Food is unique all over the world, and although Italian food has become such a large part of American cuisine, there are a few differences in dining culture between Italy and America.
First and foremost, Italians love espresso. I remember the first time I ordered coffee, I thought the cafe would have a regular Starbucks sized Americano or a regular black coffee, but they do not. Instead, what they have all over Milan is a tiny tiny cup of espresso, or a small cup of cappuccino. When I say tiny, I mean very tiny as shown in the picture below. There are no Starbucks in Milan, and no gas station sized coffee.
For lunch, sandwiches or pizza are popular options. The pizza in Milan is delicious, and so cheap. Pizza in Milan is quite different from pizza in America, because the toppings and texture is not the same. Some common pizza toppings in Milan are basil, seafood, sometimes no cheese, mozzarella cheese, and so on and so forth, but never have I seen a pepperoni pizza yet. The sandwiches in Milan are somewhat simple. It is usually some sliced deli-meat with tomato, and some sort of cheese such as brie or mozzarella. Sandwiches such as cheeseburgers or any Subway chains are not common, and actually, I have not seen a burger place or Subway shop yet.
For dinner, aperitivo is a popular choice. Aperitivo is the Italian version of Happy Hour, but instead of getting just half off drinks, you get a drink of your choice whether that be Long Island, a cocktail, beer, etc with unlimited appetizer like food that is set out in a buffet style. It is usually only 6 to 10 euros, and is delicious!
Rikkyo’s fall semester starts relatively late, and it was September 23rd. Thanks to that, I was given enough time to get myself used to the new life in Japan and also explored interesting things around here. Actually, I am not unfamiliar with what Tokyo is like and how life in Japan would be, because I have been watching Japanese dramas and animations for several years.
When I finally got here, I just found out that my life will be more exiting that I thought before. The first “challenge” that I met in Tokyo was that I have to take Densya (It is a public transportation similar to subway) to get to Rikkyo University everyday. My dormitory is actually in Shiki, which is about 25 minutes Densyaride away from Ikebukuro where the university is located. And I had firstly to figure out which line to take and remember the pronunciation of the names of the station where I need to got off. This was a big task for me because even though I could recognise the Kanji’s (similar to Chinese characters), they have really different pronunciations between Chinese and Japanese. And since Ikebukuro Station is a big and crowded station, every time I wanted to take Densya, it was really hard for me to find out which platform I should go to.
This challenge is tightly related the cultural shock that Japan gives me. I am Chinese, so I can read nearly all the Kanji’s shown outside. But the meanings of Kanji’s are also different from Chinese. Now, when I read Kanji’s in Japan, especially the name of stations and Densya lines, I automatically arrange myself in to three steps: read the Kanji’s, memorize the characters in Chinese, and then memorize the pronunciation in Japanese.
People in Japan are really really polite. When I go to convenience stores or other places, the sales person there are talking to me in KeiGo, which is a highly formal way of speaking. I was not very accustomed to it, so I just kept saying “Thank you very much” to them. As for the business part, I think the courses here can serve as a great example. I registered for two Research Seminars and a course named Bilingual Business Project. The reason why I mention these three courses is that we will be working on real business projects in these courses. For instance, in the Bilingual Business Project course, we need to finish a Marketing Project for Wendy’s retargeting Japanese Market, and the client, representative of Wendy’s will also come and evaluate our projects. I think I had a really good start for my new term and new life in Japan, and I hope that I could learn a lot not only in the business field but also in cultural field.
On the fourth day of the trip was our first site visit! It was with Angelini Pharmaceuticals. Their visit was very well organized. They took a lot of hey took a lot of effort to explain their facility and business as well as the effects of the economy on them. Their agenda included a company presentation, facility tour, coffee and snack break, question and answers, as well as their current research and development projects.
After lunch we were also provided time to network and socialize with the Angelini professionals. They were very friendly and eager to speak with us.
After Angelini our group as off to Citta Nuova. They were an international religious printing business. We were shown examples of their work and we sat and listened to their members explain their business to us. All of this was done through our translator as some of the concepts were hard for the members to convey in English to us. Meeting with a religious printing company was especially exciting considering we were in Rome near the Pope!!
While in Ireland we were able to visit Mondelez International as well as Yahoo! Mondelez manufactures an ingredient in chewing gum and other similiar products. A large part of their business is exporting. Their members explained their business model to us then proceeded to give us a hands on tour of the factory and production process. We donned hairnets and dove right in!
