discoveries that are going to come my way before I step back onto a plane to head home. And I am resolving to welcome each and every single one with open arms.

A bientôt,


Hilltop Parks and Emotional Baguettes

Blogger: Natalie Wilhelm 

Program: Cergy-Pontoise, France


View from Hilltop Park — Natalie Wilhelm

Voila, I have arrived! I am now safely set up in my own little apartment at the Université de Cergy-Pontoise, in – you guessed it! – Cergy, France! Madame Arrizabalaga, a director of international students here, picked me up from the airport. After she helped me with the paperwork to get into my room, she introduced me to some awesome French students. They helped me and Lauren (my fellow Valpo student) find the shopping mall and – most importantly – lunch. Now I just have some administrative things left to do before classes start on the 16th. Until then, it’s another week of vacation!

This is my second time coming to France, yet I still find the process of travel so fascinating. I woke up in my own bed on Thursday morning and went back to bed in a strange apartment in France on Friday night. I was up for almost 48 hours in a row since the plane hit a patch of turbulence that seemed to last forever and made it difficult to sleep. I don’t recommend staying up that long, unless you’re flying to your favorite foreign country. Then, I suppose, it’s worth it.

It’s also fascinating to me how difficult it is to sleep at night. Whenever I lay down to go to sleep, my brain decides to go on a tangent and think about all the things from home (Parents! Dog! Car! Favorite stores!). It’s also difficult because when it’s 3 am here, it’s only 8 pm at home. The first night here, I didn’t fall asleep until past 6 in the morning, and didn’t wake up until noon. But the second night was better, so I think I’ll be back on track soon.

It’s lovely outside here, even though it’s rainy and chilly. My apartment window opens onto a little soccer field. Behind that is a little playground built on top of a hill. I climbed up to the top of the hill, and I could see the rooftops of the other apartment buildings. It is seriously beautiful. It’s like all the buildings in France are built in this gorgeous architectural style that you would almost never find in the United States.


View from window — Natalie Wilhelm

Another big difference is how much independence students have here. Everyone lives in different housing throughout the city; some are five minutes from campus, while others are forty minutes. We are expected to buy our own metro passes and groceries for whenever the campus cafes aren’t open. There are no RAs putting on programs, or RLCs coming through the hall just to check in. It’s like we’re actual adults. Yikes.

This kind of scared me at first, so I didn’t really leave my room much yesterday except to check out the hilltop park. But today, I decided to branch out a little and find the train station and some food by myself. Once outside, I followed the trail of people carrying baguettes and eventually found some shops that were open. A lot of shops close on Sundays for worship and rest. So I was very glad to see some stores still open!

I bought myself a baguette and other things to eat and walked back to my apartment. When I got that baguette home and looked at it sitting on my counter, I started crying a little. Before I came to France, I spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like to live here. If I would make new friends, if I would be able to communicate effectively, and just be able to handle living in a foreign country. Somehow, buying that baguette made me ridiculously happy. I actually went into a store and spoke French to the grumpy shopkeeper and bought myself food. I proved to myself that I can do this. I can make friends and live four thousand miles away from my parents and my school for six months – 168 days, exactly.

Even though it may seem like a simple thing, I was glad I decided to walk to the train station. After all, I can’t spend the whole six months sitting in my room, can I? Here’s to 165 more adventures!

A bientôt,


Meet our Spring 2017 Bloggers!

alyson_kneuselBlogger: Alyson Kneusel

Location: Reutlingen, Germany

Alyson is a Chemistry and Biology double major with a Music minor and a Christ College associate! She is studying abroad at our study center in Reutlingen, Germany! She is excited to be a Valpo Abroad blogger because it will allow others to view her experiences in a more personal way! She can’t wait to share this incredible opportunity with all of you!


natalie_wilhelmBlogger: Natalie Wilhelm

Location: Cergy-Pontoise, France

Natalie is a French and International Relations double major studying abroad in Cergy-Pontoise this semester! Natalie has always been interested in blogging, so she can’t wait to incorporate two of her passions together: writing and traveling! Natalie is excited to share her adventures with her friends, family, and the Valpo community!

katie_karstensenBlogger: Katie Karstensen

Location: Windhoek, Namibia

Katie is an Elementary Education major with a Mathematics minor! Katie loves to travel and can’t wait to see where her semester in Namibia takes her. She is thrilled to share her adventures, thoughts, and challenges during her time abroad. Katie is looking forward to this major life endeavor and can’t wait to share what she learns from it!

kortney_cenaBlogger: Kortney Cena

Location: San Jose, Costa Rica

Kortney is a Global Service major with an Engineering minor and a Christ College associate! She loves how blogging allows her to think deeper and reflect on her experiences! Kortney hopes studying abroad will allow her to experience difference cultures and broaden her world view! She can’t wait to start blogging again and share her love of traveling with others!

abigail_littleBlogger: Abigail Little

Location: Newcastle, Australia

Abigail is an Actuarial Science major and is off to Australia for the semester! She hopes to inspire others to pursue the experience of studying abroad through her international  experiences. Abigail is very passionate about expressing herself through writing and can’t wait to share her story with all of you!


