Cergy, France

My name is Meg Ryan and I am currently studying at École supérieure des sciences économiques et commerciales, or ESSEC, in Cergy, France, just a 35 minute train ride from Paris! I cannot believe that in just ten short days I will be boarding a plane to head back to the US, it seems like I just arrived a few weeks ago!

ESSEC is the newest exchange partner with the College of Business, and I am the first and only student to study here from Louisville, so needless to say I was a little nervous in August when I first arrived and had NO idea what to expect. Cergy is a satellite city to Paris, built in the 70s. The city was not what I expected when I arrived, with typical 70s architecture, much different than that of Paris, but over the past few months it has grown on me. There is a cute little park near the school which is currently covered in snow and looks gorgeous and it was equally pretty when all of the leaves were changing colors a month ago.

ESSEC is one of the top rated business schools in the nation, something I was unaware of before I arrived. There are currently over 100 international students in the undergraduate program and many more in the masters program. One of my favorite things about my experience abroad is that I have been able to get to know people literally from all over the world. On a daily basis I am in classes with students from all over the US, Europe, China and even Australia. It has been extremely interesting to get to know all the other international students and they love to hear all about what school is like in the US. All of my classes meet once at week for three hours, which has been extremely hard to get used to, I am definitely looking forward to shorter classes when I return to Louisville in the Spring! They also have a huge focus on group work, I have had multiple group projects in every class, which has given me an even better chance to get to know my classmates. School is much more demanding than I would have expected, especially now that finals are coming up and each one is worth 60% of our total grade!

While abroad I haven’t let school completely take over my life, I’ve enjoyed a lot of time traveling and seeing many different places that I never imagined I would see! I was fortunate enough to be able to visit my boyfriend, Chris Groeschen, another U of L student who is currently studying in Sevilla, Spain, for a week over my fall break in October. While there I found a true love for tapas, flamenco, and the warm weather in the South of Spain. Earlier in the semester, we also visited Lagos, Portugal for an awesome weekend at the beach which included a trip to the End of the World, the southernmost point of Europe, to watch the sunset, I even swam in the freezing Mediterranean Sea! I also traveled to London with a few other American students who I met while at ESSEC this semester. I loved everything about London (except the rainy, chilly weather) and it was great to spend a weekend in an English speaking city. We were able to go to the British museum, Tower of London, and even visited Platform 9 ¾, an important stop for all Harry Potter fans!

Obviously, the majority of my time has been spent in France, with most of my weekends spent in Paris. It doesn’t matter how many times I have visited the city, each time it takes my breath away. Seeing the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe when I step out of the metro station would never get old. I’ve visited the Louvre four times now, and I still think I’ve only seen half of the huge museum. I’ve gone to Musee d’Orsay and Pompidou, the modern art museum. I even visited the Musee Rodin where I saw the Thinker Statue! I’ve spent many days wandering around the city enjoying all of the architecture and all of the wonderful pastries and crepes. My favorite thing about my trip is that I’ve been able to share the city I have fallen in love with my family and friends. Chris was able to visit me twice this semester and my cousins and uncle and mom came all the way from Chicago to see me. It was amazing to be able to share with them places like Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur and Versailles, along with the museums and of course seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night!

My semester has flown by and has been amazing, of course I have had my bouts of homesickness over the past four months, especially when I first arrived, but what I’ve really come to find is that I miss the little things about the US the most. Restaurants here do not believe in free refills on soft drinks, nor do they believe in ice, both of which I love. Being addicted to technology, I miss being able to pick up my phone and call or text whoever I want. Also, as much as I love the bread and cheese and pastries Paris is known for, I have a long list of specific foods that I cannot wait to eat upon my return to the States.

I am so thankful that I have had a chance to fulfill my dream and spend a semester in France. It will be extremely bittersweet when I board the plane a week from Saturday, I am so excited to return home to see my family and friends and celebrate the holidays with them and I also can’t wait to return to Louisville for the spring semester, but it will be tough to leave this amazing city and great friends I have made behind!