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A Glimpse into Life at Copenhagen Business School

With a few weeks into the semester, Katelyn Mistele shares her experience studying at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark on the Student Exchange Program. From course selections, class structures, exams, to professors, she shares her experience and some tips and advise to adjust!

Hello from Denmark everyone! I am currently on my third week of classes here at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, and I am still learning to adjust to the style of teaching and the general education system over here. I thought it would be beneficial for me to outline the major differences and shed some light onto the Scandinavian style of education. As much as you can read up on these differences, it is very different arriving here and sitting through your classes. I am still adjusting, and quiet honestly starting to love this different style of teaching and learning. As well, I am loving the city of course! I have a few pictures below of the city, but I will write up my next post on more on Danish culture in general and will include more photos with that.

Downtown Copenhagen, specifically the Nørreport Station area!
A beautiful castle right next to my residence!

I am currently studying at Copenhagen Business School as noted before. CBS, for short, is a large strictly business institution. At CBS there are just over 20,000 students either studying their undergraduate degrees or graduate degrees. In addition, there is a large international presence here on campus. Just under 4,000 full time students are international. In my particular exchange semester there are around 500 exchange students, 300 of us being undergraduate students.

The first major difference I realized even before arrival was the variation of courses here. It is a lot different from Fisher. There isn’t just a general business major with 15 specializations to choose from. Instead there are different programs and tracks that correspond with the final undergraduate degree. Examples of these programs are a Bachelors in Business Administration and Philosophy, Bachelors in International Business and Politics, or even Bachelors in Business, Language, and Culture. This original realization made me excited to see what courses I was going to be able to taken once I arrived to CBS.

There are a variety of courses here that are non existent in Fisher. Unfortunately, due to my degree requirements and prospective graduation date I wasn’t able to take many of them, but they have many interesting courses here based in sustainability and innovation which aren’t as common back at home. For example I was looking at taking courses in entrepreneurship, or this course titled: Innovation Management. I am however taking four courses over here and they are as follows: Corporate Finance, Global People Management, Global Supply Chain Management, and Language of Negotiations.

Not only do the types of courses offered here are different but the structure of these courses is very different as well. For starters CBS is actually similar to Fisher in a way that they offer many “session classes” as we call them at Ohio State. Three of my four classes are “Q3” or “Q4” courses which is similar to how Fisher structures their first and second session classes. My other class is a full semester course, so it runs from the end of January through May.

This is where the similarities end however. All courses that I am enrolled in at CBS last around two and a half hours for each class, and each course is primarily lecture based. There are moments in some of my courses for group work, but for courses like Finance it is all lecture based for the entire duration of class. At first when I saw this I panicked as I struggled to stay awake during my 55 minute courses back in Ohio, but these longer courses have grown on me. The professors give you breaks every 45-55 minutes, and the trade off of having long courses also means that you are done with these courses earlier or have less courses during the week. What I mean by this is, I do have finance three times a week right now, but I am done with this course by the end of March! In addition, I only have classes Monday through Wednesday which is fantastic for those who want to travel and explore Denmark as well as Europe! It definitely takes some adjusting to get used to things, but I am growing to like the structure and set up here at CBS.

It took me just over two weeks to fully adjust and assimilate myself into the new system. I am on my third week of classes now and I feel absolutely integrated into the life of a student at CBS. Some tips I have for those who are planning on attending CBS or other European countries that have the same style are, first and foremost, really listen to your professors and go to class. It may seem tempting that there aren’t participation grades and that most of the content is posted online, but going to class really helps fully understand the information. Also the professors will help you understand how to handle the work load and drop hints on what work is really necessary to do in order to succeed, and which work is just purely if you’re interested. For example, a lot of the syllabi here at CBS list a TON of reading. If you think Fisher has a lot of reading CBS is easily 2-3 times more, but that being said the professors shed light on which chapters to skip or merely “skim”, also give tips on how to read the content. I would even go as far to say that by going to class and being fully engaged really decreases your workload! Another tip is that when a professor provides you a break during the class, I would suggest that you get up walk around and even treat yourself to a coffee. Two and a half hours is a really long time, but by truly giving your mind a solid ten minute break and walking around helps me personally regain my focus. Finally, another thing I found that worked well for me is to compile my notes and lecture slides at the end of each week. Also to take the information presented in class one step further by thinking critically about certain articles, for example, and by proposing new ways of thinking or questions regarding the article. Some of my exams here allow me to use notes and by preparing from day one there will be less work when it comes time to the exam, and also by thinking critically from day one, I will be able to provide more insight during the exam rather than just the surface level information that everyone will provide.

The last major difference between school here and back at Fisher is that each class is 100% exam based. Meaning that there are no homework grades, or participation grades. The only grade that is recorded is the final grade at the conclusion of the course. The final exams are different too. They have many different formats from the common sit in closed book exam, to oral exams where you write a paper and get questioned by your professor on your final product, and even some courses have take home week long papers! It is very different and slightly intimidating at first, but the the professors talk about the exams in class and prepare you for them, which definitely gives you a piece of mind.

Now before I conclude my thought, I’d like to include some pictures of this amazing and beautiful university for those of you interested and those of you thinking about coming to CBS. I have really enjoyed this partner university already. There are so many opportunities to take new and exciting courses. The structure of the school system is flexible and this is great if you are looking to travel! Finally, all of my professors I have had so far are fantastic and really focus on you simply learning and how to master the content to best set you up for success in the future. So, if you’re thinking CBS, I say yes!!! The partner university has been amazing so far and has introduced me and integrated me into this Scandinavian style of education smoothly.

