This June, I went with Marist International Programs on a short term trip to Paris, Geneva and Amsterdam for my Intercultural Communications class. I had an amazing experience abroad for two weeks, and I learned that France, Switzerland and the Netherlands differ from the United States in the way of life, food, language, and fashion.
France is a beautiful place, and the people have a laid-back attitude about life. The French are much more relaxed, and take the time to sit down for at least an hour at lunch. I found it interesting that they will nurse a coffee or beer for that long, whereas in the United States we are always in a rush, and never have time to sit down and enjoy our meal.
The café scene in Paris is everywhere; the French sit out on the street to people-watch. To try and blend in as much as possible, my classmates and I sat at a cafe and drank our cappuccino at a much slower pace than we are used to. There are no “to-go” food places in Paris, which was something we were all not used to when we wanted to grab a quick lunch, or take a panini with us to stroll around the Eiffel Tower. Some restaurants in Paris are catching on to the American fast-paced lifestyle, and are now offering “to-go” items on their menu. While in Paris, I enjoyed crepes, paninis, steak and frites (French fries) and I even tried Escargo! Paris reminded me of New York, minus the noise and the fast paced way of life. The nightlife is different in Paris, it doesn’t get dark until 10:30 at night, so that’s
when their night starts and they stay out until early morning. Restaurants are open much later as well because they don’t eat dinner until 8 or 9 at night, whereas in the United States, restaurants try to rushyou out and close at 10 p.m. The fashion in Paris was interesting to see as well, the Parisians are very well dressed. Men are more comfortable with their sexuality, so it is not unusual to see a man in tight fitting pants and a shirt, or wear a scarf. The women are conservative yet fashionable in their clothing choices. In all of the stores, I noticed that the French play American music. On Champes de Leses, the famous shopping street in Paris, surprisingly, they had American stores, such as Abercrombie. I also got to go on a day trip to see Monet’s Gardens in France, where he painted his famous lily pond painting. We traveled to see the palace of Versailles and of course, all of the famous landmarks in Paris like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
Geneva was an international city because people from all over the world deposit money in the banks there. A lot of French commute to Geneva for work. The predominate language in Geneva is French. Lake Geneva is a beautiful part of Geneva, we all sat on the green and enjoyed the sunshine. The locals were also sitting around on the green and walking their dogs. While staying in Geneva, we took a day trip to Chamonix, France and got to take a gondola up Mount Blanc, one of the tallest mountains in the Swiss Alps! At the highest point, I was up 12,602 feet, and could see Italy, France, and Switzerland. That was a highlight of my trip, and was an experience that I will never forget the feeling of. Back in Geneva, we went to the Manor department store, where the entire first floor is Swiss chocolate! I was in heaven, and bought probably over ten pounds worth of chocolate to bring home for my family. Another floor in the department store was watches, so I also bought a Swiss watch.
Amsterdam is a unique place, and one of the most interesting I visited. Everyone rides bikes, and a lot of things are legal there that are not in the states. Bikers have their own lanes in the road and parking spaces, something that is not seen here in the United States. They will run you over if you are in the way. The apartment buildings are connected and are mostly brick and wood. The streets are cobblestone, and canals run throughout the city. Bridges connect streets, which reminds me of Venice. We stopped in souvenir shops that had a wide array of unique items like wooden and porcelain Dutch shoes. Most people do speak English in Amsterdam, so that was a refreshing change. They also speak Dutch and the tour guides could speak other languages, such as Spanish. Another thing that is normal in Amsterdam is Coffee Shops that sell marijuana in smoke and food form. People in the streets here smoke marijuana as if it was a cigarette.
Holland is known for all types of cheese, and it was exciting to taste them and watch men run with huge circles of cheese at the Alkmaar Cheese Market. There were many different foods in Amsterdam, everything from pasta (Italian) to cones of French fries, to Argentine and Portuguese food. This one French fry stand was always busy, and you can get anything from mayonnaise to cheese on your fries; most people were walking around with these. Holland is also known for beer making, so it was fun to see how it is made in the Heineken museum. The windmills are so different to see, not many are still functioning, but they used to use them to pump water out from lakes to make more land. Residents of Amsterdam live in apartments or house boats in the canals. The house boats line the canals, and are cheaper than rent in many apartments. On my last day in Amsterdam, I rented a bike and rode around the streets and canals. That was another highlight of my trip because I felt like a local, even though I was on a bright red rented bicycle. I also went on a canal cruise in Amsterdam, which was relaxing and gave a different perspective of the city.
My trip to Europe taught me how other cultures live, and I admire Europeans laid back attitude towards life. Europeans are much less stressed than Americans. The experiences I had on this trip made me a happier and more appreciative person of life. I live my life to the fullest and try to have no regrets. I am so grateful to Marist for giving me an opportunity to travel for class credit – there is nothing else like immersing yourself in another culture.
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If you can’t go abroad for a semester, I would suggest you do a short term program — two weeks and you get your three credits for the course! You can add it as a fifth class and your tuition covers the cost of the credits.
You can see the short term programs MIP is offering here:http://www.marist.edu/international/shortprog.html