My name is Katie Blomkvist and I studied abroad in Strasbourg, France in the fall 2021. I am majoring in Public Health and Policy Studies and am graduating in Spring 2023. During my time in Strasbourg, I was an intern at the Council of Europe International Co-operation Group on Drugs and Addictions.
I chose to study in Strasbourg because of the closeness to many governmental buildings and the opportunities that Syracuse was able to provide for me with internship opportunities. In addition, I took four years of French in high school, which allowed for a smoother adjustment to the new language. Choosing a location with a language other than English was important to me because I wanted to challenge myself with learning a language.
My favorite course that I took was titled Conflicts of Religion in Contemporary Europe with Professor Samim Akgönül. I really enjoyed this class because I did not have much knowledge of many religions. I was not raised in a religious family, so I was really able to absorb a lot of knowledge. We had the opportunity to go on multiple trips to different religious buildings around the city, going to places I likely would not have visited without taking the class.
The Strasbourg Center had organized trips and activities for us to attend through the entire semester. With the school, I visited nine museums in Paris, dozens of waterfalls from glaciers throughout Switzerland, and Alsatian vineyards in the country. Partaking in these activities and trips was a way to connect with the other students in the program and to experience new cultures. On these trips, we were able to try traditional foods and drinks of the areas we visited. Eating crepes in Paris, fondue in Switzerland, and wine in the Alsatian vineyards was such a fun and unique experience!
During my internship with the Council of Europe, I worked within the Pompidou Group on drugs and addictions. I had various tasks through my semester, many of them not relating to one another, so I was able to learn about many different topics. I was exposed to topics that I had never learned before or had any knowledge of. Although my internship was almost entirely virtual, I had a very good experience and made many connections at the Council of Europe!
I was able to do a lot of traveling on the weekends in France, Germany, and Switzerland. One of my favorite experiences was during our fall break. A small group of friends and I traveled all along the South of France for our 10-day break. We started in Nice, went to Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, and ended in Bordeaux. The four of us were hopping on trains almost every other day, visiting museums, watching the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea, and eating the most delicious foods. These 10 days were extremely long and tiring, but I had the most wonderful time seeing the most beautiful and historic cities. We all agreed that we learned and grew a lot from our time on our trip. None of us had been on a long trip in a different country on our own, so planning the trip was a first for all of us. We learned to give and take and get along with each other. We were constantly being pushed out of our comfort zones and enjoyed every second of it.
In Strasbourg, all students live with a host family. In my family, I lived with my two host parents, Isabelle and Jerome. They have three children who are grown and out of the house but come to visit frequently. I had a very positive experience with my family. They helped me to improve my French and made me feel at home even when family was so far away. We would eat dinner together every weeknight and talk about how our day went. My parents and sisters came to visit me while I was away, and Isabelle and Jerome invited them to come over for dinner because they wanted to meet them. They were very kind and welcoming! My host family lived very close to a bus stop that I would take to school every day. The public transportation in Strasbourg, although intimidating at first, is very easy to use. There are buses and trams that you can take within the city and out to the suburbs as well.
I definitely got bit by the travel bug while I was in Strasbourg. Ever since coming home to the United States, all I can think about is when I’ll be able to go back to Europe. Studying abroad was a life-changing experience and I am so glad that I decided to take the risk of traveling during the Covid pandemic. I am so thankful for the memories I have made and the people I met. I can confidently say that I have learned just as much about myself as I have about my host country.
Katie Blomkvist ’23
Syracuse Strasbourg ’21