One of the main classroom buildings here at CBS.
The main library on campus! This is my favorite building on campus due to the massive amounts of amenities it offers and the sleek modern design. I have some of my courses in here, but I also spend some time in the library which has a vibe similar to Thompson but modernized. You could spend your whole day here as there are many classrooms and even a cafeteria. In fact, all classroom buildings on campus have cafes.  I think Fisher needs more than just Rohr!! In addition, in the basement of this building on campus there is a CrossFit club with it’s own gym that I’ve been going to! It’s a perfect location with everything you need as a student.
A photo of the sky light in one of the classroom buildings. Proving to you that despite common thoughts not everything is just the color black here!

Thanks for reading and tune back in later in the semester to hear more about my adventures in Copenhagen! I am of course looking forward to traveling and have been to many places in Europe already, but I am even more excited to further integrate myself into the Danish culture. In the weeks to come I have some “coffee dates” set up with some Danes, and am also getting involved in a student organization, and I am excited to learn more about the culture over here and especially to see how the Danes perceive America! It will truly be eye opening, and I will discuss this in my next post!

First Week in Italy

Sarah Disselkamp shares some of the differences in being a student in Italy vs. U.S. Hear what her life is like in her first week attending Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi on the Student Exchange Program.

It has officially been 1.5 weeks since we arrived here in Milan to study at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, and it certainly has been a whirlwind! I have learned so much about living in Europe and specifically Italy.

Being in Milan, one of the most fashion conscientious cities in the world, the most immediate difference I noticed was the clothing. It is very easy to pick out a native Italian versus an exchange student while walking around Bocconi. Italian students tend to dress up more for class, and their outfits are more trendy, whereas American students tend to dress more business casual when dressing up for classes. I’ve noticed that the shoes tend to be a big hint, as Italians usually wear boots or something with a heel. Shopping in and around Milan has helped a lot though, and has been super fun!

Another major difference is the culture around food. In the United States, we typically eat 3 meals a day- breakfast, lunch, and dinner; whereas in Milan they do 4. They have breakfast and lunch, which are smaller meals, aperitivo, which is a prix fix hour of unlimited appetizers at a restaurant between 6 and 9pm, and then dinner beginning between 8 and 9 typically. Many restaurants are closed between the end of lunch around 2pm and 4, sometimes even being closed until dinner at 7! This can make it hard to find something to eat, especially on Sundays when almost everything is closed. I am learning how to plan ahead and make sure I don’t get caught in one of the in between times though!

The final difference I have noticed between American culture and Italian is the bureaucracy. In the United States, filling out forms is usually a straightforward event. However, in Italy, it has been anything but! From the permit of stay to an Italian SIM card and a monthly metro pass, it seems that every task has come with a wide range of conflicting advice and instructions. I have found that the best way to approach these situations is to have all of your ducks in a row and just go for it! The people processing the paperwork and such have all been very understanding so far.

Although it has definitely been an adjustment, I am loving my time so far in Italy! I have gotten the opportunity to meet so many people and experience so many things that I wouldn’t have been able to in the United States, and it hasn’t even been 2 weeks. As classes start this week, my goals going forward are to ensure that I am keeping up with my schoolwork and finding the perfect balance between school and travelling. I am so excited to see what the rest of the semester holds in store!

Not Your Typical Group

With some struggles, Sydney Lapin shares her success expanding her network at Strasbourg, France, as she attends Ecole de Management Strasbourg on the Student Exchange Program. Now she has made friends from Canada, Hungary, Finland, Czech Republic, Columbia, France, Germany, Norway, Ireland, and the U.S!

Bonjour!

My Finnish friends, Anna and Emilia, and I at the East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany.

My name is Sydney Lapin, and I am in the Fisher College of Business studying Marketing and minoring in Fashion Retail Studies. Currently, I am  spending my Junior year second semester abroad in Strasbourg, France on the Student Exchange Program! I am taking classes through EM Strasbourg, the business school here.

I have been in Strasbourg for one month, and while I haven’t been too active on blogging yet, I have kept a journal of most of my days here. So far I have had bad days and good days, but overall I am always grateful for this opportunity. Not many people can have the chance to study abroad, and I would like to thank Ohio State and my family for being supportive of my decision to be here.

I’ll start with a bit of background. Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to study abroad. My mom studied at Miami, Ohio, and went abroad to their school in Luxembourg. My parents are probably the people who gave me the travel bug, and I will be thanking them the rest of my life. There is nothing more amazing than traveling to a brand new place and exploring the different things it has to offer: a new culture, a new way of doing things, new foods, the list goes on. I have a lot of friends from other schools around the states who have also planned on studying abroad. However, when it came down to it, our programs are, for the most part, quite different. Fisher’s Office of Global Business made sure that those of us who chose to go through the business school knew that this is a very independent program. While they offered assistance when we came to them with issues, most of getting here and being here is all on us. Luckily for me, another student from Ohio State, Brad, decided to come to Strasbourg last minute as well, making my transition a little bit easier.

