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An Interview with Professor Gomez

Lindsay Lieber sits down with her marketing class instructor, Professor Gomez, while studying abroad at Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain. Drawing from his experience working with Mondelez, Safilo, and other partnerships, they discuss the difference in business culture between U.S. and Spain, as well as skills that are valuable in the business world today.

 Front of Universidad Pontificia Comillas

The other week I had the pleasure of interviewing my marketing teacher, professor Gomez, about his experiences teaching, in the business world, and the differences between the culture in Spain and the US. Professor Gomez graduated from Universidad Pontificia Comillas studying under the general business E2 track with a focus in marketing and research. He worked at the international food company Mondelez from 1999 until 2017, which houses recognizable snack brands, from Oreo to Nabisco to Ritz,  where he gained extensive experience in the marketing field. He stayed with Mondelez for such a long period, because it was fast growing and there was always something new to do. He held 10 different positions over the 18 years taking on projects in trade marketing, sales strategy, a Hello Joy campaign which required work in sharing market space, and more. He worked a lot with coffee and collaborated with other companies such as Tassimo, Bosch, Corte Ingles, and Carrefour. He greatly enjoyed working with a wide range of people and learned a lot over the nearly 20 years working at the company. After leaving Mondelez he wanted a change in projects and sectors and joined Safilo, an eyewear company in 2017, and left the company in December to teach.

Since, he has jumpstarted his teaching career with an opening at his alma mater, Universidad Pontificia Comillas. He loves teaching because it has given him the opportunity to talk to more people and he really enjoys training, explaining, and making things easier to understand for his students. Engaging his students is fundamental in his teaching method, and he aims to always make the content more interesting. And while he loves teaching, he also loves drawing and illustrating too. Outside of the classroom he takes art classes and mentioned he would really like to find a way to combine illustration with teaching.

Now, with extensive experience at Mondelez, an international company, when asked about differences he’s noticed between business culture in the US versus Spain he said he didn’t notice too many. He mentions that generally, the US has many commonalities with the Mediterranean culture, but he did point out the great enthusiasm many of his US colleagues seemed to have. Professor Gomez elaborates that they are quite good at communicating and motivating as Spanish coworkers tend to be less direct than their US counterparts. There is more nonverbal or unwritten communication and dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty more than in the US. Further, he compliments that American workers tend to be better at building their personal brand and selling themselves, mentioning that he thinks it reflects a higher level of competitive and individualistic tendencies. Meanwhile, Spaniards will tend to emphasize collaboration and the need for a stronger relationship between coworkers. For example, he indicates that business lunches happen frequently, and it is not uncommon for them to last two hours. Professor Gomez acknowledges this can make working in Spain less efficient, and they generally work a 9:30-7:30 day instead of the 9-5 that is typical in America. Things happen later, but he expresses that a healthy emotional link between coworkers is extremely important and supports a collaborative work environment.

When asked about the importance of internships for university students, he answered that most Spanish students start looking their last two years of uni, which is pretty similar to the US. Nonetheless, he admits that there doesn’t seem to be as much anxiety about finding one and that sometimes he wishes his students would be more driven in finding one. Being that the majority of my classes are in English, I also asked him about the importance of learning a second language. He said that it was very common for students to be able to speak more than one language, and that he didn’t start learning English until he was 12 which is considered late (don’t worry, his English is still quite good despite his “late” start). Knowing another language will undoubtedly give you a leg up in the business world he claims, especially as we are becoming more globalized and many large companies are now international.

Finally, for those that are considering working in Spain, Professor Gomez shares his advice. He reiterates that collectivism is very important in the office, and it is good to be open to conversation and making new friends. Reflecting at his time at Safilo, he reminds new hires to have fun because you will feel closer to your coworkers, and a positive environment helps to get things done. Be ready for teamwork, good spirits, and to be a part of the group.

Milan Fashion Week and Sustainability

Angela Adams, studying abroad on the Student Exchange Program at Università Bocconi in Italy, shares her experience seeing Milan’s Fashion Week and volunteering for a sustainability workshop held by Bocconi’s fashion professors. She encourages students to get outside of their comfort zone, as doing so herself, she has been inspired to take her life in a different direction.

One of my favorite moments while being in Milan has been Fashion Week. I am majoring in marketing and minoring in fashion retail studies so I am a little biased, but I highly recommend it for anyone studying here in the Spring because the energy in the atmosphere is awesome! Also, fashion is a big part of Italian culture.
I wish I could say I took this pic above, but I was right above looking through the glass down at this! The Max Mara runway was held right on Bocconi University’s campus which was amazing to see. I got there right when it was starting, so I did not have the best spot, but I still got to see a lot. Honestly, my favorite part was seeing people walk into the show because everyone was dressed to impress. I started to take pictures whenever the photographers started to swarm someone or if I thought their outfits were cool. The shows go quickly, so it is worth hanging around to see everyone come out.

The other show I attended was Moschino. That one I could not see anything, but there were people walking in and out. I still highly recommend even standing outside of the venues, because it is just fun to be around all the excitement. If you want to see a schedule of when the events are I used this website: https://www.cameramoda.it/en/milano-moda-donna/

 

The website gave times and locations which was nice. Some of the shows say “LIVE” next to their listing and I originally thought that meant the companies were streaming them on a TV, but it means they are happening in person. There are numerous shows every day of the fashion week, so you can definitely fit a few in with class and if you are traveling.

Since you are reading this, I am assuming you’re interested in fashion and I want to take a moment to talk about what I have noticed while taking a fashion course at Bocconi. I am taking the “Management of Fashion Companies” class and it has been good so far. It is a pretty basic class, but the professors are very competent and have an impressive work history. One big difference with Bocconi and OSU is how often sustainability is discussed. OSU does talk a little about it in the business and fashion classes I’ve taken, but not like how it is in Italy, or the whole world for that matter. I think it needs to be a bigger topic for discussion at OSU.

