Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024

Leaving my comfort zone on a trip to Strasbourg

By MADELYN KYE | April 6, 2023

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COURTESY OF MADELYN KYE

Despite initial reservations, Kye expresses gratitude for her choice to go on a trip to Strasbourg.

Located just a few miles from the France-Germany border, Strasbourg was at the top of my list of places to visit within France. I was curious about the French and German cultural influences in the city and was excited to learn more about France’s Alsace region. 

After researching the best way to reach Strasbourg from Paris, I discovered that it was a fairly feasible trip. I asked one of my friends within my study abroad program if she would be interested in doing an overnight trip to Strasbourg. 

Soon enough, we had our transportation and lodging booked. I will admit, I was nervous about doing an overnight trip with someone I have known for such a short time. However, I also realized that it was important to push myself beyond my comfort zone, and a one-night trip with a new friend seemed like a reasonable endeavor. 

We planned the trip such that we would arrive in Strasbourg in time for Monday dinner; our return train was scheduled for late Tuesday evening in order to take full advantage of our free Tuesdays without classes. And so, after my Monday morning French class, I found myself doing some last-minute packing before heading over to the train station. 

The actual train ride was a good balance of talking and peacefully coexisting: We worked together on homework for our political science class and then pivoted to doing our own things. I found the train to be a good environment for writing some poetry, and my friend watched a documentary to pass the time. 

When we arrived in Strasbourg, we immediately headed to Le Restaurant Gurtlerhoft, the Alsatian restaurant where we had made a reservation. The atmosphere of the restaurant was great! We ordered from a fixed menu, and I was excited to try onion pie as well as a pork knuckle that had been roasted in beer. Without a doubt, this restaurant offered a warm and authentic welcome to Strasbourg.

After that, we headed to our hotel. Upon arriving, the concierge asked me for my preferred language for the check-in process. Feeling as though this was an opportunity, I asked for him to provide me with the information in French. I was pleasantly surprised when I understood everything he said. The hotel was cramped, but this experience was very rewarding for me on the whole.

The next day, we tried to cram in as much as possible. We started our day with a quick breakfast and proceeded to La Petite France from there. This area is known for being particularly picturesque, and, even with the foggy weather, it lived up to my expectations. 

La Petite France featured many half-timbered buildings, which I quickly became obsessed with. It’s also near the river, further adding to the atmosphere. We spent a few hours just wandering through the streets and marveling at the river, buildings and bridges. 

We picked up a few pastries on our way to our next stop: a beautiful, gothic cathedral. Taking advantage of the chance to climb up to the cathedral’s platform and guard house, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the city. 

From there, we visited a museum on Strasbourg’s history, which I found particularly interesting because its fascinating exhibits offered descriptions written in three languages: French, German and English. Initially, we entered the museum just to pass a bit of time but ended up staying for longer because of the engaging and educational exhibits.

We spent the rest of the day eating more pastries, checking out a wine cellar and casually exploring bookstores and other shops. I was exhausted by the time we boarded the train back to Paris, but it was a lovely trip. 

Strasbourg was a wonderful city to visit, and I was grateful to share that experience with a new friend. Even with my initial reservations, I found it very valuable to go outside my comfort zone and explore new experiences.

Madelyn Kye is a junior from Long Island, N.Y. majoring in Writing Seminars and International Studies. Her column reflects on her experience studying abroad.


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