Most of the friends I know are on these Student Exchange group trips through their school or other schools. For them, they were placed in Facebook groups, given contacts for roommates, and are dropped in a different country with a support group of what sounds like 50 other Americans. Brad and I arrived in Strasbourg, and had our “group” of two. On the second night we were here, someone posted in the Facebook group (that we were added to about five days before arriving) about meeting up somewhere. When Brad and I arrived, we sat down to a table of three Canadians, two Finnish girls, a girl from Turkey, a girl from Norway, a girl from Estonia, and a girl from Argentina. It was really cool to meet these people from around the world, and to have Business in common.

After the first week and a half of meeting people from all over the world, I was a little lonely. It was hard to create friendships, there seemed to be some cultural barriers and miscommunication. I was feeling bitter towards other Student Exchange Programs, because they were with all Americans and able to make friends and connect with others in an instant. I was on the phone with a friend, helping her pack for her Student Exchange, and she was telling me all about her roommates (that she hadn’t even met yet) and how they already have four trips planned out together. She asked: “So tell me what the first day was like!” And I responded, “First day? Brad and I were alone the first day, what do you mean?” She expected me to say that we were immersed into this huge group of people to meet and make connections and become best friends with. Well, we did have orientation the week after we arrived, and I can tell you it was nothing like an orientation you would expect in America. No “ice breakers” no name games, just sitting in a room for half an hour at a time and then being released. We did not meet many people at orientation, so we really had to reach out to the Facebook group and see if anyone was making any plans.

Now, I look back on these past few weeks, and forward at the next three months, realizing that I have been given the best opportunity of all. How many people get to not only study abroad, but to create friendships with such culturally different people? I am so grateful that I am on this program, and while it has had its hard days, I finally feel like I am starting to make good friends. These friends are from the United States, from Canada, from Hungary, from Finland, and from Czech Republic. They’re from Columbia, France, and Germany. I have a friend from Norway, friends from Ireland. Yes, it was and is harder to create close friendships with people who aren’t from the same place as us, but it has been a growing experience and it has taught me that sometimes it just takes a little extra time to get to know someone, and get them to open up to you and your culture, just like you have to open up to them and their culture.

I would not trade this experience for any other, and I look forward to more challenges that I can grow from and overcome.

 

Initial Observations of Spain

Read some observations from Nikki Matz, who is studying in Madrid, Spain for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. She describes the difference between U.S. and Spain on eye contact, greetings, grocery stores, and more.

I have now been living in Madrid for about 3 weeks, and I have found many differences between this city and any place I have lived in the U.S. One thing that is very interesting is how much people stare in Spain. In the US, if you catch a person staring at you they will quickly look away knowing that they have been caught; however, here people do not look away. In my first few days, I was on edge because of this cultural difference, but I soon realized that it was not something to be scared of.

View from my balcony, Calle Mayor

Another interesting concept that I have discovered is the greeting of 2 kisses. I knew it existed but I wasn’t quite sure how often it was used. I was recently at a Spanish person’s house where there was a large group of Spanish people, and upon introduction, I indeed kissed 15 people’s cheeks. It is difficult to get used to because my natural inclination is to shake hands with someone. There is also additional confusion when I meet other international students from around Europe or South America because they also have different greeting norms. In Chile for example, a greeting of one kiss on the cheek is staple; however, in Italy they also do two kisses, but they begin on the opposite cheek of Spaniards. I am hoping that by the end of the semester I will be able to catch on greet anyone like a pro!

Palacio Real
Sabatini Gardens

My final observations come from the grocery stores or “supermercados”. I live on Calle Mayor, which is right in the center of Madrid. The options for groceries around me are mostly express shops, very tiny grocery stores with the essentials. If I want anything more I have to go to a different neighborhood of Madrid. A very surprising discovery that I made was that Spanish supermarkets do not refrigerate their eggs or their milk. I’m still not quite sure how that works, but it is nice to be able to stock up on those things without worrying about them spoiling.

Palacio de Cristal
Templo de Debod

I look forward to spending more time as a Madrileño and getting the opportunity to practice Spanish daily. Madrid has a lot to offer as well as the rest of Spain, and I can’t wait to explore!

Copenhagen: Speaking English, Free Metro Rides, and the Flat-Tax

Will Towers shared some of his mistakes and surprise points while starting his life in Copenhagen, Denmark on the Student Exchange Program attending Copenhagen Business School.

The land of vikings and legos is probably not as difficult to acclimate to as one may think. Although there’s very few signs in English, the population speaks it with fair ease. I’ve picked up on a few common phrases, the most used being what sounds like “tak fa day-a”, meaning “thank you for the day”, a way to say goodbye to someone you just spent quality time with. Other than that, speaking Danish would only benefit me in such specific circumstances like grocery shopping and reading my mails. The former is less daunting, as I’ve come to realize the groceries we buy often describe themselves in many ways on top of their names. The packaging, coloring and buzz words are similar to those in America. Also, it’s pretty easy to tell that “organisk” means “organic”, although some are less easy, like an “orange” being “appelsiner”. In this case, common sense goes a long way. Mail is slightly less obvious – I got a letter from the post office that I originally thought was a slip telling me I was in trouble for walking in a crosswalk illegally. Classic mix-up.

The crosswalk hasn’t been the only mistake I’ve made since being in Denmark. The metro system is a highly efficient one and its made my time here much easier to navigate. At first, however, I assumed it to be free as there were no tollbooths, no collect points at the entrances for money: simply a waist-high large blue circle that people seemed to press when entering the stations. In my mind this was a tracking system, so that those who ran the operation had a general idea of the traffic being accounted for. It took a not-so-friendly metro ticket patrol officer to inform me that these blue dots were where people scanned their metro cards, a small credit card solely used for boarding the metro. She let me off with a warning entirely based on the American charm I let off on her.