I volunteered to participate in a sustainability workshop that one of the fashion professors helped organized and it was truly eye opening. The main topic was about circularity, which is how clothes can be continuously reused and not be thrown away (cradle to cradle not cradle to grave). Or if they end up being thrown away, they are totally biodegradable. There was a lot of group work involved and interesting guest speakers. Since the workshop, I have been very inspired to read and research more about sustainability. It has even made me question what I want to do for a career.

The main thing to take away from this is step outside your comfort zone and go experience things you thought you would never be interested in. Chances are you either learn something or you get inspired to take your life in a different direction.

Arriving in the UK and Trying to Adjust

Nate Hazen studying abroad in Manchester, England on the Student Exchange Program, shares his insights, tips, and advice on the first month in the country. To the difference in culture and classes, to the weird restaurants!

As winter break came to a close, and the Student Exchange Program came closer, my emotions were all over the place. All of my friends were back in Columbus starting classes, while I still had three weeks until I began my semester in Manchester, England. I was so excited, but also horrified. I kept thinking about the worst-case scenarios. The “What if I hate it there?” and “What if I don’t make friends?” type of things. It almost felt like the beginning of freshman year happening all over again, except this time I was a little more confident, thinking that it would be easier the second time around. I was wrong.

Moving across the world for a semester was more difficult than the transition into university, even for an out-of-state student like myself, who didn’t know a single person when I first arrived at Ohio State. This time around, there were so many more factors in play. I completely underestimated how jet lag would affect me. I thought I was prepared, but it took me nearly two weeks to fully readjust my sleep schedule. Forcing yourself to wake up and fall asleep at certain times can be a lot harder than it sounds! I also had a hard time meeting people at first. I moved into my hall a week early, figuring it would be a great time to meet some people and make friends. I quickly realized that the students in the UK were still in their first semester exams and not many students wanted to be social. I hung out alone and with the few people that had finished exams for my first week until orientation came the following Friday. I was never made aware of many of the orientation events, but I would recommend asking about/going to any event that the school offers. We had a business exchange orientation that was super helpful to connect with and befriend other students. I made most of my friends at this event and in my classes.

A few of my friends from the Business Exchange took a weekend trip to London. Students are on exchange from all over the world. I now have friends in Maryland, Southern California, Toronto, and many more places. As you can see, Big Ben was sadly under construction.

It was nice that the Alliance Manchester Business School had an orientation program solely for business exchanges. We got more specified information and were able to connect with other students that we would be in classes with. This event also allowed me to meet quite a few lasting friends. Although they had activities planned for the entire day, most of the day was spent with all the students socializing and trying to get to know one another, along with making plans for the evening. At the end of orientation, the International Society told us that they were all going to a pub nearby and invited us to join, along with informing us of other good events to connect with more international students.

Moving to a different country on your own is scary. Even in an English-speaking nation, there are a lot of cultural differences. For starters, in my short time here so far, I have almost been hit by three cars, as they drive on the opposite side of the road. Many of the stores here also close very early, around 5 or 6pm. There are not as many large grocery stores, as many of the urban locations are more similar to a gas station or convenience store. Public transportation is used heavily, and you can often catch a bus every 2 minutes on the busiest streets. Another difference I noticed early on was the use of coins for the 1 and 2 pound rather than paper bills. I have also picked up that British cuisine relies heavily on potatoes, red meats, and a strong connection to Indian food. They also have way too many restaurants with strange varieties of food, such as fried chicken places that also selling pizza?? I love food and could talk about it for days.

Adapting to many of these differences was not super difficult, however I still get very confused with traffic and continue to have close calls. I get bored of the blandness of the food, but I try to find creative ways to add flavor such as adding hot sauce or spices. Stores closing early can make things difficult, especially since I have class going into the evening, but you are usually able to find something similar that is open late or 24 hours. Sunday business hours are very short, so I try to avoid shopping on Sundays. Many other differences are pretty helpful. I really enjoy how accessible public transit is and the use of coin money. For students studying in Europe, especially England, I would recommend using Apple Pay, as contactless payment is commonly used and some places will not accept foreign chip-cards that need a signature. This is also handy when travelling, as you do not have to worry about carrying a card and potentially getting pick-pocketed.

The coursework here is also quite different. I am enrolled in a Sustainability in Business course, along with a Team Management & Personnel Selection and Mental Health courses. I am most looking forward to the sustainability course, as I think it will present exciting material regarding the future of business. Many of my lectures only meet once per week, which leads to a lot of independent study. This allows a lot of flexibility to students, but it also makes students accountable for their own studies. The overall teaching style seems similar, but the assessment format is different. In the States there is a significant portion of most courses that includes homework or weekly tasks. In the UK most of the assessment comes down to either one final exam or final paper. One of my courses has a small portion that is marked on a group presentation, but the rest of my grades come from final assessments. This puts a lot of pressure on just a few assignments for the term. I enjoy this a bit because it makes every assignment feel like it has a purpose. I often feel that homework in the US is given and doesn’t always have much effect on learning. It often feels like busy work. Here, it is easier to focus and give your all on assignments because they are more infrequent.

Some of my favorite things about my time here include the ease of traveling, the friendliness of the people, and the historic aspects of the UK. The UK and Europe are both super accessible and cheap to travel. I have been to Leeds, London, and Edinburgh in the UK, along with Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Nuremburg, Germany abroad. Being able to fly cheap and take trains most anywhere in the UK is very exciting and allows us to see so much more of the landscape and culture. The people here are also very friendly and often go out of their way to help out if you are lost or struggling with nearly anything. This seems to be a Northern England trend, as those in London were much more to themselves. The UK has so much to offer for history. London, a 2 hour train from Manchester, is a global, multicultural city that has endless museums and historic museums. Manchester itself was the home of the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and created veganism. The buildings here are also very old and there are many beautiful historic government buildings and churches. I know very little about architecture, but there are so many impressive structures to take in.