We were also able to visit EMC while in Ireland. They manufacture electronic and computer devices. They also gave us a tour of the factory and a business presentation. Their speaker was especially interested in us! He asked us a lot of questions to gauge the opinion on topics of our generation. He was extremely intelligent. We were also able to visit Yahoo while in Ireland!
We were given a walking tour of Rome by tour guide. This day provided some of the best pictures of our entire trip! One of the biggest stops being the Colloseum. Our tickets to get in were already paid for with the cost of the trip and our guide walked us through and provided us with the history. We stayed together as a group and after this was finished the tour was over. The students were then free to explore Rome as much as they wanted until our welcome dinner at 7:00. Students went their different ways. Some went shopping. Others got food. One student, Matt Shaver, bought a day pass for the train and got off at every single stop and explored!
Another stop during the day was the Pantheon. It was unbelievable being inside of a building with so much history.
Studying abroad with Fisher has been one of the highlights of my college experience. In our short time of 11 days we were able to see and experience so many things. I had previously studied abroad in high school with my senior Spanish class to Costa Rica to experience the culture and language. This immersion was entirely different. The business component is what made this trip. Being able to speak in my native language, English, to global business professionals is something that simply could not be done in a normal classroom at Ohio State.
This experience opened my eyes to just how connected the world is today. We were able to meet Ohio University band students and directors who were playing at the Vatican, an English teacher from my hometown of Dayton (Ohio), and plenty of Michigan and OSU fans. In a single restaurant in Italy we met people from Denmark, Romania, Italy, Finland, England, Spain, Brazil, Germany, and France. In one single restaurant. These were just people my own age that we spoke to. It was unbelievable.
Our classroom discussions were reinforced daily in real life discussions. While we were discussing the European Union with one of the representatives I remembered tidbits of information that Melissa had taught us in class. This was classroom learning implemented in the truest form. We were using knowledge learned from a book to speak with someone who actually worked in the EU! It was phenomenal. It made the learning experience so much more real and beneficial.
One interesting fact I remembered from the class is a woman that was mentioned who ran a business making gluten-free dough. Surprisingly, most of her business was overseas through exporting. Today’s world is so much more different than it was thirty years ago. It’s hard to believe a woman can make a living selling dough by shipping it all over the world as opposed to a conventional bakery.
After going abroad with Fisher I am much more interested in International Business. Although my major is Finance I definitely plan to look into career opportunities that may allow international travel opportunities. It would be amazing to find a job with a global corporation that would allow me to meet with colleagues in other countries.
The benefits of going abroad are not only academic and professional. Some of my best friends at Ohio State are Global Lab students that I never met before this trip. We bonded in the class time and overseas. Not only that, but the friendships we have made will surely be valuable someday. We are all Fisher Direct Honors students. When we returned in the fall and visited the involvement fair I saw more Global Lab students than any of my other friends. We were all there representing different organizations! Whether it was the running club, or a fraternity or sorority, or the Undergraduate Finance Association, so many of us were there. The students who went on this trip with me are some of the best, brightest, and most involved in Fisher. There is no doubt that we are all headed toward bright futures.
We were finally leaving! Everything was packed, and we left for the airport around 8:00 am. Our first flight was from Columbus to Chicago. Due to the time zones we were leaving at 11:01 am and arriving at 11:16 am. Not everyone had chosen the faculty flight, but a majority of the students did and we were able to meet up while waiting for our plane. Once we arrived in Chicago we got food. I was wearing a drawstring bag with the OSU logo on it and got an OH-IO from a stranger within the first ten minutes. The first one of the trip!
The plane to Germany was huge! There were three rows of seating with two aisles in between. Our group was scattered throughout the plane. We had these awesome video players in the head rest of the seat in front of us. We were able to watch television shows, movies, and documentaries. They had a great selection too. I counted at least 50+ comedy movies alone. These screens also provided information about the flight like the speed, ETA, and the current location.
I actually ended up sitting next to a Michigan fan on the plane! She commented when she saw my OSU bag. What are the odds? We were all tired but excited at the same time. We had a big day ahead of us! We still had a flight to Florence from Germany and then a train from Florence to Rome.
I had a window seat and was able to see a beautiful sunset. It was golden on the horizon against the silhouette of the plane wing. At that point it was 7:20 pm Chicago time and 2:20 am Germany time. When we flew over Manchester we saw the city lights and the highways. You could spot each town by the clusters of lights and see all of the roads connected them. It was like little lit up spider webs all over the landscape.