Not being ticketed by that metro officer was a blessing. The average cost of a metro ride is about $1.50 and the cost of the ticket for not paying is $125. When you put it like that I have no problem paying the blue circle. That extra $120 I saved will go a long way! But not too long – alas, Copenhagen has what is best described as a flat-tax. Everything, yes everything, is subject to what has been told to me is a 25% tax. Coffee and beer are the two commodities this strikes me the most in. An average beer will be upwards of 8$ and a cappuccino could run you the same. When it comes to this, I’ve learned I must adjust (obviously) my expectations. These things are meant to be enjoyed, not just consumed. The act of going out for a beer with friends actually becomes more revered in a strange way when you know a beverage this much. It’s not ideal, but it’s good in it’s own way.

One week into my courses and the differences are greatly welcomed. The classes here are much differently structured than those at Ohio State. My shortest class is 100 minutes long – however, each class will break for 10-15 minutes every 45 minutes or so which makes learning more digestible. I actually enjoy this structure more than jumping from brief class to brief class, as it allows me to focus-in on one subject at a time. The grading is also different. All of my courses have a final paper at the end, which is much more welcomed than the mass-scantron paranoia that I’ve grown accustomed to in Columbus. I’ve even gotten to have 1-on-1 time with professors during class! Quite a few firsts; if it weren’t illegal and impractical I’d be tempted to extend my stay.

Some things I’m looking forward to:

  • The weather has been constantly bleak and hovering around 30 degrees (F). According to every local I’ve gotten to know, Denmark’s springtime transformation more than makes up for the dreadful weather of the winter
  • Come April 1st, half of my classes will be finished. That means a lot less time spent reading and in-class and a lot more time spent exploring Scandinavia
  • I’ve gotten close with a yoga studio owner I’ve even been working with. I have the feeling our relationship will evolve and he can be a mentor for myself in my journey to becoming an instructor.
  • Finally, I look forward to what I can’t envision now! The most rewarding aspects of my trip have been getting lost, meeting strangers by coincidence and finding the hidden beauty in not having a plan!

December Photos and Adventures in Austria

Peyton Bykowski, living in Vienna, Austria, describes her latest December adventures and shares pictures from the month. As she ends her semester abroad on the Students Exchange Program, she shares what she appreciates about her experience abroad.

This December I have remained in Austria, enjoying the Christmas-time cheer and holiday spirit, as well as attending an extreme amount of Christmas markets.

In the beginning of December, EBN (Erasmus Buddy Network) hosted a Ski Trip to Zell Am See, Austria. Zell Am See is an extremely small skiing town in the Austrian state of Salzburg. While I did not participate in skiing, it was an extremely fun several days spent with friends, relaxing at the hotel spa, studying for exams, and exploring the town located in the Austrian Alps. The Alps were an incredible sight, and I absolutely loved walking along the lake in Zell Am See which was encircled by the mountains. The town of Zell am See was extremely small but full of charm. I got to further see what life in Austria is like; this time, from a small town in the middle of the Austrian Alps. The small town had plenty of little shops to browse through and lots of coffee shops to enjoy. Even still, my favorite day was when my friends and I bused over to the small town to look around and then walked all the way back along that gorgeous lake.

As mentioned in other posts, the Christmas Markets are a spectacle. They are absolutely amazing- filled with great food, drinks, and everything is incredibly authentic. Going to these Christmas Markets with my friends was one of the highlights of my time abroad. Below are some pictures of Zell Am See as well as more pictures of Christmas-market-fun  in Vienna.

To conclude my time here in Austria, I can sum up my experience as one of the best times in my life. Not only did I grow as a person, I grew as a professional and expanded my network to people all over the world. I learned German (at least more than I knew before I left), I traveled through a great part of Europe, I made amazing friends, and the lessons I learned are invaluable. Studying abroad with Fisher was one of the best decisions I ever made. The process was easy, affordable, and allowed me to develop in my personal and professional life more than I ever could have imagined. I got to experience the ins and outs of Austrian culture, become a local, and understand the world from different points of view. Learning how to take a back seat and soak in all of the different cultures I experienced and then learning the reasons behind cultural practices and traditions was the biggest lesson I took from my trip. I am now able to meet people from their point of views and perspectives, which will be essential in my career to come in business and in my life.

Christmas pastries (large donuts)
Schonbrunn Palace Christmas Market
Museum Quartier Christmas Market Mugs ft. Hot Apple Cider
Zell Am See Ski Lift
The Grand Hotel in Zell Am See
Austrian Alps from the Lake

Vienna: Cultural Events, Holiday Spirit, and More

On the Student Exchange Program to Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (WU) in Austria, Peyton Bykowski talks about the cultural life in Vienna, including events, holidays and festivals. She has been exposed to Vienna Fashion Week, Halloween in Vienna, Christmas Markets, and the must see Viennese Opera!

