My Global Mindset Journey So Far… and Where to Next!

After going abroad on Student Exchange and participating in the Global Option in Business program, Katelyn Mistele reflects on what she gained and what she recommends/advise to future students who aspires to have a global mindset. She also shares a glimpse of what she plans next to continue to go global!

Over the past year I have experienced so much and reflected a lot on my experiences. I have grown as an individual and in my global mindset. The purpose of this blog post is to reflect on my best experiences and ones I suggest you take, as well as determine where I am going next before I officially sign off!

A beautiful view from my trip to Killarney, Ireland!

The best experience in my personal growth and global mindset growth hands down was studying abroad for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. I became a more open-minded person and self aware. Being immersed in a whole new culture and being the minority, forces you to become open-minded and also immediately makes you more self aware. Studying abroad changed my perspective about a lot of things and I would go back and do it again in a heart beat if I could.

A photo from cross country skiing in Helsinki, Finland!

If you have the opportunity to go abroad for a month, summer, semester, or a year I suggest you do it! Fisher has great programs through Student Exchange. Additionally, I never did it but I heard the Global Internships are a great way to get exposed to other cultures as well. If your budget or schedule doesn’t permit education abroad, I would suggest you take a trip and truly immerse yourself in a culture. Stay at Airbnb’s and interact with your host, ask for suggestions, see the sight seeing stuff, but then go to a local restaurant and chat with locals to get an authentic experience (check out my blog post about this if interested). Even if any of these ideas push you out of your comfort zone, I suggest you do it. I was nervous and scared before heading over to Denmark, but it was hands down the best experience I have ever had! Also from an employer standpoint, companies love it if you have this experience. I have talked about my experience in multiple interviews. Companies love to see that you can adapt and immerse yourself into other cultures because that’s what they want to you to do with their company culture at the end of the day.

Picture from my home for five months. I miss it everyday! @Copenhagen, Denmark.

Another great opportunity I suggest everyone doing is get involved in a global club. Ohio State has SO many and I wish I got involved sooner. I am involved in the Exchange Partner Program at Ohio State. Basically I am a mentor and point of contact for an exchange student who is coming to Ohio State for a semester. I have been fortunate enough to provide mentorship to students from Italy and Japan over the past two years. I have learned so much about their cultures and even more about what other cultures think of the United States (I always ask for what their thoughts on Americans are and how these have changed since they’ve been here). I wish I would have gotten involved in more because there is so much that Ohio State offers and everyone is so willing to share their culture with us!

Check out Global Option in Business, if any of the above interests you. It is a certification program through Ohio State that helps foster your global mindset. I am in the process of finishing it out right now. It requires you to take part in a education abroad experience, global club and activities, as well as global courses. So the best of all worlds and you get a certificate to show employers that you have made efforts and have grown in your global mindset.

Berlin Cathedral, in Berlin Germany.

From here I am graduating in May. I am not going into a career that is global right away as I will be working for an American company that has some degree of “globality” to it but I am not going to be sent on global assignments all the time. I am hoping some day that I will find myself traveling globally for work, and even maybe working in a different country! I am going to keep traveling and culture seeking (planning my next trip right now)! I am still keeping in contact and growing my global network. I am hoping that all I have learned and my growth does not plateau after I graduate, but instead increases exponentially as I can apply what I learned through Fisher and Global Option in the real world. I am going to stay “hungry for culture” and I can’t thank Fisher and Ohio State enough for revealing and harvesting one of my new found true passions!

Enjoying sweet treats in Tallinn, Estonia!

Hygge – The Danish Way!

While in Denmark on the Student Exchange Program, Katelyn Mistele discovered a “hygge” way of life, and still carries this with her as she returns from abroad! She attempts to share this feeling of “hygge” in three parts: light and mood, relationships, and the way of life.

The most fundamentally unique and beautiful aspect of the Danish culture is “hygge”. Hygge cannot be translated into English, but it has been attempted, and most simply it translates to English as “cozy”, but hygge is much more than that. The concept of hygge has stuck with me long after my time in Denmark, and has influenced the way I live my life. I will attempt to describe the feeling of hygge in three parts: light and mood, relationships, and the way of life.