While on the flight I woke up from a nap and looked out the window just in time to see the Swiss Alps! It was crazy. They stretched as far as the eye could see. I had no idea that we would be flying over them. We were close enough to see the ice caps and the green valleys.
The flight finally arrived in Florence. We made it! We were in Italy! Mellisa, our faculty director helped group everyone together. The worst thing possible happened to me. My luggage was lost!! I was devastated. I could not believe that this happened the first day of the trip. Turns out it was just in a different part of the airport. Mellisa was able to speak with the airport workers and find it for me. It was hard because Italian was their first language. At this point it was Saturday May 11.
No sleep! After arriving at the Florence airport and everyone claimed their luggage we boarded our private coach and met our tour guide. We arrived in Florence at 11:00 am. Upon arrival we were given ear pieces in order to hear our guide speak to us as we were walking. Our walking tour began as soon as we got off the bus. The guide was very thorough and explained the history of the town of Florence along with the buildings and statues that we passed by.
This building is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Construction for it began in 1296and it was completed in 1436. The exterior of the basilica is faced with marble panels in shades of pink and green.
I was surprised at how elegant so many of the doors and gates were in Italy.
This part is inside the Duomo. In the photo above you can see the designs on the wall. According to the tour guide people are actually buried in the walls behind the designs.
Our tour lasted until 1:00 pm. Then we were given three hours to explore the area. We split into groups and did some shopping. A lot of the girls bought leather goods. We were told they make excellent purses and belts and wallets. We were also free to grab some food. We stopped at a restaurant and had our first pizza in Italy! We also got some gelato. We met up again at 4:00 to board the train to Rome.
At this point we had all been up since 8:00 am the previous day. We had naps on the plane but no actual good rest. The train left at 5:04 pm and took an hour and a half. Nearly everyone fell asleep.
At 6:30 pm we arrived in our hotel and checked in. We settled down and unpacked everything and got dinner. I don’t have any pictures of dinner because my devices were dead from travelling and taking pictures all day. We were able to explore the area around our hotel a bit. We also found a great gelato place down the street!
This was the view from our hotel room!!! It was gorgeous. Some rooms had balconies. Others had multiple windows. We were on the highest floor with no balcony. Since we still didn’t have phone service we had to write down everyone’s room numbers to go visit them. We had a blast checking out how each room was different. Jack was my roommateand we got along well. Our room had a bathroom and two beds. The hotel workers were very courteous and friendly. We unpacked everything and laid out our clothes for the next day and went to bed! We were all exhausted.
This past weekend I traveled to Cambodia and I had an amazing time. I traveled with a group of three other SMU students. We flew in Phnom Penh (capital of Cambodia) on Friday and we left Monday afternoon (taking advantage of my 3-day school schedule!).
On the first day we arrived in Phnom Penh, our flight was delayed so we didn’t arrive in the city until 6pm. As soon as we got there we took a private taxi to go up north to Siem Reap where the great temples of Angkor Wat are. The trip took about 6 hours including a stop for dinner. It was a long ride so by the time we go to Siem Reap, we checked into our guesthouse and just went to sleep.
The next morning we woke up and set out to explore Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is a magnificent Hindu/Buddhist temple complex. It’s dedicated as a UNESCCO World Heritage Site to further protect and conserve the ruins. Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century under the Khmer Kingdom. There are many different temples but Angkor Wat is the entrance to the entire park. It was the biggest and grandest temple.
We spent two days exploring the temples and there was still more to see! I could of easily spent another day exploring as the temples were so peaceful. Also, since it’s currently low season (rainy season) for traveling in Southeast Asia, there were fewer tourists around which made it even better. Luckily for us, the weather was in our favor; the most it rained was an hour during one day.
The best part about Angkor Wat was that nothing felt contrived. Although some parts of the temples were obviously restored, nothing about the temples felt perfect which made it even more beautiful. For example, there many statues that had their heads cut off because there was a period when riots happened and people stole Buddha heads to sell off to foreign countries. This didn’t make the temples any less beautiful, it fact it made it even more authentic.