These last several months in Vienna have been beyond incredible. With a city so full of culture, history, and things to do, there was certainly never a dull moment. Vienna has had plenty of cultural events and festive holiday spirit. In this blog post I will talk about some my favorite events in Vienna, and share pictures from this last month, my final month, here. (pictures below)

One of the first events I went to in September was the MQ Vienna Fashion Week. Vienna Fashion Week was a huge event attended by several thousand per day, where there were constant runway shows by new and established designers, displays, and interactive stands. Attendees were given the runway experience with a makeover and samplers from different cosmetic companies, in which the attendees then walked a red carpet area for a photo-op. The shows were limiting (first come first serve seating basis) and varied greatly in terms of clothing and runway styles. Vienna Fashion Week was certainly more of an expression of art than anything else. It was certainly a fun, enlightening, and entertaining week! Here is a link!

MQ Vienna Fashion Week

As important and festive as Halloween is in the U.S., it is, not surprisingly, very celebrated in Europe. However, many stores, classrooms, and social settings had decorations or themed items of Halloween and the week leading up to it. While it is not an official holiday for the Viennese, it was still enjoyable to see large shopping streets participating and getting into the spirit of Halloween. In Vienna there is an English cinema called the Haydn Kino Theater, which did a special showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show and other American Halloween classics. Going to these showings was extremely fun to do with both American and other European friends who are not as familiar with these Halloween classics and was a great way to share some American culture with natives. While all people find the movie to be extremely odd, all of my friends found it to be really fun. They could see why it was considered a “cult classic” and enjoyed seeing a quirky side to American culture.

Rocky Horror Picture Show MQ Vienna
Rocky Horror Picture Show MQ Vienna

Since Austrians do not celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas markets start setting up in early to mid November. Austria is extremely festive during the “holidays”, even though it is not a particularly religious country. Viennese Christmas markets are unlike any other holiday experience. They are filled with local stands, lots of food and classic hot drinks, festive mugs, and handmade items like ornaments, gloves, hats, and many other gift-inspiring items. They are the epitome of “Christmas-time” and are loved by all. Vienna has an extraordinary amount of Christmas markets, with the largest being at Rathaus. All attendees at the markets are in good spirits, and they are a great place to go with friends any day of the week. They have been a staple of social life during December. The Christmas markets of Vienna are certainly the largest cultural event(s) and festival during the year. More information on their webpage!

Other cultural events include the Opera and Volkstheater, which offers many and a wide variety of theater experiences. The Viennese Opera is one of the best in the world, and is an absolute must while you stay in Vienna. You can purchase seated tickets, which are more expensive and come with a dress code, or there is an option to purchase standing tickets for only a few Euros and have a much less strict dress code. Most WU and Viennese students opt for the standing tickets, as it is a more cost and dress code effective option. Likewise, Volkstheater is an extremely established theater in Vienna and is also a great cultural experience. Vienna is a city of art in many forms, and the events and showcases are certainly worth taking advantage of as there is truly no comparison. Find more theater information here and here.

My experiences have allowed me to grow a lot while abroad. Some of the events, like the Rocky Horror showing, allowed me to get to know Viennese culture more while also getting to share mine. Events like the the Fashion Week and and touring/seeing shows at the Opera and Volkstheater really allowed me to understand Viennese culture even further. The Opera and Volkstheater are cultural icons of not only the city, but the entire country. Visiting and immersing myself into their culture really allowed me to appreciate how different my culture is to Viennese culture and allowed me to connect more with the locals of the city. Also, visiting and experiencing these cultural events allowed for a great conversation starter for my networking on campus with my peers and my academic advisors. Most of these events and sights were recommendations from them and other peers alike. Getting to experience them and then report back my reactions was a great way to further develop my network and deepen my connections with others.

Vienna Opera
Vienna Opera
Volkstheater

 

4 Weeks Left in Thailand

As her semester at Thammasat University ends, Talia Bhaiji reflects on her semester on the Student Exchange Program and encourages you to go abroad too!

According to the calendar, I currently have 28 days left in Thailand, and it makes me so sad to even think about that. I can’t believe my experience is flying by, and I’m definitely not ready to go home just yet.

I’m not sure if you need any more convincing about going abroad, but if you do I hope this post will do so. At Ohio State, I’m involved in a lot of things, studying a subject that I thought would make a lot of money, and working a job while maintaining leadership positions in a bunch of clubs. It’s everything that I thought I needed and was supposed to do in college. Student Exchange was more of an afterthought when it came to priorities and necessities in college. I took it as more of a vacation and more of a time to relax from school, but that was nothing like my experience.

Yes, it was definitely a bit less stressful than Ohio State, where the possibilities of what you want to do and be a part of are numerous, but it was just as much of a learning and growing experience as anything else, if not more. I didn’t think Student Exchange would change my life and I highly doubted people when they told me that it did, but my semester abroad did exactly that.

I not only learned to appreciate a whole other culture around the world, but it gave me such a strong appreciation for the United States, my status as an American citizen, and all the possibilities and opportunities that I have back at home. The rest of the world doesn’t give you open doors to do what you want to do, and to have unlimited opportunities. So many places are still so far behind, but not the United States. It really is the land of opportunity and I feel so lucky to live there and to have access to anything and everything.

Student Exchange has also really taught me what’s important in life. When you’re traveling with a backpack and have a 15 pound weight limit (it’s true, be careful!), you really learn what’s important to bring and what’s unnecessary. Same goes for packing for Thailand; you’re really forced to pay attention to what’s important and leave behind the things that aren’t. It actually taught me to be way less materialistic than I am at home. When you see how people here live, and how they don’t need much, it really makes you think about the amount of things you have and how much you don’t need. The other thing that I thought about a lot was the consequences of pollution and my actions in the U.S. Bangkok, and the rest of Thailand, doesn’t have a strong sewage and trash collection system, so all the trash is displayed on the streets and in the river. It makes you think about your effect on the world’s pollution and how to decrease that. In the U.S., we can be more environmentally friendly because we have the money and resources, but we choose not to be. Thailand doesn’t have those financial resources, and they’re suffering the consequences. It’s up to us to take on these responsibilities.

