The Journey to Bordeaux Part 2

So, I finally make it to Bordeaux eight and a half hours later than scheduled. I’m at the baggage carousel and I’m waiting and waiting. It eventually becomes apparent that my bag did not make the transfer to my new flight. Luckily for me, the girl I was sitting next to on this flight did not receive her luggage either. Since she spoke French and we made friends on the flight, she assisted me in dealing with the airport staff.

There I was in Bordeaux homeless and without luggage, except for my carry-on. I proceed to the exit and I find the Melting Potes waiting to taxi me and a couple of other international students to our destination. The Melting Potes is this wonderful student organization at BEM dedicated to helping international students. Their name is a play on words as potes means mates or friends. I will talk more about them later. The guys from the Melting Potes inform me that I will spend the night with one of their members, William, for the first night and that we will figure out the rest in the morning.

On the ride from the airport to downtown Bordeaux they turn on the radio and what do I hear, American music! I’m in France ready to experience all that she has to offer and the first song I hear is an American song! Then one of the guys proceeds to ask if we were hungry and suggests stopping at McDonald’s! Nooooo! I did not come to France to listen to American music and eat McDonald’s! American influence on France is something I will talk more about later too. For now let’s get back to our trip and the first French word that I learned. As we are discussing the fact that none of us international students know French, one of the Melting Potes guys tells us that we need to know one word because we will hear it often. Now I cannot or maybe should not share this word on this blog, but I will tell you that it would be considered a bad word in the US. In France however, this word is used so often that it has no bite to it. This again is something I will touch more on later.

After spending my first night in Bordeaux on William’s couch, we get up in the morning and head down to Bordeaux École de Management, BEM for short. This is the school at which I will be studying. We’re in one of the larger classrooms and the Melting Potes is busy making arrangements to pick up all of the international students that are scheduled to arrive throughout the day. As I’m waiting and meeting some of the incoming students, I ask one of the Melting Potes guys to call the airport and make arrangement for my luggage to be delivered to BEM since I don’t have an address. After a couple of hours, I’m told that there is a French student who lives downtown and wants to live with an American student. Jackpot!! I have not even seen the place and I already want it. Anything to not be homeless, and besides that it meets all my criteria. We later arrive to see the flat and I take a short trip through and say “Yes please.” I’m informed he has to discuss things with his other roommates and let us know later. I go back to William’s place to await my destiny; will I be homeless one more night? After a few hours I find out that my luggage will be delivered to BEM around 7pm and that the French student said I can move in tonight. The stars have aligned!! I am no longer homeless, and better yet I didn’t have to haul my luggage around for two days until I found a place to stay. It seems delayed luggage was actually a blessing in disguise. Things may not always happen the way you want, but everything tends to work out exactly like it’s supposed to. That’s all for this installment. My next posting will be on Bordeaux first impressions.

Winter in Oestrich

Guten Abend from Germany! My name is Jonathan Sevy and I am studying for one semester at European Business School in Germany. I am a junior accounting major at UofL, minoring in International Business and Chinese Studies.

I can see my colleague Jennifer Schramm has already posted a great review of a semester here at European Business School (EBS), so if you want a good review of the school and helpful tips scroll down a few posts. To avoid redundancy in my posts, I’ll try to highlights unique aspects of my semester and travels here to complement Jennifer’s post.

Winter in Oestrich

The biggest variation between Jennifer’s and my perspective is one of timing. Jennifer studied in the fall of 2011 and I in the spring of 2012. I hear Oestrich is quite the sight during the autumn. The vineyards that stretch across the neighboring hills are vivid green; vines sag under the weight of next year’s wine. The local Rheingau area is famous for its Weißwein, and every space not occupied by a quaint German house is used to grow the grapes for these white wines. It reminds me of the tobacco fields back home that were once a ubiquitous part of our Kentucky landscape, and more recently the fields of corn and soy that have replaced them. Oestrich in the fall is warm and bustling with life.

In the winter, the warmth and life of Oestrich becomes a bit harder to find. Many of the older residents of the town flee to warmer climates for vacation, and many of the degree-seeking EBS students elect to fulfill their mandatory study abroad requirement during this semester. The town is left in a half-empty slumber for these months, though the bright houses still display the cheer of their absent inhabitants.

Oestrich is not unlike the myriad of other such small towns that dot the fruitful hillsides of the region- a close-knit but welcoming community, isolated from the metropolitan life of cities like Frankfurt, which is just an hour’s ride east by the convenient trains serving the area. Oestrich is a harbor for students looking to study away from the distractions of the big city, but is close enough to still utilize the resources and opportunities found in the financial capital of Germany.