Memories of Lyon

I’ve been working on this blog post about Lyon for quite some time now. For a while I had an extremely long description of my 7 hours in that breathtakingly beautiful city. However, now that exams are almost over and I’m looking at my last 3 weeks in France my perspective on my very brief day in Lyon has been slightly changed.

This semester has been extremely challenging for me. It was difficult to come here by myself and be faced with an enormous amount of free time. The majority of my semester has been spent with myself. Even when around friends who speak English fluently there always seemed to be a barrier of sorts, as if we were all divided somehow. This meant that I had quite a bit of time to think. For the first few months I thought about home and the people there and my relationships with them, but after awhile, I refocused and started trying to live completely here instead of having one foot in each country so to speak. I met some new people and grew closer with a couple others. Train rides to and from the city, and long runs around the lake in the park here provided me with ample time for reflection.

It was somewhere around that time that I found myself in Lyon, staring up an enormous hill at basilica that I could have sworn was a castle in a Disney movie. Later that day, after some beautiful sights and one exhausting climb, I sat on the top of that hill, looking at the roman amphitheater ruins stretched out below me, the old medieval quarter, and the modern city beyond that. I was struck all of a sudden by how alone I was. It wasn’t a realization of loneliness, but one of stillness. The city spread before me, growing out with time, but it seemed important that people still returned there to those ruins, and that I, in particular was there at the top of that hill, in that city, on the other side of the world from most of the things I love. Sitting there felt like the most natural thing in the world and something that was so indicative of what my entire semester has felt like. I won’t go into everything that occurred to me as I was sitting on that hill, but I will say that if there’s one thing I could honestly say will stay with me after this semester is over, it wouldn’t be the French I’ve learned, or the cultural experiences I’ve had, or even the thousands of photographs I’ve taken, it would be that feeling of stillness and the view of growth that time can bring.

Admittedly, that growth wouldn’t have been possible without the people I’ve shared it with along the way. Though so much of my time here has been independent, I couldn’t imagine myself where I am now without having some of the conversations I’ve had. Just this past weekend I went on a goodbye walk through Paris with my friend Ali. She loves that city as a part of herself because in so many ways she has become herself here. We don’t see each other all that often but every once in a while we’ll sit down and talk about our thoughts on being here, things at home, going back, and throughout this semester seeing her grow so much has challenged me to look back on my own growth. So, in doing that, and in attempting to write this post, I had to write about that solitary moment on that hill, but I also have to tell you about another moment in Lyon, a few hours later.

After exploring more around the ruins, entering the basilica, and walking through the park just behind it, I descended the hill in search for something to eat. As I was heading down those steps I saw person after person walking up, tired, counting the steps left. It reminded me of a day I was running in the park and a man taking a walk with his grandson stopped me “Courage!” he said “C’est seulement un peu plus loin! Courage!”. Being approached by strangers here isn’t exactly an oddity but that memory stuck in my mind, and as the woman walking past me on the steps smiled at me, seeing that I must have made the very same climb I told her she didn’t have much farther to go “courage, Madame!”. She laughed, thanking me, and kept climbing.

The rest of that day was spent thinking about the hill and that short conversation with the woman on the steps. As I sat in a bakery later, watching a truly French progression of twins wearing pink tutus, a boy with his face covered in chocolate ganache, a dog carrying a baguette in his mouth, musicians, cyclists, old women, couples, and school children moving in and out to the rhythmic “ensuite, bonjour! – merci, au revoir!” and the punch of the cash register I realized just how necessary that rhythm was. This semester there’ve been a fair share of moments of stillness, just as there was on that hill, and those are important, but inevitably that rhythm needs to resume. I couldn’t just sit on the ruins on that hill looking at all the progress the city had made, I had to go down the hill and participate in the rhythm of the city once again. With a few weeks left here, I’m looking forward to doing just that. Even though thoughts of home are sounding better than a freshly baked baguette does to a hungry traveler, I’ll miss this place and the things I’ve seen here.

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