Environmentalism rant aside, Student Exchange has taught me more about myself than I ever thought I could discover. You’ll be placed in situations you never thought you’d be in, around people you never thought you’d see, and experience some of the most beautiful things on Earth. You definitely change, and you feel things you weren’t sure were possible. I’ve never felt so connected to so many people; I also never knew how little I knew. I learned how to take care of myself when I was traveling, how to push through my emotions and not give up when I was frustrated, how to take care of myself and others when I was homesick, I learned my boundaries and what I’ll take and what I won’t take, how to be spontaneous and enjoy the unexpected things in life, and more importantly how to be a better person. This has been one of the most transformative experiences of my entire life and I leave this semester with absolutely so regrets. It is so hard to walk away from so many amazing people and places, but it just gives me another reason to come back.

Thank you for everything Thailand, Amarin, Thammasat, and all of my friends, I’ll never forget you!

Packing List for a Student Exchange in Thailand

In one of my other posts (Budgeting for Student Exchange in Thailand) I mentioned that a previous student sent me a comprehensive document of everything that she spent in Thailand. The document also included a partial packing list that she found important. When I was packing I did lots of research and read lots of travel blogs about what would be important to bring and I think I’ve finally got it down. Here is my packing list for Thailand. Hope you like it!

<What to Bring>

TOILETRIES:

Dental

  • Toothbrush – I use a bamboo toothbrush so I brought them (3)
  • Mini Disposable Toothbrush – perfect for the 30 hour flight over

Contacts/Eyecare

  • Mini Contact Solution Bottle (2 oz) – good for traveling (buy “dropper bottle” at the Container Store or Amazon)
  • Contact Solution Bottle (1 8oz)
  • Glasses  + Glasses Case
  • Contacts (6 months worth)
  • Contact Cases (6 pack)

Body Care

  • SPF Moisturizer -Thailand only has bleaching stuff and you need the SPF here
  • Lotion – again, Thailand really only has bleaching stuff
  • Tweezers
  • Travel Mirror
  • Deodorant
  • Perfume (if you want, but it’s hot here and everyone is smelly so I didn’t use it)

Shower Stuff

  • Towels (2) – Quick Dry/Microfiber (look on Amazon, these are amazing for travel and they dry so quickly and take up almost no space)
  • Face towel/s
  • Body Scrub/Face Wash
  • Razor
  • Shower Shoes – $1 flip flops from Old Navy are great

Hair 

  • Ponytail Holders
  • Headbands/Bandanas – good for pushing your hair off your face when it’s absurdly hot
  • Bobby pins
  • Hair product – if you use it regularly bring it. It may not seem important but the heat does things to your hair.

Makeup

  • Makeup + Makeup Bag – pack no more than one small makeup bag. You will think you’ll wear it but you will not it. It is 105 degrees here every day and it will get sweated off.

Feminine Products

  • Tampons – women in southeast Asia don’t use them. You won’t find them anywhere.
  • Wet Wipes – necessary anytime you’re traveling. Not a lot of toilet paper
  • Hand Sanitizer – many times bathrooms don’t have soap

ELECTRONICS

Camera: 

  • Digital Camera
  • Charger
  • Extra Batteries
  • Extra SD Cards
  • GoPro
  • Disposable Camera – I brought one and I cannot wait to see my prints. I had a friend who took 6 with her to India and said that the prints were some of the best ones she’d seen. Plus you can’t stress over the perfect picture if you only get one chance.

Phone: 

  • External Phone Charger: when you have a 13 hour overnight bus at the end of a day of sightseeing, your phone tends to die easily. Even on airplane mode, battery goes quick. It’s worth it to invest in one, especially if your adapters stop working
  • Phone Chargers (2 or 3)
  • Mini Speaker/Speakers: good for when you’re hanging out with your friends, on the beach, etc
  • Waterproof iPhone Bags: good if you want to take your phone in the water/kayaking/etc. Be careful.
  • Headphones: get noise cancelling ones, and you won’t regret it. People in hostels/buses/anywhere public can be incredibly loud.
  • Earbuds
  • Lifeproof/Sturdy Case: Asia is dirty and dusty and wet! If you drop your phone or get caught in rainy season, you’re going to want something sturdy to keep it alive. I bought a case in Myanmar for $3 and it’s pretty amazing, but it’d be better if I had one before I left and didn’t almost shatter my phone.

Miscellaneous 

  • Mini flashlight: good for the streets, hostels, etc.
  • Waterproof Watch: rainy season is no joke in Asia
  • Waterproof/Dry Bag – good for kayaking/water sports. You can find them on Amazon for under $20. These are the best for excursions. You can find these in all the markets in Asia, but they’re overpriced and usually don’t keep your things dry. Don’t take the risk.
  • Universal Converters/Adapters

Medication/First Aid

  • Sunscreen: bring 1 or 2 big bottles, depending on how much you need.
  • Bug Spray: bring a small bottle (for travel) and then a big one. The mosquitoes aren’t bad in Bangkok, but they’ll eat you alive everywhere else.
  • 5 months worth of Medication
  • First Aid: Neosporin, Bandaids, Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Hydrocortisone/Itching Cream
  • Aloe Vera
  • Medications: Allergy Pills, Ibuprofen, Migraine Medication, Sleeping Pills, Anti-Diarrhea, Tums, Cold/Flu Medication (check that all medication you are planning to take are not illegal in your country!)