Hygge is commonly describe in Denmark by the lighting and mood of a place. Hygge spaces are dimly lit with tons of candles. Spaces are designed for close seating with your friends and family. Copenhagen is known for its coffee shop scene and many of these coffee shops had a hygge feel to them. This feeling of the space makes it feel extremely cozy and homey which at the end of the day the Danes would describe as hygge. Also when in these spaces it is not common to see the Danes engrossed in their cell phones. Instead you will see groups of people having coffee for upwards of two hours and just taking the time to be present with each other. I had the opportunity to get coffee with a few individuals from Denmark and this was my experience with all of them.

Even some of the Danish cuisine at restaurants had the hygge feel to them. There’s nothing more cozy than eating eggs out of a teacup! Kalaset restaurant Copenhagen, Denmark.
My favorite coffee shop chain in Scandanvia: Coffee Industry Sweden! This coffee shop really sums up the feeling and lighting of hygge for me!

The other part of hygge that is extremely important is the importance of friends and families in ones life. A lot of times Danes and people will describe hygge as spending time with friends and family. The Danish culture places a strong emphasis on the importance of close relationships. This is why at first the Danes can appear cold and not open. Danes would prefer to have a close knit group of friends as opposed to a large network as we commonly see here in the United States. At the end of the day a dinner party with lots of candles and ones family would be a perfect example of hygge.

Lastly hygge at the end of the day is a way of life. The emphasis on creating a cozy environment for one to live in with their close friends and family is a way of life for the Danish people. It is a life that is rooted in the simplicity and act of just being present in the environment with those around you. It is truly hard to explain the way of Danish culture and hygge in words.

Even drinking free coffee samples in the streets of downtown Copenhagen can feel hygge!

For me personally I took all the aspects of hygge I learned and lived and internalized it. There is nothing quiet like this concept anywhere else in the world. Hygge has its core concepts but the part that makes it unique is that it isn’t “translatable” it is at the end of the day a feeling that you can interpret and live any way you want. Personally, I found hygge in placing a close emphasis on relationships but instead of being trapped inside with my candles I found the same feeling when I was in Denmark at one of the many parks in the city. Just taking the time to be in an environment with my close friends made me feel hygge.

A photo my friend captured during our 3 hour coffee stop! Very hygge!

Back in the United State it is hard to find this hygge. I have become a lot more self aware in my personal relationships with my friends and family and placed importance on all of these relationships. Also I do find myself lighting a lot more candles! To me hygge is all about taking time to realize what’s important and blocking out what is not. To you hygge might be something completely different but at the end of the day just remember that hygge should make you feel at home and cozy! Go find your hygge!

To show you all how much I loved and appreciated this aspect of the Danish culture I’ll show you all a photo of a tattoo I received in Denmark. This symbol is from the Danish coin, the korona. To me this symbol means hygge and I want to carry this piece of Danish culture and the Danish way with me always! It’s a powerful thing!!

Reverse Culture Shock… It’s Real!

Reflecting on her return back to the U.S. after her Student Exchange Program to Denmark, Katelyn Mistele, shares her insights in experiencing reverse culture shock – culture shock you feel coming back home.

It has been officially five months since I have been back from my exchange experience in Denmark, and it still crosses my mind every day. My love for traveling, culture, and Denmark was solidified in a way I never thought was possible, and it still effects me everyday. We were all warned about the potential impacts of culture shock and reverse culture shock, but my self personally never gave much thought to the latter. I thought I would be itching to get back to normality and Ohio State, but instead leaving Denmark I was not looking forward to getting back to reality I was dragging my feet in every way possible to hold onto the five months I spent in Europe.

Beautiful cobblestone streets of downtown Copenhagen!