As the semester kicks into full gear, I look forward to exploring Manchester and the United Kingdom more, along with seeing how the different style of education alters my learning ability. I am excited to see what material is presented in my courses, as well. The semester is young, but I’m sure it will fly by faster than I expect. I can’t wait to see what is at store.

This photo was taken at an old abbey called Kirkstall Abbey near Leeds, UK. Now a ruins, it was originally built in the 1100s!
This is the Manchester City Hall. The architecture of many of the government buildings is extremely intricate and impressive.
The view from our Airbnb in London was especially incredible. I caught this during sunset!

I’ll Take a Double Shot of Being Uncomfortable Please

A month into her Student Exchange Program in Italy, Angela Adams shares her insights, tips, and advise on living in Milan! From the cultural difference in personal space and way of life, to the wonderfully delicious food in the city, such as cafes, gelato, pizza, and more!

I can’t believe it has already been a month that I’ve been in Milan. It still feels surreal! I have definitely encountered a big learning curve since I’ve been here and I am ready to learn more. There are 5 cultural and environmental elements that have stuck out to me that I would like to share.

1.) Transportation

OSU has the COTA and the inner campus bus system, but to navigate Milan properly, you need to understand the ATM system. This system is responsible for the tram and metro lines. It makes it fairly easy to get into the city and to Bocconi University. The first day I got here, I attempted to take the tram to Bocconi and took the correct tram, but in the complete opposite direction! Took me an hour to get to where I actually needed to go.

In order to ride the tram or metro, you have to buy a ticket to ride the tram or metro every time you ride or you may get fined, because they do random checks. I highly suggest looking into getting an ATM card and paying for it monthly. It took me sometime to adjust to traveling around this way, because I am so used to walking to campus or driving around. It has been interesting learning and adapting to a different mode of transportation for every day life. Another recommendation for future exchange students is downloading the Transit app and ATM app. The Transit app shows you the most efficient travel routes to your destination and gives you the details of which transportation to take. The ATM app is helpful if you need to buy a quick ticket instead of buying one at a ticket office.

2.) Personal Space

I am Greek so I am used to talking close and being affectionate to people I know. But for someone not used to these mannerisms, it can be uncomfortable. Trust me, I have had my fair share of awkward encounters while studying here, but it’s how you learn!

One thing I have noticed that most friends greet each other with kisses on the cheeks. Doesn’t matter if it’s guys or girls greeting each other. The country is a very affectionate country whether it’s friends or couples, it is very apparent. Another thing is that the ATM system can get very busy, so sometimes the tram to school is packed like a sardine can. You just have to be used to standing close to strangers. This is the same for most restaurants too. The spaces and tables are usually small and you feel like you are sitting on top of each other.

3.) Timing

If you’re a type A personality and constantly on the go, you’re going to need to learn to chill in Italy. You can still be a planner and organize your life, but rushing to class, events, or wherever is not a thing. Compared to the US, the people here are much more relaxed. For instance, it’s not really a thing for people to eat while they’re walking, even if they’re late. Eating is a time for relaxation and the Italians believe you should take time to sit and slowly eat your food.

The timing of things is also pushed back later than US timing. Lunch is usually in the late afternoon like 2-3 pm as opposed to US time of 11-1. There are also times for “siesta” or relaxing periods. It is not uncommon for businesses to close after the lunch rush and not reopen until the evening. Most night life and going out for dinner isn’t until at least 8 pm as well.

This has been a bit of a change for me, but I have honestly enjoyed the slowed down pace of life. It makes me analyze how I was living  my life back at Columbus, and most of the things I rushed around to or worried about things that weren’t  important.

4.) Grocery Shopping

When you first arrive in Italy you are overwhelmed by a lot of things. While you are settling into your housing and surroundings, you should definitely go to the grocery store. It can be intimidating at first if you’re concerned about the language barrier, but most people understand some English or they get the gist of what you’re trying to say. Buying groceries also helps you save money instead of going out to eat for everything.

I live in Arcobelano Residence (a university dorm) and there is a grocery store that is less than 5 minutes walking distance. First thing I noticed is that the shopping carts are different. They are basket-like with 4 wheels that you can pull with you or carry if that is what you prefer to do. I also learned later on you are allowed to roll the carts back with you to the residence and leave them outside once you have unloaded your groceries. Another difference is certain fruits and vegetables you have to weigh and label yourself. The first time I went, I brought bananas and apples up to the cashier and they couldn’t scan them because I didn’t know that I had to label them myself. One big difference is when you are checking out, they will ask if you want plastic bags and you have to tell them how many you want because you have to pay for them. They are super inexpensive, but I suggest getting a reusable bag to make things easier. I personally just roll my groceries back with the cart, but almost everyone uses reusable bags.

I can’t speak for other residence halls, but if you end up in Arcobelano, you probably will need to buy cooking materials. I had to buy a fork, a spoon, a plate, a pot, and a pan. If you end up buying pots and pans, you NEED to buy ones that use induction. I accidentally bought the wrong ones, but the workers at the grocery store were nice enough to let me return them. It is a good investment to buy cooking ware because it will help to save money and cook instead of eating out!

5.) Food

If you love pizza and pasta, you are in the right place. My one piece of advice pertaining to food while studying abroad is treat yourself. If you’re a health nut there are ways to eat healthy or workout, but don’t forget to just enjoy yourself. The culture and social aspects of eating is big in Italy.