ALL OTHER THINGS

Travel 

  • Lightweight Travel Blanket – good for flights
  • Neck Pillow with Strap
  • Cards
  • Febreeze Fabric Refresher
  • Mini Padlocks (4 or 5)  – absolute a must for traveling in hostels. Lock your things up. Many times I didn’t get a lock included in the room price and needed these.
  • Travel Journal – you won’t want to forget a moment here.
  • 10 copies of Passport & Visa (handle copies with care)
  • 5 copies of License, Student ID, Credit Card, Debit Card (handle copies with care)
  • Lonely Planet Language Book
  • Water Bottle
  • Electrolyte Pills – a lifesaver in these heat
  • American Snacks – you may be running out of space, but you’ll want some of these. My mom spent $80 shipping me Mac & Cheese to Thailand, and it was so worth it. Between all the pad thai, you’ll start to miss American food.

Luggage 

I packed 2 backpacks and 1 suitcase. My flight allows me to bring 2 checked bags home, so I’m buying a suitcase here for my souvenirs and bringing it home with me. If you can do the same, I’d advise it.

  • Large distinct suitcase
  • Backpacking backpack – 50L is perfect for Asia. Just make sure it’s not unreasonably large, otherwise Asian airlines will force you to pay for it to be checked when you travel. Go on AirAsia, Thai Lion, etc and see their carry-on allowances. They’ll post the dimensions and the weight, and I’ll be honest, they are not kidding around.
  • Collapsible duffel bag
  • Collapsible backpack
  • Money Belt/Fanny Pack – absolute necessary. Saves space, is safe, etc. Everyone uses fanny packs in Asia.
  • Passport Holder
  • Luggage IDs for your bags
  • Small purse/Crossbody

And now…onto Clothing!

CLOTHING

Shoes

The motto for shoes is, if you don’t mind them getting ruined bring them to Thailand. I lived in my Tevas and Skechers.

  • Nice Sandals – 2 pairs
  • Chacos/Tevas – I wore these almost every day
  • Skechers – I had a pair of slip ons that I wore every day to school and whenever I needed a gross pair of shoes (walking around cities)
  • Merrells/Keens/hiking shoes – if you want to trek
  • Tennis shoes – good for hiking, working out

Bottoms 

  • Maxi Skirt – temples require you to cover your knees
  • Casual Shorts (4)
  • Leggings (3)
  • Harem Pants (2) – you can buy them anywhere here

Dresses 

  • Sundresses (3) – bring ones that don’t show sweat
  • Classy Dresses (2) – for going out

Coats/Jackets 

  • Rain Jacket
  • Umbrella
  • Scarf/Shawl/Sarong
  • Cardigan (1)

Undergarments 

  • Underwear (10 pairs)
  • Bras (8)
  • Socks (8 pairs)
  • Pajamas (2 or 3 sets)

Business Clothes 

  • Blazer – I needed this when I did Skype interviews
  • White Tank Top

Tops 

  • V-neck loose shirts (3)
  • Tank tops (4)

Accessories

  • Sunglasses (2 or 3)
  • Baseball Hat
  • Sun Hat
  • Foot Inserts
  • Swimsuits (2 or 3)
  • Swim Coverup – Asia can be a bit conservative at the beach.

 

<WHAT NOT TO BRING>

  • Conditioner/Shampoo: you can buy this anywhere here. Unless you use a specific kind, don’t bring it.
  • Lots of makeup: like I said earlier, it is really hot here. You really won’t need much because it won’t stay on.
  • Toothpaste: buy it here
  • Heels: sidewalks in SE Asia are known for being broken, cracked, etc. Everyone here wears flats.
  • Jeans: it was very cold in Vietnam, but I bought things there. It was way too hot in Bangkok to ever wear jeans.
  • Cold Clothing: not worth it. Pack light.
  • Notebooks/School Supplies: buy them at Thammasat’s Book store or any 7/11
  • Expensive Jewelry: pickpocketing is rampant in Thailand.

I know this list is long so I hope it doesn’t freak you out but everything on here is important and has been useful since I’ve been in Thailand. One of the most important things for me was making sure to by 3oz travel containers and various different sizes for other things I used before I left for all the toiletries I’d need. I brought extra ones and always found use for them. I got them from Amazon and the Container Store and they’ve been my best friends when I backpack.

As always, do your research before you go. I hope you enjoyed my list!

 

Here is me all packed up at the end of my trip 🙁

Visiting Team: Differences Between Madrid and the States

Read the observation Danny Rodgers shares as he spends his semester at Universidad Pontificia Comillas on the Student Exchange Program! He touches on the difference in the classroom, sports, to the daily life in Spain.

One of the coolest parts about living abroad is seeing how daily life works in another country. Some differences are minimal, whereas others are quite drastic. Over the past couple of months here in Madrid, I have diligently taken note of key differences and put together this blog featuring some of the more interesting differences between life back home and here in Madrid. With that, let’s dive in!