It’s interesting I never really went through a huge culture shock when I arrived in Denmark. I wasn’t really anticipating anything out of the ordinary when I arrived. I went in with a very open mind. Slight nuances in the Danish culture surprised me. For example, I wasn’t anticipating everyone to be speaking Danish all of the time there was little English present. I never would categorize any part of the culture as a shock though. I was open to new experiences and a new way of life and I suggest everyone who goes abroad to try to do this. There isn’t really a way you can prepare for it to successfully be open-minded but I found success in simply being aware of the differences and asking the Danes when I wanted to know why.

Culture sharing in Europe is more prominent than it is here. Individuals love to share their culture and learn more about yours. I had a few Danish friends who were so interested in America and satisfied my hunger for the “why” for aspects of their culture. For example I got coffee with a Danish friend for almost two hours and we discussed the differences in Danish and American culture. We chatted about everything from the different methods of grocery shopping to politics! I also had the opportunity to go into a Danish high school and learn more about their culture (see my blog post on this if you’re interested)! Culture sharing is so powerful and present in Europe, so take advantage of it! This also helps mitigate culture shock if you view it as a learning experience rather than throwing yourself into a new culture and trying to live.

A common street sight that you will experience from anywhere in downtown Copenhagen!

At the other end of this “culture sharing” is the return to home and the culture shock that comes along with it. Pieces in the American culture that used to be so normal, now seems obscure. For example, everywhere in Europe charged you for grocery bags. It was expected for everyone to be environmental and sustainable and bring their own bags. Also I feel as if the American culture isn’t open to new ideas. I mentioned this to people, the bag policy, they often scoffed and said that’s a hassle or they might say it’s a good idea but they were never going to take the time and effort to do it. I don’t want to stereotype the American culture as being close minded or “bad”, but my personal interactions with this idea is that the American culture is often very “near sighted” and think the American way is always the best.

In Europe individuals are curious about our cultures and practices, whereas American’s in general seem to be rooted in our own ways and not open to “culture sharing” and change. I personally fell into this stereotype of American’s that I held too, prior to going to Europe. I always thought we did it best here. In a way the reverse culture shock to me has helped me grow as an individual. The experience of my exchange program helped me become more self aware and open minded but the reverse culture shock has solidified these aspects.

One of the quieter canals in Copenhagen!

So yes, reverse culture shock is real! It’s not necessarily bad however. Dealing with it now I am urging myself to embrace it just as I did for culture shock abroad and use it to my advantage to help myself solidify by new found self-awareness and open-mindedness. I am finding myself craving traveling and planning new trips, but however I am also finding myself craving new experiences. I am a part of a group on campus that connects foreign exchange students with a mentor on campus. I am currently a mentor to a Japanese student who is here for a year and this helps with the reverse culture shock as I still find myself being exposed to new ideas and participating in this constant conversation of culture sharing. I am also pursuing a degree in international business in addition to my operations management degree so I find myself fully engaged in these courses too because at the end of the day they are all rooted in culture sharing and the discussion of different business practices all over the world.

Hamlet’s Castle in Denmark. This castle is what Shakespeare based the location of Hamlet off of!

Tips for overcoming reverse culture shock:

  1. Plan your next trip! — get excited about trying to experience other cultures, and invite your family and friends to join you! However this isn’t always feasible so see the other tips below…
  2. Find a cultural group — There are many groups on campus that all have a different culture to them and can help continue to foster the new sense of open-mindedness you might have gained from being abroad. Even groups that aren’t necessarily full of exchange students, but a group that is focus on heritage of a different culture can help in decreasing your reverse culture shock!
  3. Use your peers — Your peers that went abroad that is. My friends will honestly probably say they get tired of my abroad stories but the people that don’t are my friends from abroad or my other peers within the Fisher Exchange Program. Use these people and chat about your experiences it can help alleviate the reverse culture shock.
  4. Embrace it — Experience a different culture and way of life is a powerful thing. Don’t look at reverse culture shock negatively instead look at it as a learning experience and help break down some of the stereotypes that exist saying that “American’s are close minded people who think their way is the best”. Use your experience to your advantage!