I arrived in Germany on the second of January, an anticlimactically grey and quiet Monday. After sharing a car pool with a few other new EBS students from Frankfurt airport to Oestrich, I was dropped off at the door to my apartment. My landlord had ceased answering my emails a few weeks prior, and I was a bit unsure when- if ever- he would arrive to meet me. I stood in the rain in front of the apartment building and gazed at the door and then down at the wet pavement. It was littered with the exploded shells of spent firecrackers, the sodden cardboard lingering proof of recent New Year’s celebrations.

As the driver pulled away, I began doubting the chain of decisions that had led me to this unfamiliar doorstep. My choice to study abroad was based on the obvious and numerous benefits, but had I been too hasty when I decided to leave my home and university behind? The impending threat of homelessness weighed on my mind as I waited in the cloudy drizzle. After about fifteen minutes and a few telephone calls around the town, my landlord at last materialized out of the narrow, winding streets and gave me a heartfelt greeting. I had a key. And a home.

The next two months are not overly interesting, so I will skip over most of it. January and February passed in many respects like a typical spring semester at UofL- cold, wet, too-little daylight, early classes. The only really remarkable part of this period was the people I met. You have probably read about the meaningful friendships, cultural understanding, and new perspectives attained by other bloggers on this site, and I can confirm this is a major benefit of study abroad.

The group of international students (or Tauschies as we’re called) here at EBS is especially tight-knit, perhaps due to nature of the school. As a private school in Germany, EBS caters to a more affluent student base than the free public universities throughout the country. The high ratio of hoity to toity found in many German EBS students may be off-putting to newcomers at first, but the majority of German students are decent enough once you get to know them. Regardless, the international students tend to be wary of the copious amounts of high fashion wafting from their German peers, and the exchange students form a thriving community for mutual support while at EBS. Anytime an exchange student is having a problem with an assignment, trouble with travel, or is looking for the next party, other Tauschies or sometimes German students are there with the answer. I have never felt so connected to a community than with the people I have met here in Germany. We travel together, eat together, party together, study together. I am rarely lonely here because I can always reach out to someone within the community.

And that is the warmth of Oestrich in the winter- the people. Even on cold, snowy mornings, I can make the trek through the vineyards to school knowing I will meet familiar faces along the way. People come from all across the world to this tiny wine-making town to study business at EBS, bringing warmth and life with them. As winter turns to spring and color returns once more to the vineyards, I can only imagine what adventures are yet to come.

Go Cards!

PS: If you’re interested, I ocassionally post pictures of my travels on Tumblr:

Ciao From Florence!

I have been in Florence, Italy for just about six weeks now. Although some of the first couple of weeks were really difficult due to the adjustment period and feeling like I didn’t have time to accomplish anything, now time is starting to fly by and in two weeks, it will already be halfway over! I am studying with a program called ISA (International Studies Abroad) and I LOVE them! I would definitely recommend them to everybody and they have study abroad locations all over the world. The staff is amazing, both during the pre departure process and while abroad. Our staff here is amazing and our Resident Director is like a second mom. What is really great about ISA is that they plan excursions for you, that are included in the price of your tuition. For example, they took us to several tours around Florence, the opera, a cooking class, a soccer game and several locations throughout the Tuscan region of Italy. It’s something I didn’t realize would be such a big deal, until I met friends here that are with other schools/programs and they have to plan everything themselves.

So far, since being here, I have mostly just traveled throughout Italy. Besides Florence, I have been to Rome, Venice, Pisa, Assisi, Siena, San Gimignano. Arezzo and Cortona. I have also done a wine tasting at a Chianti castle in the Tuscan countryside and gone to the opera. Outside of Italy, I have been to Interlaken, Switzerland which was seriously the BEST weekend of my entire life! I went skydiving (I think that day will even surpass my wedding day) and night sledding. The food was incredible and the people were amazing. It is one of those trips that you just cannot physically put into words. The view was beyond beautiful and the entire weekend was completely life changing. I would go back there in a heartbeat…

School here has proved to be quite different then back home in the States. The weirdest thing for me is the fact that when school is out due to a holiday, they reschedule the classes! This means that if on Monday there was a holiday, your teacher would reschedule class to Friday or some people even have weekend classes. They also don’t allow you to have sick days, even with a note. It is very strict, and of course, I was thinking they would all be blow off classes. That isn’t quite so true.

I am lots of travels coming up including Prague, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Amalfi Coast, Croatia, Cinque Terre and Ireland. I am really excited and becoming addicted to traveling!