An important food aspect is apertivo. Almost all restaurants have one in the evening. They usually start around 8 pm and go for a few hours. You pay about 10 euros and you get a drink and unlimited small food plates. It is a buffet style, so you can help yourself to as much as you want. When you first arrive in Italy and start meeting people, apertivos are the thing to go to in the first 1-2 weeks. I strongly recommend going to as many as you can because that is where I met a lot of the other exchange students.

My one true love here has been the coffee. If you’re a coffee fiend, Italy will be heaven for you. Back home, I usually just drink a lot of black coffee. The big difference here is the espresso, or caffes. The first time I ordered a caffe I was really confused because of how small it was. I absolutely love the caffes now, and I don’t know how I am going to go back to black coffee in the states. If you want a larger drink, you should order a cappuccino or order a double caffe (cafe doppio). If you are in dire need of regular black coffee, you can order an caffe americano. I don’t recommend it because it is not as good as a caffe. If you order a cappuccino, it is not really proper to order it after 11 am because it is considered a “heavy” drink. Of course they’ll still serve you if you do, but it’s just a small custom I’ve heard about.

A big thing to note with coffee places is that they are called “bars” so don’t be alarmed if people ask you to go to the bar on the corner at 10 am. People stand at an actual bar and take their time sipping on caffes hence the name. My last comment on coffee in Milan, is that this is where the CEO of Starbucks was inspired to revamp Starbucks, so there is a Starbucks Reserve in the city center. You should definitely go and check it out if you have the chance!

Some places I recommend to go try are Luini (panzerotti) and Cioccolati Italian (gelato). These places are pretty popular, but I honestly have not dined in the city center a lot. However, two apertivo places I recommend are Yguana Cafe and Maya. I have been to a lot of apertivos and I feel that these two offer decent food and drinks for the same price as everywhere else. Around campus, I highly suggest Dahlia’s Lab, Il Fortino Milano, and Napulenga. Dahlia’s Lab is a cool cafe to hang with friends and do some work. It does get very busy around lunch time because a lot of students go there, so sometimes it is difficult to do work there. The pricing is decent and the food is delicious! Il Fortino Milano is where I go to probably twice a week to do work and grab food. It is very inexpensive and a quiet place to work. You can get an “American” breakfast (eggs, bacon, toast, cafe) for 5 euros which is amazing and good if you’re a little homesick. If you love pizza and are starving on campus, Napulenga is the spot. It is a small place, but they are very quick. You can get a good size pizza for 8-10 euro! I have been a few times and love it every time! There are many good places to eat around campus and Milan. You just takes time to taste test them.

There are many more cultural nuances and at times it can be overwhelming, but it’s part of the journey. You’re going to be meeting a lot of people and learning a lot of things when you first arrive. It is all overwhelming, but in a good way. Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable because you are going to mess up and there is no way to avoid it. Don’t be like me on my few first days in Italy and being too scared to order food. The Italians are very friendly people and have a beautiful culture. All I can say is get used to being uncomfortable and be able to laugh at yourself because the whole trip is a learning process.

Going Abroad Tips That Are Actually Helpful

Studying on the Student Exchange Program, Lindsay Lieber lists up the 9 things she wish she would have known or have learned since landing in the country. From cloths to plugs to traveling, let her help you get prepared to go to Madrid, Spain!

Image may contain: Beth Dooley Lieber, smiling, standing, sky, mountain, outdoor and nature

You’ve just stepped off the airplane and you already feel jet-lagged and dehydrated. People are rushing around you, they’re not speaking English, and all you want to do is get your bags and get to your accommodation. Studying abroad can be stressful, but it doesn’t always have to be. Below is a list of 9 things I wish I would have known or have learned since landing in Spain.

  1. Bring a change of clothes and some toiletries in your carry on. A few of my friends had their luggage lost on the way to their host country, and the only clothes they had were the ones on their backs. This is especially problematic if your luggage is lost for several days, so to avoid being that smelly newcomer when meeting your new international friends it’s a good idea to pack a spare outfit.
  2. Don’t forget an adapter! If you’re like me, you brought an adapter for a two prong plug but failed to remember that your laptop has a three prong plug and needs charging too. And if you’re even more like me, you ended up buying a $16 one at a store in Spain that still didn’t end up fitting your plug. Moral of the story: it will be cheaper and more convenient to buy an adapter beforehand instead of in your host country or at the airport. And Amazon sells them for very cheap.
  3. Getting Euros at a decent conversion rate. If you arrive and need Euros, I can almost guarantee you that the airport will rip you off in terms of exchange rates. Since I need cash to pay my rent, the best option for me so far has been to use the Santander ATMs and withdraw large sums of Euros at a time at a 5€ ATM fee and a $5 PNC fee . Depending on which bank you have it may be different, but the PNC Virtual Wallet Student reimburses the PNC fee up to 2 times each statement period which is nice, especially if you don’t intend to open a checking account with a Spanish bank.
  4. Know the holidays of your host country. Again, if you’re like me, you flew in on Epiphany which is the equivalent of Spanish Christmas. Therefore, when you were hungry and tried to find food by your apartment, you realized that everywhere was closed. To avoid this situation, make sure you know if there are any holidays when you’re booking your flights.
  5. Siestas are a real thing. The siesta occurs around 2-5pm where many shops will close and there is a block in the day where there are no classes. However, that doesn’t mean everyone is sleeping. People will take leisurely walks to clear their heads, run a couple errands, or eat a big lunch that will hold them over until their dinner at 9-10pm.
  6. Smoking is very popular. Walking on the streets the person in front of you may be smoking, the students before class are outside smoking, it’s likely that you have a roommate that smokes. Coming from the US, this was something that surprised me. You don’t see as many people smoking in public and it has been ingrained since an early age about how harmful it is for your health. Nonetheless, there is a strong social smoking culture in Madrid that you should be aware of.
  7. The truth about traveling around Europe. Yes, it is very inexpensive to travel around Europe, and you have probably heard about buying a round-trip ticket for $40 or less.  But the truth is, if you’re a student with classes during the week, finding that $40 round-trip ticket will be difficult. Most of the best deals for flights are only if you are willing to travel in the middle of the week, with Wednesday usually being the cheapest day. Due to my class schedule I try to book flights Thursday (I have Fridays off) to Sunday or Monday and they usually cost me between $80 and $110.
  8. Not all hostels are created equal. Definitely do your research if you plan to stay in one. Think about location and cleanliness- How close is it to the city center? If it’s not close to the city center, is it close to a metro? Does it seem like they clean it regularly? And girls beware. I chose to stay in a mixed hostel towards the beginning of my trip and was the only female among 4 other guys who snored and farted all night in their sleep.
  9. Don’t  forget to travel around Spain! I know lots of people talk about traveling throughout Europe but don’t forget to travel within your host country as well. Toledo is just a short (and free with your metro card) bus ride away, Salamanca has the third oldest still operating university in the world, Malaga was Picasso’s birthplace, and Valencia is famous for the Falles festival held every March.