 

Life and Study in Strasbourg

Ling Shao shares her life in Strasbourg, France, from what she recommends seeing in the city to how the education system is different, as she studies abroad on the Student Exchange Program.

Strasbourg is a really safe and quiet city close to Germany and Switzerland. You can always take a train to go anywhere you want outside of France. If you live downtown, you can go anywhere that might interests you by walking. There is a really famous Cathedral named “Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg”.

You can see the whole view of the city at the top of the cathedral. It has the same name as Paris’ famous cathedral but it is much bigger and less touristy than the Paris one. I am not able to see the famous light show, but if you come in August or Early September, you can enjoy the light show in the evening.  It is really nice.

Other than the Notre Dame Cathedrale, you can also enjoy the biggest Christmas Fair in Strasbourg. It is still November, but normal trees are ready to become Christmas trees.

The study here is really different than that in the US. We only have 5 or 6 classes per week, however, classes here are more intense. One period class might take about 3-4 hrs and in some special cases, you might have to take an 8 hr class on Saturday with breaks. So bring some snacks and water for the classes and check your schedules before you arrange some trips on weekends. There is less homework which also means the grades heavily depend on the exams. I suggest that listening to the classes on a daily bases will help, so  you will not be so stressed during finals. I haven’t experienced an exam yet, but I am pretty sure that there will be a really intense reviewing week before the exam.

French Social/Business Etiquettes

On the Students Exchange Program in Strasbourg, France, Ling Shao shares some of the social and business etiquettes she learned which you might want to be aware of if you are going to France!

I live downtown in Strasbourg and I love shopping. So you know what happened to me. I went out shopping every free day. Since I have been experiencing different shopping experiences in different countries, there are some differences that I found when people are out shopping.

People here value appearance heavily and is part of the country’s social etiquettes. This does not mean that you have to be “good-looking” but how you dress and present yourself. They value people being appropriately dressed. It is really important to bring business suits or dresses to survive in events in France and you can always buy it here. There are also a lot of dressing codes here in a lot of restaurants and bars. So if you want to enjoy and feel the real French life, be prepared for the dress code.

For formal restaurants and bars, the dress code could be at least nice shirts and trousers for boys and dresses for girls (like the dress below I am in). It is better to use a clutch or leather bag instead of canvas bags or backpacks. No sneakers, no jeans or sports pants. Overall business casual is good. There is no dress code for attending school classes. Dress codes for events are different for different events.

“La bise” is also a really important culture in France. People kiss each others’ cheek when they meet, especially for people who you already have a good relationship with. This is not only for friends though, but you might also need to do it when you had a really good business partner.

 

Planning my Next Trip… From sight seeing to culture seeking!

Katelyn Mistele shares her experience from being a “sightseer” to a “culture seeker” while abroad on the Student Exchange Program in Denmark. She also gives tips on how to be a “culture seeker” and encourage you to be one too!

I officially caught the travel bug when I was abroad last spring on the Students Exchange Program. My home base was Copenhagen, Denmark, but no one would have known that if I didn’t tell them. I was gone every weekend seeing every major sight Europe had to offer and spending my whole bank account. I am so fortunate to have had this experience through Fisher, but now my outlook on travel has changed. I have changed form a “sight seer” to a “culture seeker”.

Nyhaven, Copenhagen, Denmark. The picturesque canal in the city!

When I arrived in Europe I was in awe. I have never been to Europe before and my only abroad experience was my family trips growing up to the Caribbean or Mexico. I was lucky enough to arrive two weeks prior to my program and my family and I decided to use that time to travel. We went on one of those excursions with a travel company that took us through the European highlights. We traveled from London to Paris, through Switzerland, and down Italy stopping at every major tourist spot along the way. From someone who has only dreamed about seeing the Eifel Tower or Big Ben this was amazing to see everything in person. From nights of little sleep to days spent on our feet walking from sight to sight and driving from place to place we never really took a second to stop and embrace the culture.

Me and my sisters from our trip. Lot’s of sight seeing in Paris, France.