Although the temples were beautiful, I was more surprised by the poverty I saw in the surrounding area of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, and villages not too far away from the city. Outside the temples, there were many food and souvenir vendors and every time we got off our tuk-tuk (motorcycle bike with rickshaw attached) to visit a temple, hordes of children would surround us and ask us to buy bracelets and postcards for a 1$. These children were very young too. All of them were barefoot and their clothes looked like they haven’t been washed in months. They were extremely clever as they tried to persuade you to buy their items by saying things like “Buy 1 post card get 9 free!”. Another young girl asked my friend to buy some bracelets for his girlfriend and when he responded that he didn’t have a girlfriend, she said, “You know why? Because you no buy these bracelets!”.
It was sad seeing this because it makes you wonder whether these kids go to school or if they don’t have time because they have to help support their families by selling souvenirs to tourists. After coming back from Cambodia, I researched more about it and found out that despite the tourism that Angkor Wat brings in, 36.6% of the population lives below the poverty line (less than 45 cents per day). Many Cambodian children go to primary school (80%) but less go to lower secondary school (25%) and even less go to upper secondary school (9%).
I witnessed even more poverty when I traveled back to Phnom Penh on Sunday afternoon. We drove pass beautiful green rice paddies and along these rice paddies were houses where the farmers and their families lived. The houses are better described as simple shacks as the whole thing consisted of only one room. Even though we were only driving by, I could tell that there was no kitchen or electricity in the shacks. Bedding was just a blanket on the ground or a hammock outside. Kids ran around barefoot and naked but they all appeared to be very happy and carefree.
I didn’t realize that Cambodia is still so underdeveloped (which sounds very ignorant of me), but I’m glad at least now I’m aware. I wish I could of done more to help but we had such a short amount of time there.
I’ve realized that the most important part about traveling is not seeing new things or famous sights, it’s about learning and letting these experiences shape you.
During my first week in Milan, I traveled out to the center of the city. When I say the center of the city, it is literally in the center of the city of Milan. In the center, there is a main cathedral called the Duomo, which is a term used for church, more specifically a catholic church. The Duomo is literally in the center of Milan. Then from the Duomo, the city is built as a circle that radiates outward. The structure of the city can be described as a small circle as its center point, and then a circle of buildings built around the center, and so on and so forth as it keeps radiating out.
Above is a picture of the Duomo that I took from behind. It is absolutely stunning. The building is so large, with hundreds of handcrafted sculptures of famous disciples, and people described in the Holy Bible. This church took about 600 years to build, and it is still under reconstruction (if you notice to roof of the building)! I know from pictures it just looks alright, but it is similar to looking at a picture of the ocean, and actually going to the ocean; two very different experiences.
I was not allowed to go into the Duomo the day I took the picture above, because I was wearing shorts. The entrance guards were really strict about what kind of clothing one could wear when entering the cathedral. It was understandable, because they viewed this as a place to meet God, and they wanted people to wear respectable, very conservative clothing, so I have yet to still go inside, which I am sure is just as beautiful. This small encounter with the entrance guards was a slight culture shock for me. At my home church, which is a protestant church, I am allowed to wear whatever I please as long as it was socially appropriate, so shorts and a T-shirt would have been no problem back in many churches in the States, but here at this specific cathedral, they wanted people to dress better when entering a building of God.
Moving on from the Duomo, I was walking around taking pictures of everything around the center plaza and my friend was taking some pictures of me too when a man came from nowhere, just grabbed my hand, and put bird food into my hand (see picture below).
He lifted up my hand and walked away, and right after that, pigeons flew towards me and ate everything in a matter of a few seconds. First, I hate pigeons…I sometimes see them as rats with wings. And secondly, once the pigeons (although the picture has just one pigeon, about ten came) landed on my hands, I immediately thought of bird flu. After that very unenjoyable experience, the man walked back towards me with another friend of his and he pointed to my hand and gestured for money. He spoke to me in Italian but I understood what he probably said, which was something along the lines of, “You used my bird food and now I want my money from you”. Him and his friend kept getting closer and kept asking for money so two thoughts flew into my head. First, for some odd reason, I was quite enjoying this experience. Maybe because it was the first time I got hustled and I was waiting to see how I would react. Secondly, I was thinking that they chose the wrong girl, because if they knew anything about my father, they would have known that he has done a good job teaching me not to waste money, and I was sure not going to spend money on these guys. So I told them I did not have money. They kept following me still so I said in a harsher voice, “I don’t have any money” and walked away (which was quite an obvious lie, since I had a very visible fanni-pack). They followed me and kept gesturing for a couple minutes but I walked quickly and made sure I was by other people so they eventually gave up. I know this situation could have been much worse if it was later in the night or if I was alone with not many people around but thankfully that was not the case. After this experience, I noticed that there were so many people trying to hustle money from tourists or people who looked foreign. I realized that just because I am Asian, I will probably be targeted more often than other people of Caucasian ethnicities because I will have a harder time “looking” like a typical European. Also, it won’t help my case that Asians often come with the stereotype that we are all rich, and innocent…especially since I am a short Asian girl. From this experience I learned to be more aware of my surroundings, to not let strange men give me bird food, and to not wear a fanni-pack around.