I have been in Madrid for about a month now, and while the transition wasn’t always the smoothest, I am having the time of my life. My favorite part has been seeing all of the intricate and unique architecture throughout the cities I have visited. There’s so much to see and do and I am beyond grateful that I get to be a part of it. So get excited about your trip, and get excited about exploring a new culture!

Go Confidently – Overcoming the Challenges of Going Abroad

Angela Adams is about to go abroad on the Student Exchange Program to Italy, and shares her tips, advice, and thoughts as she gets ready to steps onto that airplane taking her abroad!

Waiting.  That is all I feel I can do right now. In less than 3 weeks I will be in a country I have never been to surrounded by other exchange students from around the world I am eager to meet.  I have been planning my trip to Milan for about a year now while constantly asking myself, “is it worth it?”.  I am leaving all of my friends and the comfort of my campus for a semester in an unknown country.  Plus, the worry and stress about securing the correct documentation, living arrangements, and class scheduling has played into my doubt.  Some advice I have for students who are planning to go abroad is to start preparing as soon as possible. Do not wait until the last minute because deadlines always approach quicker than you think. Also, don’t be afraid to ask faculty or other students for help! Use whatever resources and support systems you have. If you prepare well enough, the doubt won’t seem so perpetual and the only thing left to do is to get yourself on the plane.

The one thing that has pushed me through all of my doubt and worry is the regret if I decided not to study abroad.  I know I would be upset myself if I let doubt win me over.  When I think of who I want to be and the life I want to live, I think about doing things that take me out of my comfort zone. I want to be somewhere I have never been and not know the local language.  I want to say yes to spontaneous trips and adventures. I want to say yes to the unknown.  Whenever I am unsure of what I am doing with my life, I often think of this quote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined”.

I think the thing I am most excited for is traveling. I definitely want to travel throughout Italy as much as I can, but I also want to visit as many countries as possible. Another thing I look forward to is meeting a lot of new people! Bocconi University is known for having a lot of exchange students from all over the world, so I hope to be meeting a lot of them. My whole mindset for this trip is to go with the flow of everything. I can try to plan out trips and experiences, but sometimes things don’t always go the way you want them to. I am looking forward to all the ups and downs that come with this trip.

Most of us picture how we want to live our lives, but we rarely take action to make our dreams into a reality. The promise I have made to myself is to become more of a doer than a dreamer.  We can dream all day, but eventually we have to wake up.  Might as well wake up to the life you have always imagined.

My Top 5 Photos on the Student Exchange Program

As she shares her top 5 photos from the Student Exchange Program, Michaela Santalucia reflects on her time abroad for a semester in Madrid, Spain. As a first time international traveler, she also shared her insights and benefits of taking the leap of faith to study abroad.

In order to highlight my experiences in a more fun way, I decided to do a little photo journal of my favorite photos, and reflect on the experience I had and where I was!

This photo of me was taken at the Real Jardín Botánico in the heart of Madrid. Some other exchange students and I happened upon the Botanical Gardens between lunch at one of our favorite places (Tinto y Tapas) and a trip to the museums in Madrid. Since the botanical gardens are so large (8 hectares!!), we never made it to the museum but we did see 3 very friendly cats, thousands of plants, and a cool art exhibit! Although this seems like a photo that could be taken anywhere in the world, this experience was extremely important to me because I felt like a true Madrileño (a native inhabitant of Madrid), because I found something completely by myself without advising a travel site and enjoyed my day without regard to time (in true Spanish fashion). This experience was a true turning point of my trip because I realized that I was no longer a tourist and was actually living in Madrid.

This photo was taken of me in Morocco! Only a 10 hour bus ride and a one hour ferry ride away from Madrid, this trip was one of my favorites because the culture was incredibly different than anywhere I had seen in Europe or North America, the food was incredible, Morocco had my favorite architecture, and the company I traveled with was extremely punctual and handled the incoming hurricane well and got us all out safely.

During this trip, I was lucky enough to visit three separate cities, get tours (by locals) in all of them, and stayed in a nice hotel. It was incredibly cool to visit a predominantly Muslim country and see how Morocco has been influenced by French influence. Most places I have visited in Europe or the U.S. do not operate under an incredibly religious government, and generally, Muslims are a minority in the places I have visited. Being exposed to a new style of government, a new way of life and a completely different architectural style had a big impact on my opinions of the area. Although I did not pick up any Arabic, I felt like I learned a little bit more about the world.