Over the duration of my six months in Europe I traveled to 19 different countries and over 30 cities. There’s not many things I didn’t check off my to do list, but at the end of the day all I can say is that I saw the sights. I never actually truly experienced the culture.  Did I regret traveling how I did? Absolutely not! My goal was to see Europe and I definitely did, but from now on I am officially no longer “sight seeing” but instead “culture seeking”.

There were moments in time when I experienced this in Europe. When I arrived in Malta my Airbnb host picked us up from the airport and took us around the island showing us its history and telling us about his life. He told us all about the history of the island and how they were just recently free from British rule so that’s why there’s so much British influence still. Additionally, he told us about growing up where his children were going to school and how he was a teacher at a local elementary school. When I was in Spain I chose the local restaurants where we dined with locals. These experiences were so much different than dining at tourist heavy restaurants as menus were all in Spanish and dishes were more traditional in nature. When I was in Denmark I tried to meet as many of the locals as I could and learn about their culture. I learned a lot of things about how the Danish culture is more reserved in nature and the high value they place on close relationships.  All of these things led to my new outlook on traveling.

View in Valletta, Malta.
Views of the famous narrow fjords north of Bergen, Norway.

I am in the midst of planning my next trip to Asia. I am motivated to head there next because I feel as if I have seen most of the things I want to see in Europe. Also, I am really interesting in experience a culture that is dramatically different from the culture we have here in the United States as sometimes in Europe I noticed a lot of similarities. My goal while traveling Asia is to experience as much of the culture as I can and try not to fall into the “sight seeing trap”. I have gotten so many suggestions and am still trying to narrow down my list but I have decided that I will not be staying in any five star hotels. I am not going to be doing everything trip advisor rates as a “must see in Thailand.” Instead I am leveraging my network here at home to see what my friends who have traveled to this region suggest. I am also going to reach out to my network to see if anyone knows anyone who will be in the region at the time to get a more unique and original experience (I am in the midst of writing a blog most on leveraging your global network as well so stay tuned!). I am also going to plan for down time to get out in the cities I am in and live amongst the locals and embrace everything their culture has to offer. Right now the following countries are on my radar but I still have a lot of planning and research to do: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Japan.

My tips for anyone who wants to join me in culture seeking are as follows:

  •  Avoid mainstream resorts, embrace hostel dwelling! Hostels are a great opportunity to meet other young travelers but also to experience the culture of the country you are visiting. A lot of hostels are family owned and they sponsor events that introduce you to their culture.
  • See a few main sights and snap a few pictures, but at the end of the day get lost (safely)! Wander, explore, and go to the restaurant that isn’t the five-star trip advisor suggested option. Ask your waiter for suggestions. People want to share!
  • Go to the places you wouldn’t expect to enjoy. Some of my favorite trips were to places I wasn’t even planning on going to! I went to Finland, Estonia, Malta, and Norway and honestly I didn’t even know Estonia and Malta were countries! Get out and see the world every part is unique in its own way and has its own hidden gems.
  • Ask questions. Ask questions. Ask questions. People want to share their culture and they want to learn about yours so take advantage of this.
Beautiful Russian influenced church located in Tallinn, Estonia.
Photo from cross country skiing in a national park north of Helsinki, Finland!

My six months in Europe were life changing and I saw amazing things and met amazing people, but I am looking forward to culture seeking from here on out. So let’s get out and embrace travel, see the sights, but experience the culture and grow interpersonally. And if anyone has Asia suggestions comment below!

Trying to be a local in Strasbourg, France

Starting life in Strasbourg on the Student Exchange Program, Ling Shao shares how she tries to live like a local in her new city in France! Get her insight on her housing, shopping, and commute in the city.

After adjusting my jet-lag, landing in Starsbourg, France, I started an “adventure” in my neighborhood. I live in downtown Strasbourg and I found it through “housing anywhere”. Accommodation on this website might be a little expensive but acceptable compared to US housing prices. If you know someone who is good at understanding French, it may be better to look for accommodation through “leboncoin”. The places I have is a really cozy and good loft and I really enjoy it. Except that you will not have dryers, only drying stands for your laundry. However, if you really need to wash large stuff, you can go to the public laundry spots which might cost you about 7-8 euros depending on your quantity and sizes.

