Author Archives: cassignice

Back to Missouri, Back to Reality

By Cassi Greenlee

The one question I am almost certain to have to answer when someone approaches me about about my study abroad is “How was it?” And I usually answer with something like “good” or “amazing” but inside, I couldn’t be more frustrated. Summing up an experience like the one I had can’t be done in just one measly word.

Frustration is something I feel a lot now that I’m home. I’m frustrated with the infamously bad Missouri weather, the fact that I can’t talk to my newly made friends whenever I want, always having to use my car to go anywhere, etc. The most frustrating thing about returning home from that “amazing” experience is that everything I had  left behind didn’t change but I undoubtedly did.

And now I’m back to life almost exactly as I left it, looking for a part-time job, finishing school, doing homework…not exactly exciting. I miss the adventure and the spontaneity (which is absolutely nuts because I never believed my friend Stephanie when she told me spontaneity is something you can learn).

But as much as I miss my care-free lifestyle, I know that I can’t live without my responsibilities, work, my friends from home and my family. Living in France helped me grow as a person because I am more adventuresome, better at letting things go and more open to change. At the same time, I appreciate the life I have in the States with it’s structure, dependability and richness.

All in all, I know it’s okay to be frustrated, that not everyone can understand my experience abroad, that not everyone can understand that I’ve changed, but if anyone is willing to sit with me, I’d be happy to share my stories and help them understand.

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Saying Goodbye

By Cassi Greenlee

When leaving for Nice in August, I knew that I would make some friends while abroad. What I didn’t know was that I would make best friends

Nice was not a large city, therefore, all my close friends lived only a few minutes walk away. Whenever I needed someone to talk to, to watch Glee with, to study with, to cook for, to eat with, to sun on the beach with… I never  had to go very far. When I returned home people often asked, “Did you get homesick?” and I had to answer honestly “not really” because after a while Nice became my home and I knew the people I would really be missing would be the other international students I met there.

In my previous blog posts I wrote about the places I visited, the things I did and who was with me. Those people, the ones who were with me through the glamourous days of traveling and the not so glamourous nights of studying, were the people I found most difficult to say goodbye to.

Stephanie, my American friend who was always there to watch Glee with me on Wednesdays and feed me her personal supply of JIF peanut butter, was the first person I said goodbye to. I took her to the train station with all of her luggage and waited with her until her train to Paris left. While sitting in the station next to her I realized that our goodbye might be the easiest of them all. Stephanie was the best friend I had in Nice and I realized that it would not be the last time I saw her. We chatted about Christmas and the things we would do when we got home, never acknowledging that we would never be able to live 0.3 miles apart again. Eventually I got up to leave, we hugged, and I began to make my way home from the train station. It didn’t take long to miss her.

Two people I knew I would also miss were my musical friends from Algeria. They were both musicians and impressive guitar players. On one of my last nights in Nice, they escorted me home by playing guitar and serenading me as we walked through the streets. It was one of those magical moments that feels as if it belongs in a movie but instead is happening in real life. They were two very special people that were harder to say goodbye to because I had my doubts as to whether or not I would ever get to see them again.

My last goodbye was a doozy. The “Spanish Armada,” our Spanish friends who lived together, were hosting a final party at their apartment. Even though I was tired from finals and looked like a disaster from cleaning and packing all day, I knew I couldn’t sneak out of town without saying goodbye to the last of the IPAG students and friends. I had no idea how hard it would be. As soon as I started saying my goodbyes the tears really started flowing. I had met so many amazing people while abroad, many of them I knew I wouldn’t be able to see again. Then my roommates (the people who had been through the good, the bad and the ugly with me) started to cry and before I knew it, it seemed like everyone was hugging and crying. Javier gathered everyone around the three people who were leaving the next morning and the group gave a toast to each person leaving. It was very touching but did not help at all with the crying. After the party, I somberly walked home to my apartment.

Saying goodbye wasn’t easy but now I have something to look forward to — traveling back to Europe to see all of the people who were so vital in making my study abroad experience the best four months of my life.

St. Paul de Vence

By Cassi Greenlee

I visited St. Paul de Vence twice while I was in Nice and I couldn’t resist sharing the details of its charms.

Getting there was extremely easy. There was a bus that ran to Vence every hour or so and it only cost one euro for the one hour trip up into the hills. For my first visit to Vence, I traveled with my mother. We were both smitten by the locally owned galleries, small-business owners, restaurants with views of the countryside, small stone-laid streets and windows full of flower baskets. It was a nice break from the heavily populated and tourist saturated summer streets of Nice.

Later on in my study abroad stay, I just had to share St. Paul de Vence with someone else. My roommate Nina had never been and I convinced her to join me for an excursion up to the fortress. Once she arrived she realized that I wasn’t kidding, it really was a charming city with one heck of a view.

I do have an interesting story about Vence. While Nina and I were there, we attracted some attention from two Italian men. By then I was used to being stared at, whistled at, called at, it was just a cultural difference that I had to adjust to while living along the Mediterranean. However, this was an especially strange occurrence. As Nina and I were walking down a set of stone steps, two Italian men started singing “The Entertainer,” while taking pictures of us. Not sure how to act and with no where else to turn, we continued to walk, eyes averted. The whole situation was so unusual that I just laughed it off.

My Thoughts on IPAG

I studied at the French business school, IPAG. I was told by my newly made French friends in Grenoble that IPAG wasn’t the “norm” for post-secondary schooling in France but nonetheless, it made quite an impression.

You can call it ethnocentrism, but I certainly arrived in France with an opinion of how a university should be run. IPAG didn’t fit any of my standards. The school was terribly unorganized. For myself (and the planner-keeping Germans at school) our class schedule (the timetable) was a complete nightmare. IPAG posted the entire semester in advance, every week having a different schedule. Additionally, the schedule would change with little to no warning at all. It was impossible to make travel plans in advance for fear of missing class if it were to be rescheduled.

You were lucky if your grades were posted online. Final grades each for class were composed of a midterm (15 percent ), continuous assessment (35 percent) and final exam (50 percent). Final exams grades, although taken in mid-December, are not to be posted until the third week in January. My greatest frustration with the school was that I never really knew how I was doing.

For all of its faults, IPAG did have some great faculty members. The classes I took were all business-related, with the exception of French, and very relevant to my course of study at Mizzou. It was exciting to take international business classes in a room of students from all over the world because those students offered fresh perspectives and complimented the lessons being taught by the lecturer. I did many projects with other international students and it helped develop my understanding of other cultures to work with a diverse group of students on a mutual interest. My French class was superb. I was placed in level five French out of the six levels and at first it was extremely difficult. I had taken all my French classes at Mizzou, where there is a huge emphasis on grammar and writing but little to no work is done on speaking and conversational French. At IPAG, my class was almost entirely speaking. We did many role-playing exercises and group conversations. Because of IPAG, my French improved immensely.

Although I had trouble dealing with some administrative aspects of IPAG, I thoroughly enjoyed attending school there and if given the chance to go back and time and choose again, I would still choose IPAG.

All the international students of IPAG, my classmates.