I took this photo in a small town about an hour train ride outside of Madrid called Siguenza (which conveniently shares the name of my favorite Spanish bottled water brand). My Professor mentioned that it was an incredible town with rich history, so I Googled it and convinced all my friends to go on a day trip with me that weekend! It just happened that weekend there was a special medieval-themed train you could take to the city to get the “full experience”.

On the train there were magicians, jugglers, and performers all presenting themselves in a traditional medieval fashion as they performed in the various train cars. Upon arriving in the city we were given a guided tour of the city (included in the ticket price), and on that tour, I found this adorable staircase. After the tour, we were free to wander around the city, get lunch, and meet back up later for an optional paid cathedral tour. This experience was one of my favorites because it was cheap, could be done in one day, and how often do you get to enjoy medieval magic shows as a college student? Never.

The university I attended in Madrid, Universidad Pontificia Comillas (Comillas Pontifical University) was a Jesuit school located in the heart of the city. It has been a longstanding institute of Spain but actually got its origins as a seminary in Comillas, a city in northern Spain. Due to its deep history, Comillas offered a trip to its exchange students to see the original university in the city Comillas!

This photo is taken from one of the corridors of the building looking out towards the courtyard and the main atrium/church. It was interesting to learn about why/when the university moved to Madrid and what it is used for today (another university purchased it after being abandoned for many years). This experience gave me a broader scope to how old some European institutions are compared to OSU.

Last, but not least, the experience that destroyed my rainboots, but was somehow the most peaceful I had ever felt while traveling. This photo was taken at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. We did a day trip from Dublin to here one day (left around 6 a.m. via bus with a tour group and returned around 9 p.m.). I still don’t know what it was about this specific place that felt different from all the others, but I can’t put my finger on it.

Something about looking off the cliffs into the ocean was calming and also incredibly scary and filled me with adrenaline. At times the walking/hiking path was small and covered in rocks, puddles, and mud pits (which is why my boots did not make it back to the states with me). After three hours of walking the path, we had to get on the bus to return to Dublin, but I probably could have stayed there forever. Looking back, I could have just been really refreshed from being able to speak English again, but I like to think the cliffs are magical.

Every part of my experience abroad changed me for the better, and now that I have returned to the states I am starting to see those changes in myself. For example, I recently noticed that I adopted the more relaxed Spanish approach to being early/on-time to events. Before going abroad, I was 20 minutes early to almost everything, but now I am more relaxed and prioritize what situations I need to be early in, and show up on time to the rest of my commitments. Before I went abroad, people would always ask me why I was going abroad/how I picked Madrid and I never had a solid answer, but looking back I now know what my ultimate goal of the experience was and that I achieved it.

My major goal of going abroad was getting a deeper understanding of myself and becoming more independent. Since my hometown is only an hour away from OSU, I always felt like if the opportunity arose to live/work in another area of the country, I would be too afraid to take the plunge. Going abroad as the only OSU student at my institution helped me to conquer these fears. Not only am I confident that I can keep myself alive (remembering to eat and other basic things), I can travel and manage myself independently. I funded my entire experience abroad by myself through scholarships and financial aid, made friends and connections in the country by always networking and attending social events, and learned a lot about myself because I was not influenced by anyone who knew me before. Oftentimes, you become who people tell you you are (you grow up around your parents and are influenced by their opinions on your character for example) but being abroad releases you from that. I was able to see who I was in an entirely new environment filled with new people and an opportunity to recreate myself if I so chose.

This trip allowed me to realize that when/if the time comes I will be able to take the plunge and move away from everything I’ve ever known. However, the trip helped me affirm my decision that Columbus is the place for me for a few years after graduation, and that has lifted a major weight off of my shoulders.

For anyone considering going abroad, my advice is always to go and for as long as your life plan allows (a week, a month, or even a year)! However, I understand that it is a major financial burden. My advice is to start early, pick a city that is within your budget, and apply for every single scholarship possible. Doing these things will ensure that you maintain your intended graduation date, do not undergo a huge amount of debt to fund your global experience, and it will prevent problems down the road such as Visa delays, expensive flights, etc. Going abroad seems daunting, but during my trip I kept reminding myself “If other students can do it, I can too” and reminding myself of that got me through the semester.

All the Not-So-Good Things and How to Deal with Them

Michaela Santalucia shares some of her start of semester challenges as she started her life in Madrid, Spain on the Student Exchange Program, to help future students prepare for some things they may confront. At the end, the challenges she faced helped her develop her independence, be a better problem-solver, and grow her resiliency. Skills she plans to use moving forward!

One of my biggest fears doing an exchange program was the level of independence required, especially since it was my first time abroad. Before I left I kept thinking “What if something bad happens and I don’t know how to handle it and I have to come home” or “What if I can’t handle adult problems like dealing with my landlord in Spanish?”. I think these fears are present in many people’s heads when they are heading abroad and/or these fears are holding them back. For these reasons, I made a list of the not-so-great things that happened to me to prove to everyone that you will be okay. Also, I can now laugh at these experiences (at the time I didn’t find them as hilarious).

