Strasbourg Cathedral in France, as photographed by Mia Freiberg ('16), one of Castillo–Montanye's peers.

Living Abroad: Strasbourg

Far from home, Kevin Castillo-Montanye (’16) finds comfort in the details of France. 

By Kevin Castillo–Montanye /// Staff Writer

In my room, next to a quintessentially French poster, hangs a map of Mexico. Just behind that, a large window flanked by a red curtain frames a view of the ornate dome of the Palais du Rhin. Go back inside and you can see my Lewis & Clark stuffed horse wearing a sombrero and a huge Mexican flag right above my bed.

Castillo-Montanye in Strasbourg, France on his study abroad program.
Castillo-Montanye (’16) in Strasbourg, France on his study abroad program.

My little nest here in France has become a mix of my experiences so far and feels so right even though I am thousands of miles from everything I have known.

Each time I go to a new country, the most important thing to me is absorbing its culture. French culture is well-known in most of the world, but experiencing it firsthand is so much better than simply hearing about it.

Even though I am still learning, one of the things that has shocked me the most since arriving in Strasbourg is how completely at ease I already feel. Sure, my French is not the best and I feel slightly inferior when my flatmates speak quickly, but otherwise I have adapted to this city almost seamlessly. Walking down the street, occasionally buying a little treat in a boulangerie, observing my surroundings and arriving late to all my classes because of all these distractions feel natural to me. That is the best part of coming here so far.

Walking down the street, occasionally buying a little treat in a boulangerie, observing my surroundings and arriving late to all my classes because of all these distractions feel natural to me.

However, not everything has been perfect. There are various difficulties in adapting to a new country, and the simply unexpected ones are the worst––looking directly at people on the street in France, for example, can be considered rude or an “invitation” for something more serious. I love looking at faces, so not smiling politely at strangers is something I’ve had to consciously change. These kinds of quirks are significant and a little annoying but a part of why I love being here. I am constantly learning.

I’ve only been here for a few weeks, but time is already flying by and it’s easy to see why. I adore each of my flatmates in all their foreign but familiar beauty. I stuff myself with delicious food all the time. I soak up all the rapid-fire French around me.

Conversations are plentiful, friends even more so, and wine flows like rivers under the late summer sun in Alsace.

Conversations are plentiful, friends even more so, and wine flows like rivers under the late summer sun in Alsace. This isn’t my home, but Chez Chaignaud in Strasbourg is definitely starting to feel like it.

 

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