Near the central plaza of Duomo, there are hundreds of stores just around the corner selling beauty products, clothing, and accessories. Milan did live up to its title as the “Fashion Capital of the World”. There were several malls in which only designer products were sold. Just below is a picture of a shopping mall that only sold designer products. There were many expensive cafes next to the shops as well. Some stores even had their own cafe such as with Gucci, in which they had their own Gucci cafe right outside their store. The architecture of the mall was beautiful as you can see in the picture below.
Of course I could not afford to buy anything, but I was happy to just walk around and take everything in. It was a beautiful day, with blue skies, nice friends, and a lot of experiences, with many more to come!
Since it’s week 5 already, I feel pretty settled in. The adjustment to SMU was interesting at first but now I think I’ve gotten used to it. There are a lot of small differences between SMU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business and OSU’s Fisher College of Business.
Overall it’s similar but there are small differences. For one thing, group work is a big deal here. I’m glad that business classes at Fisher required a lot of group work as well because I definitely feel more prepared than my some of my European exchange students (most them were rarely required to do group work for their universities). The group work here is pretty different though, since classes meet for 3 hours at a time instead of breaking it down to smaller chunks of time like 55 minutes, three times a week. Therefore, there is a lot of time for student presentations. Usually the structure will go something like this: the professor lectures the first half of class and then a student group will present the second half of class with material that adds on to the lecture. The students here are very good with PowerPoint and presentation skills as a result.
Another difference between SMU and OSU is the amount of participation that is encouraged here. All of my classes have mandatory participation while I can only think of a handful of classes I’ve taken at OSU that have required that. Every student also has an extravagant name card that they use so that professors will note down their participation. The exchange students really stand out in this case because we all have handwritten name cards on loose-leaf paper. I really do like this part about SMU and I’m hoping some of my classes I take in the future at OSU will be similar.
Since my classes are all 3 hours, I actually only have class from Tuesdays until Thursdays, giving me a weekend of Friday to Monday. This is especially nice for traveling which most exchange students take advantage of. The local students take advantage of this time by having more time to do extra curricular activities (meetings aren’t limited to the week, some are during the weekend) and/or work on group presentations and projects. I’ll post about some of the traveling I will do in a future blog post!
Shortly after I got off my plane, I found myself in Milan, Italy! It was very exciting to realize that I was actually going to live in Milan for about four months. I never lived outside of Ohio for very long, especially out of the country, and being in Italy was a good reminder that the world is a very, very big place.
I got out of the airport and found many cabs waiting for me. I did watch the movie “Taken” right before I came, so I made sure that I did not share my cab with any attractive European men. Stranger danger I told myself. Once I hopped in a cab, I gave the driver directions to my dorm, and shortly after we began talking. He immediately knew I was from America because of my accent, and also because of how little Italian I knew. I have to admit, it was rather embarrassing not knowing much, if any Italian, because I felt like I supported the stereotype that “Americans don’t care to learn other languages because they think everyone speaks English”. Of course I don’t think that is true, but I am aware that it is a negative stereotype we bare. But the driver didn’t seem to care too much, and I had a nice discussion with the cab driver. He told me about the history of the Italian language, as well as the history of the city and how the city was built. I was amazed at how much history there was to the Italian culture, and Milan itself. Comparing the history of Italy which dates back from thousands of years, with America’s recorded history of only two-hundred years is quite a big difference. Until now, I never really thought about how young United States was.
Next thing I knew, I found myself at Arcobaleno Residence, my dorm. I was expecting there to be a very quick and organized sign-in system, however, I had to wait in line for about an hour while people ahead of me in line slowly filled out their paperwork. I compared this with my move in experience at OSU. At OSU, although there were thousands of new freshmen moving into the dorms, it was a very structured and organized process, that took very little time (in comparison with how many people were moving in). This is one of many future instances where I realized that in Italy, it sometimes takes a long time to process and file things. This is something I had to adjust to, because in America, everything seemed to get done much faster.