On my way to Madrid and in my first few days in Spain, I ran into some issues that at the time seemed really inconvenient and I wasn’t sure how to navigate, but that I managed fairly well. Here they are:

  1. On my flight to Madrid, we hit some moderately scary turbulence (my phone and book flew into the air). This was incredibly scary because this one lady wouldn’t stop screaming, and it was only the third time I have ever been on a plane, so I was freaking out for a few minutes. Luckily, the pilot came of the intercom to assure us we would be okay, and that he was going to try to fly around the storm rather than through it. I think I fell back asleep within 15 minutes.
  2. After it taking me 20 minutes inside the Madrid-Barajas Airport to figure out the MyTaxi App (I highly encourage downloading this before you arrive and connecting your credit card in advance to make your airport experience easier, if you don’t want to speak Spanish to a taxi driver), I finally made it to the taxi. However, when I was getting into the car I dropped my phone outside of the car and almost left it. Luckily, I heard something fall and stopped the driver right after he pulled away and ran back for it. Not only was I embarrassed, but I think I saw my actual life flash before my eyes on day one.
  3. The first day I was in the city, I literally just slept the entire day. However, on the second day, I needed to leave to buy groceries and furnishings for my apartment. On my way back home from the grocery store, I could not get my apartment unlocked despite having the key. The key was not a traditional key I was used to because the building was old, and despite turning the key all the way until it stopped, the door would not open. At this point, my roommates were not in the apartment yet, and my landlord’s office was not open and they could not be reached.

With no other solution in sight, I started knocking on doors in my buildings. Person after person rejected the exasperated girl speaking broken Spanish at their door (probably because my Spanish was making no sense). However, I finally found a woman to come and help. She got the door open after many tries and we practiced on the door together. However, when I left again later, the same thing happened, and I could not get the door open. I had to ask another stranger for help. At this point, I was afraid to leave my apartment, so I spent the entire weekend inside until I could get into contact with my landlord because I didn’t want to get locked out, have no one to help me, and have to pay for a locksmith. On Monday I called the landlord probably 5 times to get them to send someone over. When they finally came, they taught me the trick to opening the door (which they probably should have told me when I checked in) and I never got locked out again.

This was by far the scariest part of my entire trip. I called my mom crying (which made her freak out) and I had never wanted to come home more than I did on this day. However, looking back on it, I realized that I was letting my fear get to me, because if I could open the door at any point, I probably could have opened it those first few days, but I let my exhaustion and fear of being in a new country get a hold of me. Additionally, it taught me that I would have to be incredibly persistent with my landlord in comparison to the U.S. Now that I have overcome that though, I feel like I am more resilient.

  1. The last semi-dramatic thing that happened to me abroad was that when I arrived, our toilet was broken for almost two weeks. Upon arriving to the apartment, I noticed that there was water by the toilet, but since it had rained, I thought it had come through the open bathroom window, boy o boy was I incorrect. Turns out, every time we flushed the toilet, some of what we flushed would end up on the bathroom floor minutes later. Generally, Spaniards are a little more relaxed than in the U.S., and the landlords follow suit when answering requests. We had to email them a total of ten times to even get them to come to the apartment. In total, it took 12 days for them to completely fix the toilet, and for most of those, I refused to go into the bathroom because of the smelly health hazard. This experience taught me that those in charge are not as receptive in the U.S. and without resources like Student Legal Services and the Student Advocacy Center, I would constantly need to advocate and push for my needs while abroad.

At the time, all of these experiences seemed like everything I feared before I left was coming true. However, these problems have taught me how to rely on myself for problem-solving, advocate for my needs, and maintain my own safety.

Although these experiences were difficult and should be discussed. They were outweighed by the positive experiences I had. While in Spain, I formed cross-cultural friendships inside and outside the classroom that will last me a lifetime. With my fellow students, I was able to discuss world problems and receive viewpoints and experiences that are not common in the United States. For example, I learned a ton about the Denmark legal system while in Spain, just by comparing business law with another student in my class. This cross-cultural experience was the most valuable part of my trip.

However, learning to manage all of my apartment problems did have some almost immediate real-world applications. While traveling during my time abroad (to England, Ireland, Morocco, Germany, and within Spain) I felt like my problems solving abilities was heightened. I understood that when I experienced a problem or mix up in a different country (language barriers, transportation issues, payment mix-ups), that I need to be conscientious of the culture of the country I was in and how my American mindset would cause me to react to things. This allowed the few mix ups I had while traveling (flight delays, credit card problems, not knowing how to use public transport) to seem like small bumps in the road whereas if they occurred at the beginning of my time abroad it would have seemed world ending. Reflecting on my trip abroad, it has allowed me to realize that I can feel completely comfortable travelling almost anywhere in the world, and that would not have been possible without all the not-so-good things.

17 Things I Noticed During My First Month Abroad

While her semester in Spain on the Student Exchange Program, Michaela Santalucia shares the differences she observed in Spanish culture and U.S. Culture, from eating habits, social norms, and daily expectations!

In my first few weeks in Madrid, I noticed some interesting differences between Spanish culture and U.S. Culture. Rather than writing paragraphs, I decided to make it a list so that everyone can reference it easily. All of these are in no particular order of importance or relevance.