The architecture here combine French and German styles which is exactly what you might imagine how Europe would look like. There are so many fashion shops and restaurants near me and they all close really late, almost after 12 am, which is really different from the US. It is so convenient to live here except for Sundays. Nearly all of the shops and restaurants close on Sundays! So, Grocery shop should be done before or after Sundays. Popular Grocery brands are “Auchan”, “U express” and “Carrefour city”. They usually have many branches all over the city. Just google search the closet one. The outside marché is usually held on Tuesdays at the Station “Brogile” or Station “Homme de fer” area or just next to the universities academic buildings.

The major transportation of the city is the “tram” which you can get to a lot of places within 20 minutes. It is about 25 euros/per month to get a transportation card and you can access trams and buses.  You can get your tram card after you get a student card, so  you can enjoy the student discounts. You can get your transportation card from CTS commercial agency (I bought mine at the one located in downtown just next to the F Tram stop named “alt winmarik”) or you can buy the tickets at the stops. It is the major transportation for me to go to schools every day. Here is a photo I got from the tram station. Do not forget to swipe your card before you get on the train, because it is possible that CTS employee wants you to show them your card or ticket.

Strasbourg is a really safe city. But still be careful of your personal belongings. It is really easy to lose things in Europe!

Tips Before Arriving in Strasbourg

Ling Shao shares her tips and advise on pre-departure preparations for studying abroad on the Student Exchange Program to France. Covering topic on accommodation search, to visa process, to traveling!

This is not my first-time studying abroad but the only difference is that I am doing this independently this time. I used to go abroad with a friend and or have somebody picking me up at the destination, so I had concern and had to plan for all the circumstances that I might confront ahead of time. I have had two biggest challenges:

Finding Accommodations

Preparing the accommodation is very complex. Luckily, I was able to find my accommodation through the website my host institution gave me. For France, there are several websites that you can use: leboncoin / housing anywhere / airbnb. If you really cannot find a place before you arrive, an option may be to find a cheap hostel and try to communicate with your host institution. Strasbourg is a really safe place comparing to other places in Europe, but still be careful of the location of the hostels, and definitely do some researches on the destination that you are going to!

Visa Process

My visa process was really challenging and tough. I am an international student and I had to transfer my academic status from the US to my home country to get a French Student Visa. However, after all of the challenges that I dealt through this application, I now feel confident that I am able to deal with any visa application in the future. Just to start early and do not hesitate to ask questions to the embassy in your country.

Traveling 

I googled and searched a lot of tips about traveling to Europe (useful website can be TripAdvisor and youtube videos, and there is a channel that I really love named “DamonandJo”), but the one I stress is: PACK LESS! You can buy everything you need in Europe, especially in Strasbourg.

Safety

BE SMART! Just be aware of your surrounding and avoid going to higher risk places in the cities you visit. Ask! Most people in Europe can speak English, even if you cannot communicate with them in the local language.

How Traveling Develops Better Leadership

On the Student Exchange Program at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, Emma Goilo describes how she developed her leadership skills and global citizen mindset abroad.

Since I was little, I dreamed of living abroad. I wanted to live in a glamorous and architectural city, with rich history. And last semester I achieved that dream. I spent four months living in Dublin, Ireland and attending Trinity College. I studied, made life-long friends from around the globe and got to travel. What I didn’t realize about education abroad is how much I grew, the challenging academic environment and diverse social situations made me a better leader. I came back from Dublin more self-aware, a truly global citizen and with the ability to work with and empower diverse groups of people – all factors I consider vital in leadership. I went abroad to travel, to study and to make friends but came back to the USA a more developed leader.