Daily Routine

Although three days of my school week beginning at 8:00 am, the typical Spanish day starts later than in the US. This became apparent to me rather quickly as I was the only one in the neighborhood awake, walking in darkness to class at 7:30 in the morning; traffic doesn’t really pick up until about 9:00 in the morning when Madrid is commuting to work. Another major difference in regards to the mornings is what is served for breakfast. Here, breakfast consists of strong coffee and maybe a small pastry, usually served and eaten quickly at one of Madrid’s plentiful coffee bars. Given the later start to the day, the rest of the day’s meals also occur at different times. The lunch hour starts around 2:00pm and is the heaviest meal of the day. Many shops and businesses shut down during lunch and people head home to eat with family. The result is a sort of 2-part work day that ends later than the typical US workday. For example, the relocation service I used when searching for accommodation followed office hours of 10:00am-2:00pm and 3:00pm to 7:00pm. Wrapping up the day around 9:00 pm is dinner, a lighter meal in comparison to lunch. At a full 3-4 hours later than the typical US dinner hour, this late meal is arguably one of the biggest adjustments to make when living in Spain.

In regards to studying in Madrid, Ohio State and my university here could not be more different. Here at Comillas, all my classes are under the same roof. The classes are about 20 – 40 students in size and I have multiple classes with the same classmates. Compare this to Ohio State where a brisk 20 minute walk across campus in between classes is not uncommon and a first year economics lecture brings out a crowd that can rival a small concert venue. Here at Comillas, the structure of the classes differs significantly as well. For example, a typical final exam at Ohio State usually accounts for about 20 percent of the final grade whereas here, my final exams currently looming on the horizon are worth a humble 50 percent of my final grade. As is with most aspects of studying abroad, adjusting to a different way of doing things is the norm. Add on a positive outlook and even the most daunting of tasks seem doable.

The Big Game

I am a huge sports fan, so a goal of mine going into the semester was to attend a match at Santiago Bernabéu, home of one of Spain’s top football clubs, Real Madrid. After a stressful morning of ticket shopping, I managed to snag a single ticket to a Champion’s League match between Real Madrid and Tottenham, an English football club. Champions league matches feature two high level international clubs, so I knew I was in for a good game. It felt great to be back in a packed stadium for a prime time game as I didn’t have the usual Buckeye game days throughout the semester.

The differences between Madrid’s marquee sporting event and a comparable event in the US were very interesting. For instance, the entire match was played in under 2 hours. The trade off to a shorter event, however, is that those 2 hours were filled with constant action. Compare this to a typical Sunday NFL game with all its commercial breaks and stoppage of play and you can see why some non-Americans find American football rather boring. Another interesting aspect of the Real Madrid match was how the moment halftime hit, everyone pulled out their pre-packed sandwiches from home to enjoy during the break. Quite the nice alternative to the typical $13.00 hotdog and soda found in US stadiums. Finally, and probably the most impressive difference, would have to be how the fans engaged in the game. From pregame to the final whistle, fans on both sides chanted and sang the entirety of the match. Their dedication to cheering was incredibly impressive and created a high energy atmosphere the whole game. Coming into the match knowing next to nothing about European football (very American of me, I know), the skill of the players, passion of the fans and the overall experience gave me a new appreciation for the sport.

City Life

When considering where I would spend a semester abroad, I only had two requirements. I had studied Spanish for 8 years and am currently working towards a Spanish minor, so studying in a Spanish speaking country was a must. Secondly, I grew up in Naperville, Illinois, so Chicago was always a quick train ride away. Heading to Chicago year after year, I developed a love for exploring cities. With these two desires, Madrid, Spain seemed like the perfect choice. Now several months into the semester, I can say Madrid is exactly where I am supposed to be. Trading towering skyscrapers and our beloved cars for royal palaces and public transportation, the experience of living in a European metropolis has been an incredible experience.

As a capital city with over 3 million people, Madrid is an exciting place to live. Here, one can find everything from maze-like neighborhoods hailing from the 17th century to streets like Gran Vía, bustling with activity 24 hours a day. Madrid is also a city of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character and impressive lineup of restaurants, night life, and shops. Outside of main thoroughfares, chain restaurants and businesses are not very common. This allows local businesses to take center stage, each providing a completely unique experience to the next. I’ve often wondered how so many of these little shops can stay in business, and I think it speaks volumes to the benefits of high density, walkable neighborhoods. This is a far cry from the car-centric towns we have in the US—outside of a select few urban areas. Only having to walk 5 minutes or less for fresh baked bread, a grocery store or coffee shop will be something I miss dearly.

Madrid has also provided the perfect setting for practicing Spanish. In these aforementioned coffee bars and little restaurants, English is hardly common. It is with this real world practice that I now feel more confident than ever in my language abilities. I can only image how proud my high school Spanish teachers would be, knowing I can successfully fight my way to the counter of a packed tapas bar and order without issues; this is why I studied Spanish. But in all seriousness, I have thoroughly enjoyed living in a city where I must speak Spanish daily. I strongly suggest to anyone studying a language to pursue an exchange in a country that speaks the language you are studying. It is far and away the best way to develop confidence in using the language, which is something that cannot be easily gained in a class that only meets twice a week. While it was certainly a challenge learning the ins and outs of new city, Madrid has become a place I’ve grown to love.

Although my semester abroad is coming to a close, there are still more stories to tell! Check back next time to hear about a global business experience I had here in Madrid. Later on, look out for my advice for outgoing study abroad students as the next semester rolls around.

As always thanks for reading!