  1. Mayonnaise– The mayonnaise in Spain and most of Europe is much different compared to what we have in the United States. Also, Europeans put it on a lot more stuff (for example, many people dip their fries in mayo and ketchup which if you have not tried is magical). At one of the first events of the semester, I watched many Spaniards pass around bottles of ketchup and mayo instead of ketchup and mustard and I knew something was up. I was hoping to be able to bring some Spanish mayo back to the U.S., but my suitcase was already full, so I do not get to keep this delicacy around. However, I think it is better than what we have in the U.S., so I am exploring import options for the good of everyone.
  2. Phones are older– Spaniards are not constantly buying the newest smartphones. While I was there, there was still a decent amount of advertisements for the iPhone 7, and a majority of available cases were for the 6,7 and 8. My guess is that because Spain’s economy is not the strongest, their first priority is not buying the newest smartphones, but it was still an interesting comparison to the United States.
  3. Hiring/firing practices– From my understanding, it is incredibly difficult to get both hired and fired and Spain. This is because the firing process is nearly impossible, so they have to make sure early on that you are not a risk.
  4. Grocery store styles– There are stores every 2-3 blocks that fit different needs. The traditional grocery stores are incredibly small and carry 1-2 brands of every product. However, there are tons of specific stores also. There are an equal number of fresh produce, fish, meat, and bakery stores interspersed between the grocery stores. Spaniards generally shop more frequently than we do in the U.S. because their kitchens have less storage space and they place a higher value on fresh goods.
  5. Pharmacies– There are literally pharmacies on every corner, and medicine is relatively easy to get. However, they give you an entire package of medication instead of just a few pills so that can seem overwhelming.
  6. Spanish Hours– In Madrid, the days start later and go a lot slower than in the U.S. On a Saturday, you won’t see anyone outside walking, or even on a metro until like 10 a.m. Why does that happen you may ask? In Spain, bars and clubs are open until 6 a.m. and many people will stay up that late hanging out with friends no matter their age.
  7. Old people living their best lives– There are more elderly people out and about it Spain than in the U.S. There are entire restaurants, clubs, bars, and parks where the elderly are known to congregate and hang out together. This is just something we don’t see as much in the U.S.
  8. Trash/recycling things– In Madrid since everyone lives in apartments, the trash is done in larger groupings. Every night, the landlord of each building wheels out trash bins for organic waste and normal waste. Then, between the hours of 11 p.m.- 2 a.m. every night (except Saturdays), municipal workers come to collect it. Recycling is done with large dumpster-like containers, generally one per square block, and is separated into glass, paper/cardboard, and metal/aluminum. These are generally also picked up every night.
  9. Always cleaning the streets– Due to the number of people in Madrid on any given day, Madrid has a team of workers who are always cleaning the streets. They walk around with brooms, shovels, and trash cans and clean the streets constantly to ensure that leaves, cigarettes, and other assorted trash does not build up.
  10. American music– When I first came to Madrid, I was hoping to increase my knowledge of Spanish by hopefully learning lots of Spanish pop music. However, the majority of music played is American, which can sometimes be disappointing.
  11. No screens– None of the windows, doors, or any other pathway to the outdoors has a screen to protect you from bugs. There are basically no bugs which makes the lack of screens sensible, but it is still difficult to adjust to.
  12. No air conditioning– I never saw a house or apartment that had air conditioning, and considering it was still upper 80s into October, I could have used air conditioning.
  13. Money is different sizes and different colors– Euros are fun to adjust to.
  14. Taking a two-hour break in the middle of school every day– Most of my classes had a two-hour break in the afternoon so the professors could eat lunch and run home. Which was nice so I could also eat lunch.
  15. Lunch as the biggest meal of the day– In Spain, lunch is the biggest meal of the day. This means they prioritize eating good food at this time of the day. Also, this means they invented my favorite thing about Spain: the menu del dia. It is essentially a meal with a first course, second course, dessert, and drink all for a convenient price (usually around 10-15 euros, however, there are more expensive options available). I wish I could have brought the menu del dia back to the states with me because I got to try so many different restaurants.
  16. Ham, ham, ham– There is more ham in Spain than I ever expected. As a vegetarian, it could be a little annoying, but it was cool to see actual butcher’s processing meat.
  17. No dryers– Due to Madrid’s dry climate, most people do not feel the need to have a dryer. This means once you take your clothes out of the washing machine, you get to set it on a drying rack and let it dry for anywhere between a few hours to two days. In my opinion, this is really inconvenient because I was not responsible enough to make time for my laundry to dry.

Tips and Tricks to Maximize your Experience in Spain!

Tips and tricks for studying abroad in Spain! Junior Alex Jackson reflects on her Summer Global Internship experience.

It has been a couple weeks since I have been back from my Summer in Spain, and I already miss it! The people, activities, and of course the food, more specifically the 4 for 1∊ croissants you could get at any bakery. I also miss being with the other students in the internship. We were able to get so close to each other, I will at least get to see most of them when I am back on campus. However after reflecting on my trip, and sleeping for two days straight,  I want to give you all a couple tips for when you also go abroad for the summer:

  1. Always find the nearest McDonald’s to your home. It can be a nice reminder of the United States when you get homesick and it tastes way better than it does back in America. McDonald’s also is one of the only places that has public restrooms because sometimes you have to pay to use them in Europe.
  2. Travel! Whether you travel around Spain or to other countries it is a great experience. Just think, when is the next time you will be able to travel to this many places in a short amount of time. It also makes you more global and it a great conversation starter with companies!
  3. Try to speak Spanish as much as possible. Even if you do not know a lick of Spanish, it helps you immerse yourself in the culture. It also let’s your co-workers know you are trying and interested in the culture. Even if you just pick up a few words and phrases it is worth it!
  4. Keep an open mind! This may be one of the only times that you are in an entirely different country. Keep an open mind about the food, people, and culture in general. Be open to trying new things and if you get a chance just talk to random people! Talking to people around your age they can show you the non-touristy things to do and take you to some great restaurants.
  5. Have fun! Yes you are in a new country, meeting new people, and working a new job and it can get monotonous at times. However, you have to make the most of the trip while you are there. Do not be lazy when you are tired after work and someone asks you to go somewhere because you never know when you will be back!

Overall, this trip was worth it! Not only was I able to become a world traveler, but I gained so many friends from the trip, to hang out and study with when I came back to Fisher. There were many scholarships I applied to so I could get the cost down such as the FCOB Global Experience Scholarship the ODI Education Abroad Scholarship, these both helped to fund the trip. I was able to get real world business experience abroad, and not many people can say they have done that. Recruiters have been impressed with my experience, because not only did I work broad but I was able to make a considerable contribution to Fundación Aladina. I also gained many transferable skills, that helped me answer behavioral questions during interviews. As a bonus, the internship abroad also makes a great fun fact for when you come back to campus. I would recommend this trip to anyone and I am sure, if you follow these tips, you will have just as great of a trip as I did!