I believe that to be a true leader one must be self-aware, have the ability to empower others and be a global citizen. Being self-aware means to know not just your strengths but your weaknesses. I believe that addressing weaknesses and compensating for them is even more important than flexing your strengths. The biggest strength that I encountered within myself is adaptability. I was able to quickly adapt to my environment: a new country, a new university, and a new group of friends. This adaptability will serve me well in my career, I will be able to quickly adapt to new work teams and to new work locations. I think I was adaptable prior to my semester abroad but this exchange experience gave me a chance to practice and further develop that strength. One weakness I encountered while abroad is that I require structure and at Trinity College there was a lack of structure I am used to in the USA. Classes don’t have weekly assignment, exams or even structured class. I quickly learned that I had to adopt the classes to my strength. I had to make small weekly assignments for myself or come exam time I would flounder. This experience made me realize that I must adjust situations to play to my strengths, rather than to my weaknesses. Another key component of leadership is having the ability to empower others. While abroad I was able to empower my friends to face their fears and to speak up to things they didn’t agree with. I believe that being a true leader isn’t about making yourself look good but making whatever team you work on look good as a whole. Finally, being a leader means being a global citizen.

This doesn’t mean that you have to travel to be the most traveled, it means that you have an appreciation for cultures different than your own and you value the perspectives that come along with those diverse cultures. I believe those are some of the key components to successful leadership and that my time abroad pushed me to work on being self-aware, on empowering others and on being a global citizen.

It’s a Small World After All

Calling out O-H! and getting an I-O! back in the Glass Mountains in Australia while on a hike, along with may other encounters, Maggie Hobson studying at Curtin University realizes how small the world can be and how anywhere can feel like home.

It’s crazy how small the world can be.  Especially when you are traveling with an open mind and meeting as many people as possible.  This past week and a half I traveled with four other exchange students to the East Coast of Australia during our time off from Curtin University.  On the first plane ride from Perth to Cairns, I sat next to a girl that looked about the same age as me and we got talking.  It turns out she attends University of Guelph in Canada, the same university that the two guys who were on my trip attend.  What a small world.  We ended up spending some time with her in Cairns, exploring the Great Barrier Reef and  the Daintree Rainforest.  After those few days in Cairns, we departed ways with our new friend and flew to Brisbane.

Selfie with a turtle in the Great Barrier Reef

While in Brisbane, we were able to explore the city as well as nearby areas such as Noosa, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast.  While on a hike through the Glass Mountains, we passed by a group of people headed down the trail.  I took a double take and saw a woman wearing an Ohio State t-shirt. “OH” I shouted and of course she replied with an “IO” and a big grin.  Even though that was such a short moment, there was a part of me that felt like I was back at home.

Nick, Steffi and I in the Glade Mountains, right outside of Brisbane

After a bit of a drive, we made it to Sydney.  We were able to meet so many people who had been traveling around the world for months, sharing stories of their adventures.  I found it amazing how so many people travel to places alone and just meet people as they go.  All the travelers we met had such open mindsets, making them people we wanted to spend time with.  So we spent a lot of time with them and one day while hiking along the coast from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach, an older gentleman stopped my friend from New York because of her shirt.  Turns out he had attended the same university as her, New Paltz.  We learned from him that he has lived in Sydney for quite a few years now, but was a born and raised New Yorker.  What a small world.

Views on the hike from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach in Sydney

Finally, towards the end of our trip, we flew to Melbourne.  It happened to be Kings Day, which is a Dutch holiday and the last girl traveling in my group was Dutch.  That evening, after exploring the city, we attended a Dutch festival to celebrate the holiday that was so important to her and her culture.  I spent my night trying all kinds of Dutch food and meeting spirited people who were happy to talk about their Dutch traditions.

My friend Steffi enjoying food in China Town in Melbourne before heading to the Dutch festival

By the end of our week an a half trip on the East Coast of Australia, myself (from Ohio), my friends Mitch and Nick (both from Toronto), my friend Paige (from New York) and my friend Steffi (from Amsterdam) were all able to experience something from each of our home towns.  In my time exploring the world and seeing so many new things, I was baffled by how small the world can really be.